Monday, November 22, 2010


So the deacon comes to morning Mass and says, “Did you hear the news? Someone made secret tapes during a meeting with the bishop about the closing of parishes! It’s going to be on the news tonight.” Now I don’t watch television news anymore. In fact I hadn’t watched television news for some years for reasons I won’t go into here. But one reason is because of the result of this story.

So everyone is abuzz. “What could this secret recording be? Did he have a mole on the inside that caught him in a relaxed moment blurting out something out of frustration? Was it at a parish meeting and did he blow up or something?” It was almost as exciting wondering who it was that did as to what was said and where.

Despite what anyone might think of our bishop, he is a prudent and pragmatic man in regard to law both civil and ecclesial, in public and semi-public. (I’m not in his inner circle and so can’t way what he says in relaxed moments but can’t imagine it would be much different.) So a few of us gathered in the rectory parlor to watch the news breaking story. I got out a pen and paper to try to accurately record what was said. Would I have to defend the bishop? Would I be able to defend the bishop? (Notice my first reaction is, “this is not going to be good. How can I help right the ship?” There was, after all, the real possibility that something could have been said that would upset already very upset people.)

The first clue that it was not going to be the Black Thursday that had been anticipated was the soft peddle that seemed to counter the hype that led up to the airing. The second clue was that it was not the very last story. Still, somebody said, “Shh! Shhh! Here it is! Turn up the sound.” I hit the remote and then grabbed my pen a pad. This was important me. The bishop is not the faith – that is inviolate. But he is the shepherd of this local Church and, to use the term bluntly, my boss. I believe in the faith and the institution of the Church (I dedicate my life to it after all) and this could have a strong impact on perceptions, levels of belief, and hence the difficulty of my duties.

Two sentences in I stopped taking notes. The biggest concern was the bishop’s bluntness and tone. Not what he said, but the way he said it. As to the bluntness – well God bless him, he is who he is. I think I would rather have someone tell me how it is rather than serve it up with an aura of false hope and confusion. And those who know the man know that he is not a Midwesterner. He doesn’t speak like a Midwesterner. His tone comes across very gruff to many born and bread Midwesterners and there are people who find it “a tone.” I get that. Our impression though was, “That isn’t his ‘tone,’ that’s just him.” Would it be great if he had a different tone? Sure. But he doesn’t. Perhaps he thinks the same thing about us, “I wish they were a little more blunt in their dealings!” But we are one Church, he is the bishop, and we are each who we are – all striving to be better.

Anyway, in the end I felt sorry for the person who made the recording. I fear it backfired save for those who are looking for reasons to be disappointed and/or angry. I did not think it possible but my respect for television news casts dropped even further. Right after the story the T.V. went off – probably until someone comes into the sacristy again and says, “Hey – you should watch the news tonight.”


ck said...

The media think that any story bashing the Church will be popular. I think this one backfired.

The pope's condom statements are the hot news item now. In a bizzare way these innacurate news stories reinforce my faith. My stomach used to drop when a news story would report that the pope had contracticted traditional Church teaching on morals. Several dozen false alarms later you realize that the Holy Spirit really does protect the pope from error.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fr. V -

I thought this interview was deceitful, unethical and borderline illegal (is it legal to record someone without his knowledge?) It also did no credit to the TV station that aired it. His X didn't say anything he hasn't said before. As for his tone, I detected a little exasperation, as if this is the 83rd time he's had to explain his actions as far as closures and mergers.

I checked the website of the television station, and the comments from the general public were pretty much on the side of Bishop Lennon. I agree - this may have backfired for this woman. Instead of sympathy for her cause, I think she has done it serious damage. There comes a point where you have to put aside grieving for what you've lost, and begin being thankful for what you have been given and gained. Maybe this is Our Lord's way of dealing with it.

Thanks for your hospitality (I was at the Regnum Christi Mass yesterday afternoon - beautiful!)

Blessings from Downtown

Margaret C. said...

I agree with A's remarks. I read the story on 8's web site since I don't watch tv. It was completely unethical to broadcast those statements without permission but in the final analysis there was nothing in them but the truth. I fully support Bishop Lennon - he has an incredibly difficult task and he is going about it very prudently. He listens to people, assesses the situation and then acts. What more can you expect? After all he's the one who has the help of the Holy Ghost in his job...

Anonymous said...

I was lucky . . . . nobody told me about the broadcast . . . . . wasn't there an NFL game on another channel?


Anonymous said...

It seems Richard Lennon dodged one. You feared an indefensible unmasking, this suggests that you know all is not right in 'Denmark'. It was not his "tone". That was the best he had in a pastoral presentation. It could have been much worse.

He did admit that it may not have been the best possible decision. He did admit not knowing what 'vibrant' is. Basically he was going to stand pat and not correct or ameliorate anything. He, in one regard, is like another "decider" in very recent American history, he will implement an unpopular initiative in disregard to facts, and results. Lennon's will is all that matters.

Anonymous said...

The woman who recorded the conversation was by herself along with the Bishop & Bob Tayek-- she needed some sort of backup. Would people have believed that the Bishop said that he did not know the accurate definition of what vibrant is since this was part of the criteria he used to close many parishes? Would anyone believed that a Bishop from Boston questions an individual- Where have the people of Cleveland been for 20 years? His tone and manner is unbelievably un-pastoral behind closed doors. The real Bishop Lennon was unplugged.

Fr. V said...

To the last annon. So now she has "back up" and we know what he said. So what? THAT makes secretly recording conversation and then selling it to the newsmedia virtuous? Now that we know, what changes? The Eucharist is still the Eucharist and now there is more dissention in the Church. Did her actions further the cause for bringing more souls to heaven?

Remember - he did not invent Vibrant Parish Life - he inherited it. But as an administrator he can say something about what is best for the diocese. There is not a preist that does not believe SOMETHING needed to be done and perhaps should have been done years ago.

Do I like all of the decisions. No. But I am t willing to cause division in the family (Church) over it. Why make things worse especially in this underhanded way? I am disheartened that WE act this way.

Cracked Pot said...

Well said, Father. (I presume you meant that you are "NOT willing to cause division . . . .").

Anonymous said...

The fact that the Bishop is from Boston is irrelevant. Dissenters keep bringing this up as if it makes him not good enough or holy enough to lead us. That's a form of reverse snobbery, and it's nothing to be proud of. I have met His Excellency on more than one occasion, and was impressed with his kindness, gentle manner and interest in those of us who are his people. The fact that he has a Boston accent and a brisk manner does not mean he does not care for us or sympathize with us.

Father, you are right to point out that Bishop Lennon inherited a mess. We only have a limited number of priests to serve parishes that were built when we had a great many more priests, and he has to place the priests where they can serve most effectively.

As one who belongs to a parish that merged, I know how painful it is. That still does not excuse this woman's deceit. Father, you are also right to point out that this nastiness did nothing to serve our Church, but it did encourage dissent, which is a shameful and scandalous thing. Just because Bishop Lennon told her what she did not want to hear does not excuse this. It was obviously planned to embarrass and hurt His Excellency, and it has also embarrassed and hurt those of us who are faithful to the Church and respectful and obedient to Bishop Lennon.

I hope His Excellency realizes that we all aren't like this. I personally think we are richly blessed to have him as our bishop, and I think it was no accident that Pope Benedict named his as our Bishop. I think the Holy Father recognized he was a good match for us, and I am grateful.

Sorry for the length, Father, but I am very upset about this whole incident.

Blessings from Downtown

Anonymous said...

Fr. V,

You have slandered this woman. She sold nothing. No money was exchanged.

If people believe the bishop wrong they are morally required to object. Did not Jesus dissent to the scribes, pharisees and priests of his day?

So, Lennon did not invent the process. His draconian, and yes devious, way in administering it is culpable.

Being obedient to a bishop is not a higher demand than being obedient to justice, the Gospel and God. Jesus was an excellent logician. We can not have two masters.

Fr. V said...

Dear Anon.

I agree with you. I should not have said that she sold anything. I know not if she did or she did not. I do however think what she did is morally and ethically untenable. Your example of Jesus is specious. When did He ever do anything duplicitous or deveous even to achieve a good? And even so I do not see how her actions did anything but advance the cause for division within the Body of Christ and give those outside the Church more amunition to stay away. That will cause there to be LESS people at Mass and LESS vocations and MORE parish closings.

Did we as a diocese make the perfect moves. God knows not. Where they unjust to the point that we should turn away from our bishop and call it following Christ and call one calling evil and one following good? I cannot stand by you on that.

I hate it - you hate - our loved ones hate it - but let's stop the division and work at coming together to make what we have better so this trend does not continue. I challenge my readers to do the same. I for one say - "Not me! Not my blog. Not my ministry," and proudly attach my name to it.

Anonymous said...

Does St. Sebastian's have a Latin Mass? I believe I heard something about the traditional Latin Mass on Sunday? Does anyone know about this and the time? Oh yes, and does anyone know the priest's name who offers it? Thanks!