Program #0012 for Thursday, March 24, 2011: Archbishop Dolan, school choice, Daughters of St. Paul, St. Thomas More College

March 24, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Today’s topics: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York interviewed on CBS News’ 60 Minutes, the Pope’s Lenten retreat, school choice, the Daughters of St. Paul dispute with Archdiocese of Boston over pension funds, St. Thomas More College relocation

A summary of today’s show: In a brisk review of the week’s news, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York on being a “conservative” Catholic and then the ongoing response to the sexual abuse crisis; the Pope’s Lenten retreat focusing on Pope John Paul II; an effort to repeal anti-Catholic laws in Massachusetts; the dispute between the Daughters of St. Paul and the Archdiocese of Boston does not undermine the mutual love and respect; and a relocation of a Catholic college to the archdiocese.

1st segment: Susan reflected on the past week since her last appearance and how she and friends and colleagues have been reflecting on Lent and the joy in Lent. Scot said it’s always a trial to keep up with Lenten disciplines and also there appears to be many more people showing up for Mass each day at the Pastoral Center.

2nd segment: Scot and Susan welcomed Gregory Tracy and Fr. Roger Landry. First item up for consideration was an interview by 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer with Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. Fr. Roger recalled knowing then-Msgr. Dolan when Fr. Roger was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Archbishop Dolan was as warm, friendly, and jovial as he remembered him and seemed to win over Morley Safer with his personality. Archbishop Dolan leads the US Catholic Church in several ways, both holding the biggest pulpit in the US at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and as president of the USCCB.

A clip from the show includes Safer’s comments calling Archbishop Dolan a right-wing conservative. Archbishop Dolan bristles at being called right-wing, but he is enthusiastically grateful and committed to the timeless traditions and history of the Church.

Scot notes that many people like to label the Church, especially calling people who take their faith seriously as right-wing. Greg noted that there’s a tendency to put everything under political labels, like “left” and “right”. But that doesn’t really apply to the Church, which is what Archbishop Dolan was saying.

Fr. Roger noted that Christ’s word is eternal and those who follow don’t put their finger in the wind to see which it’s blowing. People try to make the Church a political messiah, like people tried to make Christ a political messiah back in the day. We are supposed to be conservative if we define it as supporting life issues and the Church’s teaching on morality, but liberal if we define it as supporting the Church’s teachings on the poor, for example. As Catholics we must defy those easy labels because we are called to be both.

Susan said what came to mind was the paradox people saw in Pope John Paul II, being both orthodox on the Church’s teachings and so politically “liberal” on issues related to war and peace.

A clip from the interview on the Archbishop’s experience meeting with abuse victims and the Church’s response to the scandals. in some ways, Archbishop Dolan said, he doesn’t want the crisis to be over. It needs to haunt the Church.

Fr. Roger said he heard those words, having worked with so many victims who’ve been wounded in the Church, and it struck him because of the awful experience of the victims, not just from the original injury but also from the lack of compassion from the Church in so many cases. All of this needs to haunt the Church, and Fr. Roger is thrilled that Archbishop Dolan gets this at a visceral level. We don’t just institute a policy and move on, but take it to heart and make reparation. And then use this as something that drives us to go on in a way that serves everyone into the future.

Scot mentioned to Greg that so many want to just move on from the crisis, but there are others who say we always have to remember it because those who have been hurt will be with for a long time. Gregory sees a persistent theme in all coverage of the Church that the abuse scandal is always coming up. The Pilot has often received comments from readers asking them to stop covering the crisis. If something good can come out of the revelations of the abuse, it’s that it forced the Church to confront this evil, but also brought awareness to the problem in general to society as a whole. The Church can provide a model to society on how to deal with this.

Fr. Roger noted in this week’s editorial that Archbishop Dolan has been using his blog to speak frankly and plainly about the issue of abuse as well as the response to the Church, the part of the story being missed which is that the bishops have begun to get things right and create the circumstances by which young children are perhaps safer in Catholic churches than in any other institution. We shouldn’t be so ashamed at what has occurred that we become a punching bag for those who want to use the evil that occurred as a way to silence the Church.

3rd segment: Pope Benedict has an annual retreat for Lent along with the Roman curia. The theme this year was on Pope John Paul II. They also heard profiles of other courageous saints under a concept he called, “Dancing with the saints”. Susan said she was pleased at the reference by the retreat master’s reference to the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II: “This beatification, which will be an event of immense importance for the church and the entire world, requires deep spiritual preparation involving the entire people of God and, in a particular way, the Holy Father and his closest collaborators.’ She also is pleased that the Pope recalls for us the importance of Lenten retreats.

Fr. Roger noted that Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the chaplain to the papal household, has preached the Advent retreats for the papal household for the past 32 years. He recently came to Boston to preach a night of reflection.

Greg found it interesting that the theme was intended to help people prepare for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, especially since he only recently died. Pope John Paul II was a great believer in the potential of all people to become saints and he canonized and beatified more people than all other pope’s combined and so his beatification and reflection on that now helps us to recall that vision.

4th segment: Last week, there was a news conference featuring former US Ambassador to the Vatican and former Boston mayor Ray FLynn in which he highlighted the existence of anti-Catholic amendments to the Massachusetts constitution that hurt parents who wish to send their children to Catholic schools.

It is called the Know Nothing amendment, referring to a nativist movement of the 19th century that resisted the influx of immigrants, especially Irish Catholics, and a great fear that the upstart Irish would gain power. The name comes from the fact it was a semi-secret organization. There was an 1854 amendment putting the original anti-Catholic laws in place and then another amendment in 1917 that blocked the ability to repeal the amendment by citizen referendum.

The law prevents government aid from going to Catholic schools. Fr. Roger said there is immense economic pressure on Catholic schools, especially in the inner-city. People can’t afford even the $3000 tuition, which is below cost, while paying thousands of dollars in property taxes for public schools. Archbishop Dolan has pointed out that studies show Catholic schools do a better job of educating inner-city students and do it at about half the cost of public schools. He said we don’t address the issue because there is still an anti-Catholic bias.

When this came up in Massachusetts in the 1980s, it failed despite the fact that many of the legislators were themselves Catholics and had experienced the benefits of Catholic education, because they had bought into the secularist arguments.

Susan said every Catholic should have an interest in the benefits of Catholic schools. Inside every classroom in Boston is a sign that says “Christ is the reason for this school.” Also, every society benefits from a populace that is well-educated. And on a practical level, if Catholic schools didn’t exist, the burden on the public schools would be enormous. They would have all those Catholic school students without any additional property tax funds.

We hope to have Ambassador Flynn and Catholic schools superintendent Mary Grassa-O’Neill on next week to discuss this issue in depth.

5th segment: On the front page of the Boston Globe this past Monday, we saw an article on the Daughters of St. Paul, as the paper put it, suing Cardinal Sean. At essence of the story, the Daughters want to manage their pension fund on their own and the trustees of the Archdiocesan pension plan asked for proof that they had a management plan in place as required by their fiduciary duty to those who have contributed to the pension plans.

Greg noted that the issue is not a new one, but has been going on for a long time and precedes any current changes to the pension plan that are being put in place for current employees.

Scot wanted to make sure that everyone understood that there remains a lot of affection between the Daughters of St. Paul and the Archdiocese of Boston. Susan said she is personally close to the Daughters. It’s important to realize that there are good people on both sides, she said. Her office is planning several projects with them over this summer and in the fall. They are a cutting edge religious order, involved in the communications and the media.

Susan felt that Romans 8:28 is a good verse for this situation: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.”

Scot said it is tough to see a religious order you love and the Church you love being put at odds on the front page of the newspaper.

Moving on exciting news that St. Thomas More College is moving from its current location in Merrimac, NH, to Groton, Mass. It will become the 7th Catholic college in the archdiocese. Greg said the better news is that their move is motivated by plans to grow. He also notes that they’re not abandoning the location in New Hampshire, which will become a graduate school.

Scot said more good news is that the beautiful Sacred Heart Church in Groton was sitting unused because of parish mergers and that Groton was planning to build a fire station on the property. The college is purchasing the church as its chapel. An interesting side note is that the school’s main property that it’s purchasing is the former estate of the J. Geils band. The town wins by getting the property for its fire station, but also preserving a large open area. The college plans to move by 2013. The school said they will be able to revive their adult faith formation programs at the new location as well.

St. Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers and was the chancellor for King Henry VIII and gave up his life rather than capitulate to Henry VIII on his dispute with the Catholic Church over divorce. His letters to his daughter Margaret are very enlightening.

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