First a quick background. As we in the diocese are aware, the city of Cleveland is experiencing significant difficulties with population drops, dwindling tax dollars, loss of jobs, cut backs in services, abandoned neighborhoods etc, etc, etc. There is an initiative beginning called Greater Cleveland Congregations that is pulling together different faiths to work together to address these issues. The Diocese is officially declining to participate. Here was a letter to the editor written by Sister Mary Hurley, a Catholic nun which appeared in the Plain Dealer on Wednesday, 15 June.
“As a Catholic, a native Clevelander and one whose work, social, religious, civic and family activities are primarily in the Greater Cleveland, I was inspired and excited when I read of the formation of the Greater Cleveland Congregations to address our area’s concerns for education, jobs health care, criminal justice and sustainable food (May 28). But I cannot adequately express my profound disappointment and sadness when I subsequently read (June 7) that there had been no response to the invitation to Bishop Richard Lennon of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese to join the coalition and that the diocese had asked one parish to put its GCC involvement “on hold.
“As a former longtime member of the Diocesan Commission on Catholic Community Action, when it worked closely with other faith communities and public officials to serve human needs and bring about systemic change, I am puzzled and distressed that the Catholic community is not officially represented in this current effort to work together on the most pressing problems in our community.”
I am puzzled and distressed myself. I have a profound disappointment that this letter was written to the paper without any research apparently being done on the part of a person who worked in the diocese and should understand why these things happen from time to time.
Why, instead of writing directly to the paper, did sister not try contacting the bishop and ask him why we are not getting involved? It is a rare, rare thing that a parish is told to put any activity they are involved in “on hold.” That should be a sign that something may be going on that we don’t know about.
I want to make it clear that I don’t know anything about the GCC or what they intend to do. But think for a moment: they have a far reach agenda. What if one of their stated goals is something that is in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching yet the bishop is putting his official endorsement on it by stating Catholics are involved? Just for example, let us say that the GCC wants to support more clinics coming into the city that provides abortions for underprivileged people. (Once again, let me be very clear, I have NO idea if they want this or not.) Can the Catholic Church legitimately be involved? Of course not. We may be “on hold” because they have not even come so far as to know exactly what they stand for. It is a wise, wise bishop who doesn’t let his diocese get tangled up in (yet another) embarrassing mess. This scenario is one possibility.
Another one to consider: The Diocese of Cleveland ALREADY pours an ENORMOUS amount of resources combating the very things this initiative is seeking to address. Though we are (I believe) the 11th largest diocese, we have the largest Catholic Charities in the United States. These are long standing established ministries. Would participating in GCC sap energy and resources AWAY from these initiatives?
These are just two ideas to consider. There are more. They may or may not have played a role in our putting our participation on hold. But did sister bother to try to find out first? Granted, it may seem at first that it would have been beneficial for the bishop to state WHY we are not getting involved for the time being, but then he would have to say WHY and that might be damaging to the cause in an area where one out of five people are Catholics.
Now it is an issue in the Plain Dealer (which already does not report well the inner workings of the Church.) The Catholic community looks divided, people are angry, and the real issues are further clouded.