Lay Advisory Groups

Who represented YOU at this meeting? Make phone calls! Ask questions.

These laypeople represent YOU, me, and our precious families. What informed their decisions in their vote on Saturday? FIND OUT.

UPDATE: Here’s the member roster and location map from the month the vote of confidence was taken in which 24-4 DPC members voted in confidence of Bishop Richard Malone. In this listing, you see five vacancies of lay representatives which the Vicars have not bothered to fill so laity can have their just quota represented at these meetings with the bishop. That’s five people who could have had a voice for their vicariates during this horrific sexual abuse crisis. And we ask: Was the moral conscience of lay representatives listed not pricked before September to INSIST the diocesan officials at their meetings contact those vicars to provide a full slate of lay representatives at the next meeting? In addition, five people apparently were absent, considering the vote count. The irresponsibility in crisis response is heartbreaking on so many levels.

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Diocesan Pastoral Council roster and location of members. Two members of one vicariate live in the same town.

Committed Catholics (pictured) were trying to send a message to fellow laypeople attending a meeting with Bishop Richard Malone on September 14. One of the people representing us at this historic meeting (I don’t think that’s hyperbole) was armed with the agenda and last-minute knowledge about the venue change but brought little else in terms of information. For example, this person expressed to me no knowledge of the Movement to Restore Trust before this day. Stop to think about that for a moment. The MRT was a key player in the diocesan plan to try to end the crisis and promote healing and trust. This lay representative also expressed no knowledge of the fact that the MRT had called for the bishop’s immediate resignation nine days earlier. This is the person who met with the bishop and participated in a no confidence vote on our behalf and on behalf of our families.

However sweet and well-meaning I know this person to be (we’re talking about a very committed Catholic), as a representative, the individual does not have rudimentary knowledge of basic elements of the diocesan sexual abuse crisis at hand. I am upset at the Vicar Forane*, not this good Catholic who struggles to prepare to participate in this crisis at this level. I understand this individual and others at the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting on Saturday also got a big dose of explanations from the bishop’s point of view in their update on what’s going on with the current crisis situation. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they probably never mentioned the diocese’s coverup of the 2004 seminarian abuse scandal with Bishop Grosz’s alleged threats to the seminarian. Who, representing us at that meeting, is even versed in this case to bring it up?

These laypeople represent YOU, me, and our precious families. What informed their decisions in their vote on Saturday? FIND OUT.

To make matters worse, I found out that while our vicariates are permitted TWO lay representatives on this council, one vicariate only sent one representative FOR EIGHT SOLID YEARS. Last winter, this sole representative said it was decided that another Catholic who lives nearby could provide a ride to these meetings if that Catholic could only be appointed to fill the second spot. So the Vicar Forane gladly obliged (and in fairness that person serves on a parish committee). UPDATE: the Vicar Forane said that the choice was his. Be that as it may…They live in the same town. Not a fair or just representation for the sprawling vicariate.

Do you know your representatives on this council and what their particular qualifications are to represent YOU and your family?

Ask.

A lot of people dearly wish they could do something besides, pray, protest or withhold money from the collection basket. Here’s something simple and concrete you can do that can impact the future of our diocese.

Reach out to your Vicar Forane about Saturday’s meeting. Do this TODAY. Don’t wait. (See VF listing below) Then… Start asking questions. Who are your lay reps on this council? How long have they been doing this? If a long time, then be skeptical. Are they woefully indoctrinated in diocesan spin? Or do they intelligently seek information from other sources? One rep, north of 80 years old, has been on this council for a whopping 10 years! What are their qualifications for representing you and your family? How well-versed are they on this subject of sexual abuse crisis in our diocese? How interested are they in finding out TRUTH, no matter how difficult it is to hear? One of the leaders of another diocesan lay group, the Bishop’s Council for the Laity, told me emphatically in January that “we (indicating the entire group) support the bishop” in this crisis. How open-minded and intellectually honest is that? Is that a mindset we want representing laity and the interests of abuse survivors, much less the interests of the saving mission of Jesus Christ?

That room yesterday should have been filled with deeply committed Catholics including the most informed laity in our diocese on this crisis situation before they enter the room. They don’t need spin. They need the truth. We all do. After what I’ve heard from this meeting so far, they didn’t exactly get it. But I’m asking for our representatives’ report which, I understand, they give to our Vicar Forane. YOU SHOULD ASK FOR YOUR REPS’ REPORT.

UPDATE: The VF told me that he doesn’t receive their reports.

So, what were we dealing with in terms of yesterday’s meeting?

The Diocesan Pastoral Council is a diocesan-sponsored advisory entity for the bishop mandated by Canon Law. The Vicars Forane (pastors representing the bishop in each vicariate) choose the lay representatives. Among its members are supposed to be two laypeople from each of the 12 vicariates. This board is a mix of clergy, deacons and laypeople representing various constituencies which “carefully investigates, prayerfully considers and, in consensus, recommends action to the Bishop regarding pastoral concerns facing the Diocese,” according to the diocesan website. The DPC was the group meeting with the bishop on September 14, 2019 in which a vote of no confidence was to be taken, according to its agenda.

Let’s look at WHO among the laity voted. Because most laity in the diocese do not know about this group, and because its membership is selected by priests in the vicariate, we are not inclined to check to ensure we are properly, adequately and responsibly represented.

It is the responsibility of the Vicars Forane in our vicariates to ensure we are adequately represented on these various diocesan lay boards. To say they let laity in that one vicariate down for a LONG time without laity’s knowledge is an understatement. We cannot ignore the fact that this negligence in failing to appoint a full complement of representatives is, frankly, unjust to we suffering laypeople and abuse survivors. It is unjust to our kids and grandkids who have to live with the influences (or lack thereof) of well-meaning people who might not be appropriate for this type of deliberation and consultation with our diocesan leadership. Bottom line:

Do NOT trust your Vicar Forane or pastors to look after lay interests
which include just representation
on diocesan committees which advise the bishop.

WE laity need to take these meetings with the bishop seriously. Are the folks representing us asking important questions, pressing for answers, bringing SERIOUS dialogue to the table?

If you are an official lay representative
in this diocese and cannot fulfill your duty appropriately and responsibly,
PLEASE RESIGN.
The bishop isn’t the only one who needs to resign. YOU DO TOO.

The point is, we need to CEASE our passive acceptance of the model of lay representation that the diocese feeds us. We do not need priests to make the selection from among us. That is CLERICALISM.


*Vicar Forane is the pastor selected by the bishop to represent him in your vicariate. Undoubtedly, some of these are great priests who would try to send their best candidates, but in the end, it’s their choice, not ours. We can work to make this more just for laity. Catholics he nominated for the PDC are ultimately approved by the bishop.

Vicars Forane (updated as of October, 2019)

Contact info directory here

  • Northwest-Central Buffalo: Rev. Joseph S. Rogliano
  • Southeast Buffalo: Rev. Bryan Zielenieski
  • Allegany: Rev. James Hartwell
  • Southern Cattaraugus: Rev. James Vacco, OFM
  • Chautauqua: Rev. Darrell G. Duffy
  • Eastern Erie: Rev. Eugene P. Ulrich
  • Northern Erie: Rev. Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel, S.T.D., MBA
  • Western Niagara: Rev. Robert S. Hughson
  • Eastern Niagara-Orleans: Rev. Richard A. Csizmar
  • Genesee-Wyoming: Rev. Daniel Serbicki
  • Tri-County: Rev. Mitch Byeck, OMI
  • Southern Erie: Rev. James Ciupek