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    Tuesday Miscellany

    Better late than never. Nick Milne tagged me while I was on vacation. The rules:

    1. Link the person(s) who tagged you
    2. Mention the rules on your blog
    3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
    4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
    5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

    Six unspectacular quirks (which I’ll interpret as six peculiar traits). Hmmmmm, here goes: (1) I like to wear female underwear and bras. (2) In men’s rooms, I . . .

    Okay, seriously, six quirks: (1) Faced with rapidly-thinning hair and a father who was bald by age 22, at age 20 I started (i) rotating shampoos, (ii) using protein conditions (which I rubbed into my scalp in odd ways), and washing my hair with cold water only. Twenty-two years later, I’m still balding and not bald and I still follow the same routine. (2) I triple check appliances and door locks before leaving for overnight trips. (3) I like to dance, though I have no skills whatsoever unless you count moonwalking. (4) I have a large family and an even larger library/study. I keep both locked in my basement. (5) I enjoy weekday Masses and try to attend every day (albeit usually arriving late), but dislike and have to drag myself to the obligatory weekend ones. (6) I wear a pedometer and am rather obsessed with it.

    I tag Tim J., Bill, Sean, Trubador, John, and Steve.
    __________

    I flirt with anarchism (maybe I should’ve added that as a quirk above). I find the anarcho-capitalist arguments advanced by Murray Rothbard clever, often compelling, always fodder for thinking in general and thinking specifically about how modern government has gone so terribly out of control with power. That being said, I’ve never bought into it, something is always missing (I swear Rothbard makes tremendous leaps in logic at times, but I’m hesitant to make such a fundamental criticism about such an intelligent man). Anyway, Taki is hosting a symposium on sovereignty. Thomas Woods apparently took the anarchist position. John Zmirak responded. I haven’t read all of Woods’ piece yet (but will, carefully, this evening), but Zmirak’s is excellent. If you’re into this type of thing, check it out.

    I especially liked Zmirak’s distillation of Catholic political philosophy:

    [T]his should make anyone sympathetic to Lord Acton‘s classical liberalism, and the decentralist aspirations of Chesterton—embodied so well in the localist institutions that still keep Switzerland free. It should move us to root for regionalists in Flanders, and support a state’s rights approach to changing abortion laws. We ought to take with great seriousness the doctrine at the heart of Catholic social teaching called subsidiarity, which asserts that it is a sin to centralize power unless it is absolutely necessary. While I wouldn’t try telling this to the mitred Democratic party hacks who issue bishops’ pastorals, this is the real political tradition of the Church, with its roots in the decentralized order of the Middle Ages, where kings’ aspirations were checked by the rights of free cities and regions, and the moral force of the Church.

    Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList

    8 Responses to “Tuesday Miscellany”

    1. Trubador Says:

      I think we’ve done this once before. I’ll post my answers (a new set, I promise) on my blog later tonight.

    2. Fr. Brian Stanley Says:

      One of my favorite themes from my study of ecclesiology, but one that becomes harder and harder to find in practice — subsidiarity. This is a wonderful principle that was bandied about very liberally during Post-Vatican II Empowerment (registered trademark), but is now consigned to the nether regions of most chanceries, as bishops and their minions go about creating Diocesan School Boards and other diocesan-wide governing and/or consultative bodies that take over responsibilities formerly belonging to parish councils, pastors, and parish school boards. For these chancery folk, subsidiarity means never having to tell the Pope, “We’re sorry.” Subsidiarity comes in quite handy when you’re dealing with the Magisterium, and flexing muscles of autonomy and so forth, vis-a-vis the Local Church’s relationship to Rome.

      I can assure you that around here, subsidiarity is becoming a thing of the past as far as the relationship between parishes and the diocesan administration. We are in the midst of all sorts of efforts at centralizing decision making in re parish finances and schools. If this trend continues, I see all parishes having to bank all their monies in one account, run by the diocese. Parish bills will be paid out of the home office at the chancery. Paychecks for parish employees [including pastors] will come from the downtown office. We have recently been instructed to hold off on buying any financial software, pending a decision to put all parishes on the same accounting program, with the ultimate goal of direct linkage to the diocesan finance office, with “real time” power of observation of all financial transactions. [NB: I truly understand why this trend is happening, because of the increasing number of financial irregularities being discovered in parish administration. But all this centralization will insure is that any embezzlement will take place at the diocesan level rather than at the parish level].

      Personnel decisions at the parish level are being acquired by diocesan authorities: currently, only the diocesan superintendent can hire a principal, and can veto a pastor’s/school board’s choice. It is only a matter of time before all faculty hires must be approved by The Powers That Be. I can tell you from personal experience, I cannot fire certain employees here in this parish without approval from the chancery. I have been a priest for twelve years, and pastor here for nine years — this is a trend.

      Subsidiarity works well when those in authority trust those working under them. That trust evidently no longer exists, but I’ll be dipped in boiling oil to know exactly what it was that I did to damage that trust. Sorry to vent — but this issue of subsidiarity is an important one, and its value is not recognized locally.

    3. Steven R. McEvoy Says:

      I just responded to the Tag in this post: Six Quirks Meme

    4. Trubador Says:

      Okay… my answers to the meme are posted on my blog.

    5. Eric Says:

      Fr. Stanley: Very odd. I’ll have to tell you about a conversation I had recently that took a decidedly different tilt. My hunch is, the tilt differs, depending on who’s asking and what the issue is. Kinda like how the tilt shifts when it comes to ownership of a parish’s assets: does the diocese own them? Yes! Unless the diocese is the subject of a large lawsuit, in which case the parishes are autonomous and own their own assets!

    6. Fr. Brian Stanley Says:

      I know of what you speak. Something similar goes on in priest-personnel issues. Priests can be considered “self-employed” for purposes of the IRS; it is financially more convenient for each priest to be seen as a contracted service to the diocese, etc. However, in practice, priests have no right to priestly service apart from that authority delegated by the local bishop [or for a religious, delegated by the provincial or superior in that religious community]. A diocesan priest needs an assignment from his bishop; absent that assignment, he is up the creek without a paddle.

      This is important to remember as the bishop controls all the insurance and benefits for each priest. A suspended priest can have his insurance benefits yanked by his bishop: I have seen this happen in other [arch]dioceses. It gets interesting when a priest is charged with abuse: does he retain his own counsel? Or is he required to take the diocesan attorney? What if the diocese says, “You’re on your own — you pay for your own legal fees, etc; we don’t want anything to do with you”?

      Priests are seen as self-employed when it is convenient for the bishop/diocese to have them self-employed. They are employees of the diocese when it is convenient for the bishop/diocese to have them as employees. A priest is truly at the mercy of his bishop, who in practice wields a lot of discretionary authority concerning the priest’s status. I know that in theory/in law, a priest has rights. But in practice, especially since the Dallas accords, which for all practical purposes disposes of the presumption of innocence, canonical rights of priests/pastors have been greatly diminished. In that context, the basis of a workable subsidiarity disappears altogether.

      Regarding assets, canonically the assets belong to the parish and the diocese has very limited access to those assets: Rome has been very clear about this, and has restored assets to parishes when they have been confiscated by the diocese. In civil law, however, “corporation sole” is the operative principle, and the bishop has legal control of the assets, etc. The civil law route is taken when the Church [or a parish] has to deal with some non-Church entity, e.g. a building contractor. When the deal in intra-Church, [e.g., a diocese closes or suppresses a parish] then the canonical route is taken.

    7. Eric Says:

      Re: Assets

      What code (civil or canon) controls when a parish wants to sell a piece of real estate (say, a vacant lot that a decedent willed to the parish)? The lot is in the name of the diocese (civil law), but apparently canon law says the lot belongs to the parish. Should the parish have the right (canonically-speaking) to sell it?

    8. Fr. Brian Stanley Says:

      They should have the right, but because of “corporation sole,” the land is in the name of the bishop, and so the bishop’s permission is needed. The bishop cannot give his permission without the consent of the diocesan consultors, a group of priests who have oversight of finances in the diocese, a group required by canon law.

      The bishop is the official pastor of the entire diocese. The pastor of each parish is the bishop’s “delegate” — the pastor’s authority, sacramental as well as fiduciary, is an extension of the bishop’s ministry. That is, until the pastor is accused of some crime, and then the pastor is a self-employed, independent contractor, without any strong legal tie to the bishop. Convenient, huh?

      BTW, the official word came on Friday: all parishes will be required to use the same financial software from a company called Parish Data Systems, or PDS, which sounds like a disease to me. You know, “It’s really sad — he came down with PDS.” The parishes have until January 1, ’09 to make the with to PDS’ “Church Office” program, and until July 1, ’09, to implement PDS’ “Ledger” program. We’ll make the change asap, of course. The diocese has “highly recommended” that all of the parishes use the same payroll service, IOI Pay.

      I understand why this is happening, although I disagree with it. It’s happening because we have had two major instances of embezzlement within the past three years, and one major instance of failure to file state and federal income tax for parish employees. Dioceses are slowly learning that while canonically required, parish finance councils are not uniformly effective in overseeing parish finances. In our diocese, more and more of parish financial actions will be taken up by the diocesan finance office. The other reason for this centralization has to do with the need for more money in the chancery for loans to parishes, for capital improvements, new construction, etc. The current loan fund has been “accessed” by a couple of parishes which have recently completed building projects, and the fund, is, shall we say, not as robust as it had been. This has led to a change in finances for parish building projects [75% of the money up front for any project]. The cost overruns on the “recently completed building projects” are a source of some embarassment, and so because of the lack of fiscal responsibility in these instances of overruns, more and more of that fiscal responsibility is being taken up by diocesan officials. The diocese doesn’t trust pastors and parish finance councils: if they do, they have a very strange way of showing it. Again, I understand why this is happening, and I will cooperate with it fully, and have no intention of resisting it. And yet, this reform gives me pause. We will be told that all of this is not only practically necessary, but canonically proper as well.

      BTW, the parishes will have to pay for these new PDS platforms. No surprise there.

     

     

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