Archive for August, 2012


Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The new altar and ambo at Light of Christ parish in Clearwater. Photo kindness of John Stalter, a longtime parishioner of Light of Christ.

Ten days ago I had the opportunity to consecrate a new altar at Light of Christ parish in Clearwater. The pictures of the altar and sanctuary which accompany this blog attest to the beauty and simplicity of the changes brought to bear on a parish which basically has been occupying the same worship space since its founding and construction of the present Church (1966 for the founding of the parish).

For forty-seven years, the parish has only had two pastors, the late Monsignor Timothy Allman and the present Father Jacob Monteleone. Light of Christ is a small Church, serving what was once a larger community of Catholics, but a number of parishes have been carved out of it over the years and the original “footprint” of the Church is adequate to the moment. The sanctuary used to be quite “cluttered” with the essentials and then other things. What Father Monteleone has done has been to leave only the altar and ambo and presider’s chair in the actual sanctuary while fitting a new altar and matching ambo and a yet to arrive Presider’s chair. The tabernacle remains in the same place it has always been, which is behind the main altar but off the sanctuary platform.

Photo kindness of John Stalter, longtime parishioner of Light of Christ.


With Father Jacob Monteleone, Pastor at Light of Christ. Photo kindness of John Stalter, a longtime parishioner of Light of Christ.


Photo kindness of John Stalter, a longtime parishioner of Light of Christ.


Photo kindness of John Stalter, a longtime parishioner of Light of Christ.


Photo kindness of John Stalter, a longtime parishioner of Light of Christ.

Light of Christ would be one of those parishes where doing anything to the space might have aroused tensions and feelings but not so in this instance, as the pastor led his people through the decision making process and utilized good catechesis. As a result, I had the clear feeling that those present for the weekend Mass which I celebrated were proud of their accomplishments and grateful for the new emphasis on the two tables: of the Word and of the Eucharist.

Congratulations to all at Light of Christ for presenting to the Lord a lovelier space for the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments.



Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

“Spaghetti model” for Issac as of 5pm EST on August 23, 2012.

I suspect I have your attention!

Those of us who live along the coast of the Florida peninsula have learned a new form of spaghetti, non-edible to be sure, but equally hard to handle. I speak here of “spaghetti models” which have nothing to do with variations of ancient pasta recipes but rather squiggly lines which are produced by high speed computers which track  unpredictable variables leading to an uncertain result – or in plain English, hurricane predictors. Which leads me to “swords” and recalling the biblical story of father Abraham who was commanded by God tobuild an altar on which his one and only and long prayed for son, Isaac would be slain. As the reader knows, God stayed the sword-wielding hand of Abraham, spared his son Isaac, and fathered a great people. Well, we in Florida in general and here on the central west coast of Florida in particular are asking the Lord to spare (us from) Isaac, a tropical storm gaining intensity in the eastern Caribbean and, according to the spaghetti models, building up steam and headed toward us. And complicating the issue, we citizens of this state are not the only ones asking God to slay Isaac, but so are about 40,000 people descending on our community next week for the Republican National Convention.

What does a diocese do in the present situation by way of preparing? Pray first. Then, begin to take the proper precautions. A direct hit of a major hurricane would bring significant damage and loss to this local Church. Much of southern St. Petersburg where I live and work would be susceptible to tidal surges. We have five parishes that are at sea level (or slightly less than five feet higher). A storm surge of ten feet would do significant damage to those buildings and facilities. We are already contacting our retired priests that we know of who live alone to see if they wish to seek higher ground in which case we would encourage them to come to the Bethany Center, our diocesan retreat center. Tomorrow we will move enough cash to keep the whole diocese operating should the power be down for several days (and the banks’ computers go down). We will make plans to relocate the homeless from our Pinellas Hope facility to higher and safer ground (we are averaging about 400 a night who will need to be resettled.) We are preparing a “command center” at Bethany where I will go if the storm is higher than a category one and be joined by the principal players who will need to spring into action when the winds subside and the waters retreat. All of our parishes have had emergency storm preparation but for everyone here, we have been through this so often without a real need, that taking any of these spaghetti models seriously becomes challenging. We have become somewhat lethargic and that’s what worries the Emergency Relief Personnel where we live. Is this the big one, or is this just another “false alarm?” When, in about forty-eight hours, the spaghetti models converge and the “cone of uncertainty narrows,” we will have a better idea what to expect but then it may be too late.

I drove by a Home Depot and a Lowes on the way to work this morning and saw no great accumulation of plywood taking place nor did the supermarkets seem victims of panic, but it will happen sometime between now and Sunday, even if the storm is predicted to miss us. And then there is that haunting and unsettling reality that even if we survive another near miss, someone, somewhere else in our area of the nation is going to get hit. So join us in praying for a better result. This time, O Lord,  it is A-OK to slay Isaac and the only thing certain in my part of the vineyard is that Mitt Romney will be nominated next week – somewhere!



Friday, August 17th, 2012

There is little to be said for getting old, as I am sure many people my age would admit, and one of the challenges of aging while remaining in position is saying farewell to esteemed and great friends. Recently it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the resignation of Bishop Donald W. Trautman as bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania, and had named his successor. I have long admired Bishop Trautman for reasons I will offer in a few moments but in a sense we grew up together in the episcopal conference and he is one more person of my generation to be moving on. For him I am happy, but for our Church a strong and brave vote for the continuing implementation of the vision of the Second Vatican Council will be lost (but perhaps not the voice).

For those readers who do not know Bishop Trautman, a few facts may be helpful in understanding my sense of passing with his retirement. Post-ordination, graduate degrees in the Church are not easily gained. They require intellect, hard work, dedication and study, sometimes even exceeding secular degrees at our major universities. Bishop Trautman has one of those degrees which is extremely challenging, a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (SSL) which has such strict requirements for facility in the biblical languages that few American priests pursue it. After gaining that degree, he also studied for and received a doctorate in sacred theology (STD). Early in his priesthood, he put that background at the service of the Church of Buffalo for which he was ordained by teaching in the seminary. Upon becoming a bishop, our conference twice elected him as chairman of the Liturgy Committee (generally regarded then and now as a “death wish”) and once as chairman of the Committee on Doctrine. In other words, on three occasions, the body of bishops of the United States turned to Bishop Trautman to lead us through difficult moments. Not as well known but equally important has been his service as official episcopal liaison to the Diocesan Fiscal Managers Conference where he has also been a strong voice for transparency, accountability and procedures which will safeguard against fraud and embezzlement.

But it is precisely in his love for the liturgy that I love this man. His was the liturgy committee which in the mid-nineties convinced the body of bishops with only thirty-three in the negative to adopt a new ICEL English Translation of the Roman Missal. That translation was a 100% improvement on that which we had used right up through the Solemnity of Christ the King last year, elegant, understandable, prayable (I know, a new word). Some in the minority appealed to Rome and we know the rest of the story. As General Secretary of the then NCCB (now the USCCB), I accompanied Bishop Trautman and others on his Committee to the Congregation for Divine Worship to make the strongest case for gender sensitive (aka “inclusive”) language only to have him treated very shabbily by an American Jesuit either still in or just finished graduate education at Rome’s Gregorian University. That was an awful moment that the bishop took far better than I did. In the so-called “liturgy wars” that marked the USCCB’s decade from 1999-2009, Bishop Trautman was on the floor often asking his brothers for prayers that could be recited in one breath, understood in one moment, and vocabulary choice which had one clear meaning for the listener. He knew by then he was fighting a lost cause but his voice was not to be stilled. Like that proverbial dog with a bone in his teeth, this lion of the liturgy soldiers on, even today. Happily for some of the rest of us, his voice can still be heard in future discussions, even though his vote has now been lost.

As most of you know, with the exception of one year (1995), I have been associated with the episcopal conference of the United States as either principal staff or member since 1984, soon to be thirty years. It is sad for me to see my living heroes like Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, Bishop Anthony Pilla, Cardinal William Keeler, and Bishop Donald Trautman leave the stage of our national ecclesial theatre. That does not mean that Christ’s church is in any danger for the younger generation of bishops will also leave their mark and it is Christ’s church and not mine or my like-minded friends. But to Bishop Trautman I wish through this blog to say “thanks for the memories” of battles fought and both won and lost. You have been and will continue to be a “gift” to the Church in this country. Enjoy the rest from your labors that is rightly yours.



Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

At noon today, the Lord came for Thomas A. Horkan, first director of the Florida Catholic Conference, husband, father and friend. Eternal Rest Grant onto Him, O Lord.

Thomas A. Horkan. Photo courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

My earlier blog post on the situation between the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) engendered more than its fair share of disagreement from usually friendly sources. As a follow up, I would like to add some additional reflections which follow on events since the publication of the Doctrinal Assessment by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Last week the LCWR concluded its annual meeting, held this year in St. Louis, Missouri. At its conclusion, its leadership issued a statement which can be read by clicking here. I can not compliment the leadership enough for their thoughtful, reflective, and very ecclesial approach to a very difficult moment in Church relations. At no time did the elected leadership react in an angry manner, flame the fires of a potential fight, or descend into name calling. They kept their calm and showed real class. In a long interview on the public radio program “Fresh Air,” their president, Sister Pat Farrell, expressed her (and presumably her fellow leaders) bewilderment and hurt at the Vatican Declaration, but it was done in a respectful manner. However, what I admire the most at this moment is that going into and during their national meeting, the sisters prayed and dialogued among themselves, with no leaks and no search for grabbing headlines. I am not sure my own United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) could have accomplished that on an occasion which did manage to garner considerable national attention. The final statement indicates that the LCWR is willing to open a dialogue with the three bishops while hoping that they are not asked to compromise on what they hold important in their life and ministry.

On the PR front, the sisters gained a lot more support than “the bishops” did, or so it would seem. Bishop Leonard Blair, one of the three appointed bishops, also appeared on an interview with “Fresh Air” and did the best he could. I say this because I thought a lot of time was spent questioning the bishop on the question of the credibility of the bishops in light of the sexual abuse scandals rather than on the LCWR issue – dots that are difficult for me to connect, perhaps, because I am a bishop. I know of no bishop in this country who does not admire, love and support the women religious in his diocese. I also believe that the bishops have been somewhat restrained in their comments on the matter, except to do as I did and hope and pray for a sucessful conclusion. I also do not wish to waiver from my belief that from the Holy See’s perspective, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain is a great choice to chair what I hope will be a successful dialogue with the leadership of the majority of religious sisters.

Thanks to the leadership of the sisters, the true work of dialogue and reconciliation can now begin.



Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Thomas A. Horkan. Photo courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thomas A. Horkan, the first director of the Florida Catholic Conference (now known as the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB)), is soon to enter eternal life. According to his children, no one could be more willing and ready than Tom and he knows his situation. Thus, before he leaves us, I wish to add my memories of this grand man. I first became involved with State Catholic Conference in 1969 when I was hired as a layman to staff the Ohio Catholic Conference’s new office of Government Programs in the Education Department. State Catholic Conferences were still relatively new at that time and only about twelve states had genuine state Catholic Conferences fully staffed. In 1970, all of the directors met for their summer meeting in Columbus, hosted by our state director, Ted Staudt. It was that August that I met Tom Horkan of Florida for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful, unfailingly kind and bright as could be, Tom made no effort to impress anyone but did so nonetheless.

State Conferences of bishops were an early outgrowth of the Second Vatican Council and its invitation to the Church to invite competent lay people to represent the case of moral values to the political arena. Prior to that, bishops were the only trusted spokespersons before governmental officials. Almost every nascent state Catholic Conference in existence in 1970 had a lay man as Executive Director (soon a religious sister and a religious brother would accede to that role in Michigan and Texas). It was an exciting time. Ohio and Pennsylvania had tuition tax credits for parents of private school children, it was before Roe v. Wade, and the era of abortion simply on request was unthinkable. I learned at that first summer meeting in Columbus that the true wisdom of church-state relations rested with a few of its directors, like Tom Horkan. He told me how he had been practicing law in Miami when its first Bishop/Archbishop, Coleman Francis Carroll asked him to move to Tallahassee and begin to represent the Church before the government of the state of Florida. He told me that he and his wife were full of misgivings, not about representing the Church but about picking up, leaving the practice of law in Miami and moving to faraway Tallahassee. I asked him how he got along with Archbishop Carroll who had something of a national reputation for being irascible and he told me that the Archbishop trusted him and they got along swimmingly, and indeed they did.

After Roe, the pro-life effort within the Church began to grow significantly and Florida, under Horkan’s leadership, began to expand staff to meet the growing needs and expectations of a growing Church. Soon the state Catholic Conferences began to do more than simply represent the Catholic Church before the three branches of government in state capitals. They started serving as coordinating offices for schools, religious education, health care, etc. Tom Horkan had an expert eye for choosing great staff, one of whom, Dr. Michael McCarron, remains as Horkan’s only successor to this day. But a great measure of the success of our state Catholic Conferences was not how they satisfied the Church they served, but the respect and esteem they gained from legislators and members of the Executive branch. To this day, we continue a practice begun by Tom Horkan of meeting with the governor once a year and we often are the recipients of gratitude for the integrity and assistance which our women and men in the FCCB in Tallahassee have and share. Tom Horkan got it all started well and he served with honor and distinction, a true Catholic layman as envisioned by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council and a cherished person in the history of the Church in Florida for over fifty years. With failing eyesight but unfailing mental acuity behind the scenes and never interfering since his retirement, he remains a fountain of wisdom to many. There are many priests, religious sisters and brothers who stand out as bright lights of the Church on the Florida peninsula, but Thomas Horkan in the modern era stands alone for his love of and service to the Church of his baptism.

Tom, I hope Mike McCarron or your daughter can read this to you today and I regret that I am unable to be at your bedside, but I will do everything I can to be present at your funeral as you have been present to me during my fifty years of service to the Church we love. May the angels lead you into paradise, dear friend. You have earned a place in eternal life with your wife so keep working for us that have not yet earned fully our entrance “ticket.”