View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Grosswirth of observations

The recent "ordination" of Ray Grosswirth, a married resident of my home diocese and someone who has been active in parishes, as a married priest has led to a spate of discussion on some sites.

I'm not going to get into the issue of his ordination - he excommunicated himself without any overt action needed by the diocese - but rather the fact that some folks have used the incident as a vehicle to attack the diocese.

One of those attackers referred to a Father William Callahan and his break-away church, Spiritus Christi, saying that that church was fading into oblivion.

It was Father James Callan, not William Callahan (to the poster's credit, this was corrected later when the error was pointed out)

But as for fading into oblivion, a recent bulletin of the church I secured (from Dec. 2/3) reports attendance of 1,187 and a collection of more than $19,000. I know a lot of Catholic Churches that would love those figures.

My own parish had an attendance of around 1,200, and a collection of just over $9,000.

Spiritus Christi offers a full range of ministries. It is doing better than a lot of Catholic parishes - orthodox or otherwise. (By the way, the most orthodox parish in my suburb is in upheaval because the traditionalist pastor had to be removed after allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced earlier this year. Sigh)

As for the diocese, why the continued attacks? Bishop Clark does not read all the blogs out there and does not know all the people who are involved in the particualr parishes. Can we blame the bishop because Grosswirth slipped through?

If Grosswirth were allowed to continue in any church position after this act, that would be a different matter.

But on a broader level, just because you don't like a style of music or architecture, does that make the bishop Satan's servant?

When we worship, our minds and hearts should be on prayer, not on critiquing others.

So, other than old rumors and past alleged abuses, what specific liturgical violations is the diocese guilty of? What heretical statements is Bishop Clark making these days?

Are these claims by folks who don't even live in the diocese based in fact, or are they based on flawed information or memories, as happened with Father Callan's name?

And if such a simple fact can be incorrect, how can we be certain of the correctness of other statements?


Blogger Lee Strong said...

"A widely-traveled priest-friend of mine and I once were discussing my home diocese of Rochester. He said, `I've never been there, but in terms of trouble-making, they seem to punch above their weight.`"

Ah, an opinion from someone who has never been here.


6:19 PM  
Blogger Quincy said...

Regarding "fading into oblivion," the parish whose bulletin you cite may, indeed, be quite healthy both in terms of attendance and contributions; however, that does not seem to be the case diocesan-wide.

The Diocese of Rochester as a whole has lost almost 1 out of every 6 weekend Mass attendees in just the last 5 years and diocesan officials do not seem to be concerned enough to find out why.

This sad story is detailed at

Right now I'm just waiting for the 2006 attendance figures to see how many more souls we have lost in the last 12 months. I'm praying for some good news, but I have seen nothing out of DOR in the last year that would give me any hope that my prayer will be answered.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

quincy - perhaps I wasn't clear.

The church in question is a break-away, heretical one with two women priests, and with celebrations of gay marriages, etc.

The person who cited this church said it was fading into oblivion, and I was pointing out that it is not. It is doing better that a lot of Catholic churches - orthodox and liberal.

As for the losses in the diocese, I haven't seen figures on that, so I don't know. But I do know from reading Catholic news sources that drops in attendance figures are happening nationally, not just here in Rochester.

I hope and pray that the figures do not continue downward.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I did look up some stats from CARA.

Mass attendance nationwide dropped form 33% back in Sept. 2000 to 31% in Sept. 2004 - with fluctuations in between. It had been up at 74% back in 1957-58. There was a 20 percent drop by the ealy 1970s, and a continued drop until the 90s, where things seem to have stabilized for a while.

The study (released in 2005) concluded there has been little overall change in Mass attendance since 2000, at least nationally. It's down in the low 30s - sad considering that 74% figure some 50 years ago.

The version of the study I saw did not break out figures for the Diocese of Rochester.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Quincy said...

Ah, now I understand! Had I read your post one more time I probably would have realized you weren't giving data for a Catholic parish. Mea culpa.

The 2000 through 2004 DOR attendance numbers I cited came from an interview with Bishop Clark published in the Democrat and Chronicle in either December 2004 or early 2005. (I remember clipping the article but I can't find it now.) The 2005 data came from the diocesan Pastoral Planning office.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Ray Grosswirth said...


Thank you for your defense of both Bishop Clark and Spiritus Christi.

I made a point of criticizing Rich Leonardi at my blog for his inaccuracies concerning my former ministy at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rochester. I also appreciate your correcting him on Jim Callan's name. (Leonardi had referred to him as William Callahan.)

At Rich Leonardi's website, he identified me as the RCIA coordinator and went on to accuse me of teaching heresy. The correction at my blog states that I was never the RCIA coordinator. In truth, I did one presentation per year for the RCIA group on the Mass, and that was strictly by the book. (I certainly never taught heresy at the parish.)

Concerning my ordination to priesthood, I ask that Bishop Clark not be criticized for my actions, and I appreciate what you had to say in this regard.

As I have stated on my own blog and to reporters who have interiewed me, it is not my mission to cause division in the church. I have two primary goals: 1.) inclusivity in the priesthood, minus any discrimination based on gender or marital status; 2.) my desire to reach out the diaspora - namely, an attempt to bring faith perspectives to those who feel alienated by the instituational church.

Ultimately, my ordination is not about ME, but rather about a church with the sad statistic of 1 celibate priest per 3,500 Catholics.

Ray Grosswirth

1:19 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Ray - I don't defend Spiritus Christi. What Father Callan and his followers did was clearly wrong and caused harm to the Church, the diocese, and many good people. I am merely correcting some incorrect facts.

As for Bishop Clark, while I do defend him from unfair attacks, I also think that he can be fairly criticized. I think his failure to act on the Father Callan/Corpus Christi situation for so long, for example, was a serious mistake and made matters worse.

7:03 AM  

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