Bishop Clark Honored

Today’s bishops seem overpopulated with canon lawyers and not enough spiritual directors. I was glad to see one of my former bishops, one from the latter category, honored by his brothers, including the Jovial One:

Only a couple of minutes into his homily, Cardinal Dolan, who noted that all were gathered “to salute a great Bishop of Rochester,” got to the prevailing sentiment of the occasion.

“Why don’t I just say it, what’s in all our hearts. Matthew, we love you very much,” Cardinal Dolan remarked, setting off thunderous applause that became a standing ovation.

Cardinal Dolan was wondering later about the Garbage Plate. Please, archbishop, stay on that diet!

I remember that Matthew Clark was regarded with deep suspicion by some when he came to Rochester in 1979–directly from Rome. The previous bishop had, at his predecessor‘s urging, been appointed from among the pastors of the diocese in 1969. That still seems a generally sensible idea, one that Pope Benedict occasionally endorses, such as here, and that occasionally is rejected, sometimes with disastrous results, such as here.

In the early 80’s, I was thinking it better to form my own opinion on a bishop rather than swim with the current. I would occasionally cross paths with Bishop Clark in my formation years. he was always friendly, inquiring about my studies. He seemed more up-to-date on them than my pastor. I remember being most impressed with Bishop Clark as a skilled and prayerful presider, especially at confirmations.

My Kansas City bishops in comparison were dry and difficult presiders and preachers. Bishop Finn did restore the Eucharist for confirmation. And forty-minute homilies were trimmed somewhat. Give me a good prayerful bishop who engages ars celebrandi–who cares for his politics or ideology. Speaking of which, if one were to judge the need for a successor bishop in Rochester, one might have thought that an appointment would be coming the day Bishop Clark turned 75. The counters on the conservative web sites are gone, and the Catholic Right is still grinding its teeth.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Bishop Clark Honored

  1. So glad that you posted this with your commentary. Thank you! As for Nick Tahou’s… well, enough said. Maybe if he must, a trip to Gitsis’, if it still exists, might suffice, where he can have one Texas Hot. :-)

    (It appears to be extant! I spent many a wayward post-nightlife 3am meal there…

  2. FrMichael says:

    The sociologically-irrefutable catastrophic decline of the Diocese of Rochester will stand as mute witness to the man. No amount of progressive happy-talk or a tip of the hat of the Prozac Cardinal can reverse history.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      Ditto for the effect of JPII and BXVI on the Catholic Church.

      • FrMichael says:

        Comparing the demographic statistics of JP2 and Bishop Clark is like comparing a Picasso and a dyslexic tagger. Picasso and JP2 have a reputation for genius with mixed evidence for the same. The tagger on a wall and Bishop Clark in Rochester have defaced once-proud places and ushered in a collapse. Mass attendance, number of Catholics, number of parishes, number of schools, parochial school attendance, reception of the sacraments of initiation, ordinations to priesthood and number of seminarians: large double-digit losses in all categories.

        For those with a stomach for truth:

  3. FrMichael says:

    Better link for the nuclear winter that is the Diocese of Rochester:

  4. Todd says:

    I’ve seen the cleansing fire web site, and from a Christian view I’m unimpressed. From the standpoint of anger, sure; it’s great. Bishop Clark is a demon with no redeeming features. Really? Exaggeration and overstatement don’t make a very convincing case.

    Many people, including many on the Catholic Right, use numbers when it suits them, and decline to use them when it doesn’t. In all cases, caveat emptor when ideologues are trotting out numbers.

    I have other issues with the Diocese of Rochester. Clearly, that diocese has issues with evangelization and discernment. When I was a freshly-minted MA, I found no employment there. What to make of that? Was I too inexperienced? Too liberal? Too theological and not musical enough? Who knows?

    Using a bishop’s supposedly liberal reputation as a link to poor clergy vocations is a tack that will blow up in the Right’s face as often as it does them credit.

    Maybe I’ll blog more on my Rochester experiences some day.

  5. Patti says:

    One wonders how much time “Father” Michael has spent the in the Rochester diocese. After living there for 14 years, I can say that Matt Clark far surpasses what passes for most leadership in the RC church these days. It’s easy and fun to throw stones from afar.

    • As Patti says, it is easy to throw stones from afar, and I am not even sure what the point of doing so is.

      Bishop Clark is a great man, and we here in the Albany diocese know him well and are fond of him.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      One tends to forget how easy it is to adopt a persona, or even credentials, in the blogosphere. There is not way to verify claims, particularly if email addresses are hidden, or if they are false.

  6. leefstrong says:

    Bishop Clark’s resignation was accepted today. He is no longer Bishop of Rochester. Bishop Cunningham of Syracuse has been appointed administrator of Rochester, pending the appointment of a bishop.

  7. leefstrong says:

    The unusual speed of the acceptance is fueling speculation – even Bishop Clark was surprised (though he did know as of September 7, but likely had to keep it mum until today). Could illness have played a role? No indications that he is sick – I hope he’s not – but one never knows. But if not illness, then the speed and the way it was done suggests a kind of repudiation of him. Personally, I always liked Bishop Clark. I’d be sad if this is a slight.

  8. Todd says:

    Lee, I think his resignation was submitted on his birthday, July 15th. Two months is not immediate. I have heard he is not in good health.

    • leefstrong says:

      Yes, each bishop must submit his resignation on his 75th birthday, but then must wait for the Pope to accept it. The customary time in recent years has been around a year – the Bishop of Buffalo’s resignation was not accepted until about 11 months later, for example – and sometimes longer. Generally, the only times when the resignation has been accepted in this short a time in recent years has been due to things like poor health, the urging of the bishop himself for various reasons, or the Pope’s/Vatican’s decision for pastoral reasons to speed up the process – often because the Bishop was having problems, or had fallen out of favor for some reason. Even Bishop Clark had been saying in interviews he did not expect his resignation to be accepted for about a year, and expressed some surprise at the speed of this. There’s also the fact that an administrator was appointed, not a replacement named. The usual procedure is to wait until a replacement has been chosen – appointing an administrator is very unusual unless there is a health concern. In other words: Unless there is some health/personal reason for this to which we are not privy, this seems like the Pope was sending a message Vatican style.

  9. As irony would have it, I was reading the most recently comments on my phone when I got home last night and I glanced at the pile of mail on the table. As it happens, a good friend from Rochester had sent me two publications, a copy of the Catholic Courier and a special edition about Bishop Clark.

    I have been reading the special edition and tears have come to my eyes many times.

    As leefstrong said, this does seem remarkably fast. The 11 month period in Buffalo had given me some hope. Selfishly, I wanted Bishop Clark to be the presiding bishop this coming spring when I receive my degree from Saint Bernards School of Theology and Ministry (Albany extension), which takes place at the Cathedral in Rochester each May. With the Buffalo situation in mind, I thought that such a thing might happen. I guess not!

    So there is the matter of speed as well as the unusual move of having Bishop Cunningham appointed as administrator.

    This can’t help but have me, and many others here in Albany, wonder what will happen in regard to our own Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. October 31, 2013 is a date we all know well, that is when he turns 75.

    We all watch Rochester because we can’t help but think that what happens there will be a harbinger of what will happen here.

    This, as with all things, is in the hands of God. My prayers seek the intercession of Bl. John XXIII and Oscar Romero, men of God who represent hope and change.

  10. FrMichael says:

    Happily ensconced in the Golden State, fortunately I don’t personal experience with zombie Diocese of Rochester. However, as a longtime reader of The Wanderer I have read for years about the fecklessness and loony-tunes mega-progressive Catholicism of Bishops Clark and Hubbard. Even our pervert Ziemann out here (disgraced Santa Rosa bishop) didn’t preside over such a severe decline with endless happy-talk as did these two from New York state and their lemmings for disciples. Demographically speaking, the Diocese of Rochester is like the German Sixth Army after the Battle of Stalingrad: stragglers of a titanic effort that ended in rout and disgrace under clueless leadership.

    • Todd says:

      It seems easy enough to hide behind a bogus email and act like an eight-year-old. Good show FrM. Never was a better case made for the Embittered Right.

    • leefstrong says:

      FrMichael – is that pseudonym? Your lack of charity makes me hope that it is, for I’d hate to see the kinds of homilies you preach! Todd is right; you’re making the Right look bad.

      One can be critical of the way some bishops have run their dioceses, but criticize the acts, not demonize the persons. Having lived and worked in the diocese (Rochester) for many years, and having had frequent contact with Bishop Clark, I disagreed with some of the things he did, but I never questioned his basic decency and his compassion for others, and witnessed on many occasions his prayerful nature. He’s a good man, and has not deserved the scorn and vitriol poured out upon him.

    • Please know that I will pray for you, because the evil one clearly has you in his snares, with remarks like this one. God have mercy on you.

      At this point, with your anonymity combined with a lack of charity as well as an abundance of perverse cruelty, I am pretty sure that you are not a priest. If you are, God have mercy not only you alone, but on the poor people you tend to.

  11. John Drake says:

    We must be reading different comboxes, because I’m not seeing criticism of Bp. Clark’s personality, but perfectly reasonable criticism of his leadership of the diocese.

    Re: the speed with which his resignation was accepted – Note that it took two years for Bp. Bruskewitz in Lincoln, NE to have his resignation accepted. No administrator appointed there! And, Todd, Bp. Clark’s was accepted about as “immediately” as possible, with the Vatican pretty well closed down for vacation during August.

    • Another anonymous detractor. I wish Bp. Bruskewitz no ill, although I am grateful that I did not live in his diocese. Is there is point to the criticism of his leadership other than a complete lack of charity?

  12. Todd says:

    “Is there is point to the criticism …?”

    The cult of anti-celebrity. Quite secular. Also good to know the curia has its priorities in order. Vacation trumps statistical meltdown. Ideology draws more notice than mismanagement.

    Fran, I think we always knew that Bishop Clark’s priorities were loyalty to his diocese above brownnosing the curia. I’d say FrMichael still trumps them slightly on the lack of class.

    My sense of it? Pity, not anger.

  13. FrMichael says:

    “Fran, I think we always knew that Bishop Clark’s priorities were loyalty to his diocese above brownnosing the curia.”

    What diocese? I know of a few mega-parishes in California (mostly in LA) with similar numbers of infant baptisms as the entire Diocese of Rochester (2,646) and numerous deaneries/vicariates in this state that also exceed that number. The man presided over the evisceration of his diocese. If the decline had occurred defending orthodoxy against an armed persecution martyring Catholics, the numbers make sense. But that, of course, is not what happened in the Diocese of Rochester.

    Yet more interesting demographic numbers:

    As for the charge of ad hominem, given a second chance I would rewrite comment #10 to distinguish the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” progressivism of Clark/Hubbard vs. the institutionalist progressive trend (now abating) of AmChurch bishops over the past 40 years. The latter had at least some concern for scandal and orthodoxy, so their records are not as poor as the Dynamic Duo of New York. No need to use the terms “looney tunes,” “lemmings,” and the like as I wrote there. Reality is damning enough.

  14. Todd says:

    “No need to use the terms …”

    Of course not. But you did anyway. Many believers have bad first impulses, You acted on yours. True colors, I would say, enhanced by your careful anonymity.

    “The latter had at least some concern for scandal and orthodoxy ….” ? Are you speaking of the so-called orthodox proclivity to lawlessness and scandal: Finn, Walsh, Bevilacqua, George, Grahmann, McCormack …

    I think we all realize by now–or we should–that doctrinal orthodoxy is no more congruent to morality and spiritual fruitfulness than, say, dirt is with peaches and pears. Dirt exists in an orchard, sure. But that’s about it.

  15. FrMichael says:

    “I think we all realize by now–or we should–that doctrinal orthodoxy is no more congruent to morality and spiritual fruitfulness…” Actually, I don’t hold that. I think that lack of doctrinal orthodoxy always leads to a decrease in mortality and spiritual fruitfulness. However, in my observation the reverse is not true: holding doctrinal orthodoxy is no guarantee of an increase in morality and fruitfulness, if that orthodoxy is coupled with other obnoxious behaviors, beliefs, or practices.

    • Todd says:

      I wouldn’t disagree. However, the ultimate authority in doctrinal orthodoxy are not self-appointed judges like you or me, but God. My statement stands: orthodoxy is no guarantee of morality or fruitfulness. Bishop Clark has undoubtedly been a mentor, hero, and moral figure to many. His fruitfulness hasn’t extended to priestly vocations to the same degree that other bishops, say Donald Trautmann, have shown. But there’s no doubt that Bishop Clark has been a moral leader, fruitful in some aspects of ministry, and as a JPII bishop, undoubtedly orthodox. Not orthodox as an anonymous California priest who criticizes most bishops, mind you. But you don’t set the standard; you only offer your opinion and personal taste.

  16. As with most discussion about Bp Emeritus Clark, there are two parallel currents of thought that are seemingly in contradiction. But in reality there is no contradiction. This can best be summed up by adapting a scene from The Wizard of Oz:

    Dorothy: You’re a very bad man.
    +Clark: Oh no my dear, I’m a very good man. I’m just a very bad Bishop.

    As Emeritus, he will still be able to display his great personal qualities to friends and family, and perhaps beyond due to the pseudo-celebrity of his former post. But no longer will he be able to misuse his authority to confuse the Upstate faithful into thinking Truth can be abrogated in service of compassion (or as Pope Benedict called it, “empty sentimentality”).

    God Bless his successor (and interim admin Bp Cunningham of course). The amount of literal deprogramming required to deal with the Pelvic Protestantism Clark has enshrined there will be prodigious; proper healing will likely take a generation or more.

    • Todd says:

      The complaint about “confusion” is often cited, but it strikes me as an empty accusation. It seems to be used often when a Catholic disagrees with what another Catholic is saying or doing. The use of “insider” code phrases like “Pelvic Protestantism” is another indication that someone might be grasping for a sound critique, but is unable or unwilling to get specific. Beyond, “I didn’t like him. He was bad.”

      The traditional phrase comes to mind: De mortuis nil nisi bene dicendum. Many Catholics did not get what they wanted in Bishop Clark. Perhaps it’s time to put to bed their dissatisfaction and urge them to work more diligently for the Kingdom of God where they find themselves today.

      • Thinkling says:

        I love your last phrase, and in fact was what I was making for here. The rest of your post seems to miss that point entirely and probably because of that I can understand the non sequitors.

        I was commenting on the both/and of the comment thread here, the implicit current of “I’m right ergo you’re wrong” when the unstated premise (of contradiction) actually isn’t true. So it turns out both currents are correct (my point; Mt 5:9 and all that).

        Aside, there is a lot of *real* confusion there, the falling-into-Hell-like-snowflakes variety. if you are not privy to it, count your blessings! But even if you are, join me in being thankful that the Diocese is turning a corner. I am a native, and they are always in my prayers.

  17. Todd says:

    Thank you for your comments, Thinkling. My criticism was mainly confined to the vagueness of some of your comments. I thought your first post would have been improved by omitting the last sentence in the second and third paragraphs. You would have made your point well without being obtuse or insulting.

  18. Pingback: Rochester Memories | Catholic Sensibility

  19. Pingback: Speedy Retirement | Catholic Sensibility

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s