Sunday, November 20, 2011

Assorted news items

Jesuit retreat house Mt. Manresa celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala ball at Snug Harbor. Neither the word "Jesus" nor "Catholic" or even "Christian" appear anywhere in the article. Instead, the retreat house's own executive director, Fred Herron, lauded Mt. Manresa for being a "spirituality center" that "the community has turned to during critical moments." The Chairman of the Board, Rich Nolan, proudly pointed out how Mt. Manresa suspended its normal operations after 9/11 and became a haven for rescue workers. He emphasized the spirituality center's dedication to "the community." The article described Mt. Manresa as a place that offers "retreats" for all classes of people, including the divorced, alcoholics and drug addicts. The attendees were quoted several more times in this small article pledging their undying dedication to the sacrosanct, but vaguely delineated "community." One unnamed person summed up Mt. Manresa's mission by saying that it offered the community the opportunity to "look within to see the direction your life has taken and the choices you face in the future." I've never read such mealy-mouthed drivel in my life. If this were an Evangelical Protestant celebration, I'm sure they would have taken the opportunity to praise Jesus Christ or promote their own church. In this case, these professional Catholics were either too embarrassed by their nominal faith to mention it, or too inexperienced in evangelization to know how to bring it up.

The Archdiocese of New York partnered with Radio City Music Hall in sponsoring an essay contest on the theme "What the Blessings of Christmas Mean to Me." An eighth-grader at Sacred Heart won the contest with a (to me) maudlin list of nice things that happen to him throughout the year. The pastor of the school proudly pointed out how it "... just shows the kind of education that children get in Catholic schools." I'm not sure if he meant that a Catholic education enabled him to write an essay of this quality (Good Lord, how bad must the public schools be!) or if we should be impressed by the sentiment expressed in the essay, which seems devoid of Christian content (although I concede that the Advance may have left that part out). In either case, the student body of Sacred Heart certainly got an education when a scantily-clad Rockette showgirl came to the school to present the prize to the boy, which doesn't seem all that appropriate to me. I hate to seem like I'm picking on a kid, but I wonder what he's being taught in school and at church when the the only thing he can express about the birth of our Savior is this "raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens" kind of sentimentality.

St. Theresa's and St. Peter's churches are participating in an interfaith Thanksgiving celebration this week at the Victory Blvd. mosque. Who will they be thanking ? The Triune Christian God? Allah? Jehovah? Krishna? Also, the annual interfaith seder at St. Theresa's is already scheduled for next year! I'm still advocating for that interfaith Good Friday service so the Jews can hear about how Jesus died to save mankind. They tell us that the whole point of these dramas is mutual understanding, yet it seems all we do is go to Passover seders and listen to rabbis lecture us. Well, maybe one of these years they'll consider my suggestion!

Wagner College, a Lutheran school, recently put on a production of "“Catholic School Girls”, an offensive portrayal of nuns in the 1960s. The play prompted a minor kerfuffle in the letters section of the Advance. One lady, who claimed she is a "certified Catechist with the Catholic Church", wholeheartedly supported the play which, she claimed, accurately portrayed the Church during a time of "change in Church doctrine". The assertion by this "certified Catechist" that the Church changes its doctrines was refuted in a subsequent letter by a very well-informed and intelligent Catholic lady.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goodbye St. Peter's, Hello P.S. 59!

After receiving a death sentence back in February, it has now been announced that St. Peter's church will be leasing the former St. Peter's Girls High School to the city for use as a 372 seat public elementary school. Details of the plan are sketchy, but it will cost the taxpayers a mere $5.69 million dollars to convert the school into a school (does that mean chiseling out the stone crosses, whitewashing religious pictures and other assorted iconoclasm?). It's already being predicted by those "in the know" that the school will inevitably expand to encompass grades 6 through 8 and that, because of low enrollment in the plethora of area public schools, P.S. 59 will be made into a "special" school...most likely meaning violent and disturbed children. Does the perfidy of Monsignor Dorney know no bounds? It wasn't enough that his lack of leadership helped destroy the school and the parish, but now he stabs the neighborhood in the back by parking yet another problematic institution in their backyard. The property value of all those beautiful old homes and ritzy condos are about to drop precipitously.

Moore Catholic marks golden anniversary

What do they have to celebrate? I know that the administrators, teachers and students can be proud of having a well-funded and well-regarded private school, if not an academically exceptional one. What I mean to ask is what do Catholics have to celebrate about the continued existence of Moore Catholic High School? The school does have a Catholic identity, but what does that really mean? There are probably crucifixes in the classrooms, they most likely still attend a communal Mass at our Lady of Pity on big occasions, and students are required to take a "religion" class. Certainly there is a Catholic tinge to the place, but what does that really amount to? Does the occasional sight of a priest and Catholic iconography impute holiness? In my day the students at Moore had a reputation for being thuggish, materialist and rebellious. There were saints there who persevered, but the school wasn't exactly known for strong devotion. (If only the general public knew about the large body of practicing Satanists and the witchcraft books in the school library!). By all impressions, things really haven't changed and seem to have gotten somewhat worse with these over-privileged, entitled, destructive goons. Now that they have a football team to worship, they have descended into new depths of sports idolatry. At best, one can say that Moore is better than the public schools, but let's not kid ourselves that it is in any sense a real Catholic school, whose primary mission is to prepare a Catholic soul for adult life. I don't see any evidence that it is anything more than a private school "in the Catholic tradition", as the motto goes these days. How is that something to celebrate?