Reader Comments: Vicar General and Reconfiguration Consternation

Sometimes the comments we get from readers are so interesting and insightful that we feel they are worth highlighting as they say things better than we could have ourselves.  Several from the past few days merit greater visibility:

In Vicar General, Moderator of the Furious, we gave some background on Fr. Richard Erikson, who has parish pastoral planning and some administrative management under his limited scope of responsibility and who is rumored to want to head back to the Air Force full-time.  Here are excerpts from what one reader, “Objective Observer” said:

[Fr. Erikson] seemingly a priest with no RCAB baggage, with a Ph.D. in social Work/Counseling, and with some administrative experience in the military looked good [in 2006 as a candidate for Vicar General]. But the cardinal succumbed to the classic mistake many schools make when they make their best teacher principal. The school ends up losing a very good teacher, and picking up an inexperienced, even mediocre principal. When he tapped Erikson, the cardinal took a really good member of the presbyterate and put him in a job for which he had no preparation and, frankly, no specific competence.

Father Richard Erikson, no question, is a good and holy priest. A great big parish full of kids, working class people and elderly are missing out on a man who would be a superb pastor. So, point one is, can we afford to have him caged up on this little running wheel where he is not free to care for the people of God, as diocesan priests are called to do, and not free to manage the diocese?

My prayer for Father Erikson is that he be called back to the Military diocese as an auxiliary bishop…

Boston needs a VG who understands how the Church must work, and who cannot be hoodwinked or disabled by ridiculous pretenders like McDonough. As the months and years pass by, Boston suffers and Father Erikson suffers. An orderly transition is not possible in an upside-down diocese, so better to limit the duration of the suffering. No matter how carefully planned the transition, it cannot yield benefit under these circumstances.

Unsolicited advice to Father Erikson: Discern in prayer, attain clarity, and act on that clarity with courage in order to do God’s will. Surely then the chaos that thrives at 66 Brooks will slip into your past, and you can greet the future of your priesthood with joyful tears of consolation. AMDG

In Reconfiguration Consternation, we talked about plans to combine multiple “church” buildings into a smaller number of city/regional “parishes,” with one pastor and shared parish staff. Here is what one reader, “Larry” offered:

O’Malley recently reported to a meeting of the regional vicars that in ten years there will be 150 parishes in the archdiocese. Multiple current parishes will be rearranged to fit into the 150 final parishes. What happens to buildings will be determined locally (you can have one future parish that includes the churches and buildings of many current parishes). This is a done deal. This model of reconfiguration has been successful in many dioceses. What is key to those successes, though, is that they have had bishops who have offered strong direction, have been willing to make difficult choices, and have accepted personal responsibility for their decisions. O’Malley notably lacks any of those qualities. He’s most likely to observe the process from Ireland or perhaps the palace of his noble friends in Portugal. No doubt Bryan Hehir and Jim McDonough will be able to take masterful care of things on the home front.

This target number of parishes is consistent with what Chancellor McDonough blabbed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was published in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

So, look for an alignment of multiple “church” buildings in a city or region to be organized around one “parish” with one pastor, several priests in a rectory and shared staff. No one wants to say anything right now about any church buildings closing, lest the hysteria and protests of “Reconfiguration Round 1” begin anew.  No one wants to say how many rectories there will be, and it is not clear if the plan has gotten that far.  Look for the episcopal leadership concerns in Boston and associated ramifications to dominate the discussions and process.

Oddly and importantly, no one will want to talk about process at getting to this “150” parish number and the tradeoffs for the future health of the archdiocese.  No one is yet sharing the fact that the ratio of priests to weekly church-goers  has actually remained relatively constant over decades as the number of priests and Catholic Church-goers in Boston decline proportionally. That means that the # of “parishes” could be much lower, and probably will need to be much lower in the future.  At one time, about 70-80% of 2 million Catholics in this archdiocese were going to Mass regularly.  Now we have 1/8 that number–about 250,000 Catholics attend Mass weekly.  We will report more on those statistics later this week.

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