Are numbers important? There is hope that a new bishop will bring new energy and life to a diocese. Bishop Matano focused, it is observed, on settling sex abuse cases. Is that part of the reason why the bleeding has been a little more fluid east of Lake Champlain?
One significant difference is that the Rochester diocese has done better in terms of retaining Catholics in recent years. According to statistics from the Annuario Pontificio, the annual directory of the Holy See, 22.7 percent of residents in the 12-county Rochester diocese identified themselves as Catholic in 2011, only a shade below the 23 percent who did so in 2001. In the Diocese of Burlington, only 19 percent of diocesan residents identified themselves as Catholic in 2012, down from 24.6 percent in 2001.
Sobering news, perhaps, for the Cleansing Fire commentariat that got predictably distracted this morning to talk about me and to analyze why retired bishop Matthew Clark was disrespectful by fidgeting so much.
Jerome O’Neill, a Vermont lawyer who went to trial against the diocese a number of times:
(The Diocese of Burlington was) by far the most litigious diocese in the country.
“Unusually high,” is how the comment was given about the quantity of court action. Such things have a price to be paid: very bad publicity and a drumbeat of keeping bad news in the public eye.
What were those Vermont numbers again? 24.7% Catholic to 19% in a bit more than a decade? That’s a loss of more than 30,000 self-affirmed believers and more than 20%, accounting for Vermont’s population increase.