Friday, February 20, 2009

The Smaller, Purer (Leaner, Meaner) Church Rattles Again: Martino's Back

Martino's back. And with a vengeance. You know, the Scranton, Pennsylvania, bishop who made a big splash during the presidential election last October when he stormed into a parish where the faithful were discussing the obligations of Catholic citizens. Martino shut the discussion down, stating, "There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable” (here).

The points to which Martino was referring were principles for Catholic voters in “Faithful Citizenship,” a document issued in 2007 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. When he shut down that parish discussion last October, Martino brandished “Faithful Citizenship,” announcing, “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn’t speak for me. The only relevant document . . . is my letter.”

As a number of sources including Whispers in the Loggia (here) are reporting the past several days, Martino rapped Sen. Bob Casey of the Scranton diocese early this month for voting against reinstatement of the so-called Mexico City policy.

And now this week, Martino has inveighed against the decision of Misericordia University to invite openly gay speaker Keith Boykin to give a presentation at the university. Martino expressed his "absolute disapproval" of this decision and opined that the Sisters of Mercy-owned institution is "seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity" because, well, did I say it?, Mr. Boykin is gay. Openly so.

And the latest: Martino's auxiliary John M. Dougherty has informed several Irish-American associations in the diocese that Martino will shut down the cathedral during the St. Patrick's celebrations this year if the groups include any elected officials supporting abortion rights in the St. Pat's parade. Martino also threatens to withhold communion from any such officials involved in the St. Patrick's festivities.

Martino's hard-line approach failed to sway Catholic voters in his diocese in the November presidential elections. The diocese's central county, Lackawanna, voted nearly 2-to-1 for the Democratic ticket.

Oh, and as Rocco Palmo notes at the end of his discussion of Martino's latest pastoral overtures, late last month, the Scranton diocese announced that the falling numbers of priests in the diocese and straitened resources are forcing the diocese to close almost half its 209 parishes.

What's wrong with this picture? The smaller, purer church is definitely meaner, for one thing. And also definitely leaner.

And"pastoral" leadership of the ilk of Martino doesn't seem to be producing any noticeable renaissance in his church, despite the loud protests of Catholics of the right that the agenda of the purer and truer church is filling pews, seminaries, and religious houses.