If you were in and around the Roman Catholic church this past weekend, you probably heard or read the following letter.
Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Chaput - December 8 2011 [PDF | 116 KB]
It contains some interesting tidbits about faith and complacency, which are nice if ultimately irrelevant platitudes. The real meat is what it has to say about Catholic education:
In the coming year we will face very serious financial and organizational issues that cannot be delayed. They must be addressed. These are not simply business issues; they go to the heart of our ability to carry out our Catholic ministries. The archdiocese remains strongly committed to the work of Catholic education. But that mission is badly served by trying to sustain unsustainable schools. In January, the archdiocesan Blue Ribbon Commission will provide me with its recommendations on Catholic education. The Commission has worked for months on this difficult issue with extraordinary sensitivity and skill. It will likely counsel that some, and perhaps many, schools must close or combine. It will also offer a framework for strengthening our schools going forward.
Translation: Catholic education as you know it is done. The true extent won't be known until the report comes out next year, but suffice it to say that the new Catholic education framework will be barely recognizable to longtime area residents.
The Project, of course, is really interested in schools inasmuch as they directly impact their host parishes. And most parishes are much, much stronger without the burden of a parish school. So, this is good news, right?
Over the next 18 months the same careful scrutiny must be applied to every aspect of our common life as a Church, from the number and location of our parishes, to every one of our archdiocesan operational budgets. This honest scrutiny can be painful, because real change is rarely easy; but it also restores life and health, and serves the work of God’s people. We cannot call ourselves good stewards if we do otherwise.
Spoke too soon. So not only are schools on the table, parishes are as well. There are some expected urban casualties (cough, Ascension of Our Lord, cough), but I suspect most of the surprises will happen in the suburbs. Those residents, I think, are about to discover that financial, maintenance, attendance and AD-mismanagement problems are not relegated to the city. When your people go, so do you--regardless of where you are.
More on this as it comes out. But if the early reaction is any indication--ranging from shock to anger to disbelief to grief--the AD is going to have a !^#%@$ on its hands.
I'm know I'm already running long here, but I just have to point out this part.
Finally, the resources of the Church do not belong to the bishops or the clergy; they belong to the entire Catholic people, including the faithful generations who came before us. The Church is a community of faith alive in the present but also connected across the years through time. The Church holds her resources in stewardship for the whole Catholic community, to carry out our shared apostolic mission as believers in Jesus Christ. This means that as archbishop, I have the duty not just to defend those limited resources, but also to ensure that the Church uses them with maximum care and prudence; to maximum effect; and with proper reporting and accountability.
Gah, there are just too many things wrong with that paragraph.