Lay Advisory Groups

Lapdog vote by laypeople appointed by priests?

The 24-4 vote of confidence on Bishop Richard Malone’s leadership by a diocesan lay group is troubling on its surface.

In Steve Brown’s WGRZ interview with the bishop which aired today, Malone gushes over the confidence of the people with whom he states he closely collaborates. Are we surprised at the vote? In my previous article about the Diocesan Pastoral Council, I highlighted one of my representatives who had no knowledge of the Movement to Restore Trust. This person had served for 10 years in this group. He voted.

By definition, this is a highly skewed group, the DPC. So let’s do Steve Brown’s job for him and point out the obvious as we evaluate its makeup :

  • Hand-picked by priests (Vicar Forane submits candidates for the bishop to approve), not laity, so are council members inclined to mirror the nominating priest’s vision for the diocese?
  • Questionable competence in processing and evaluating material presented to them for deliberation. One of their responsibilities includes “proposing action in response to the needs expressed by the people of the Diocese.” If we weren’t in such dire straights, I would ROFL over that.
  • Groomed and indoctrinated in diocesan spin four times a year with the bishop, where is their critical thinking on matters pertaining to this most egregious and abominable crisis in the history of the diocese? We don’t know. We have to trust the appointing priests’ judgment of their competence and OBJECTIVITY in that comfortable, amicable arena.
  • It’s not likely priests are going to choose independent thinkers who are inclined to challenge a Catholic Bishop in their midst. That is self-evident by their congenial meetings.
  • They aren’t there to ask hard, probing questions or turn tables about the FACTS presented outside the chancery which prove their bishop reinstated a known sexual predator like Art Smith, for example, thereby exposing the laity to harm. Oh wait, two more victims emerged from his “ministry” under Malone.
  • Malone characterized their last meeting as amicable. How can that possibly be if every one of those people knew details of the many deplorable decisions he has made including keeping Grosz on board–a key player for decades in the sexual abuse calamity as he treated victims with callous disregard while protecting their alleged perpetrators.
  • At their last meeting they wallowed in details about unsubstantiated presumptions about Rev. Ryszard Biernat (according to my source–and I’m pretty sure it’s a sin to spread gossip), in a clear attempt to deflect from the REAL, substantive, objectively troublesome (illegal/immoral/unjust?) activity of our two bishops and Msgr. David LiPuma.

This is not to say these folks serving on the DPC aren’t totally respectable, intelligent and good Catholics. They likely are, but that’s not the point. The point is: because we laity didn’t get a chance to vet them and choose them from a list of qualified candidates, we pause to wonder what we’re getting for the alleged representation of our interests. If the poll the Buffalo News took is even 20% off, as Brown suggested, this “representative” group of laity does not seem to represent the folks in at least the vicariates of Niagara and Erie Counties who were polled.

My representative in this vote not only voted for me but for my husband, my mom, my brother and sister-in-law. The vote cast also had an impact on my daughter and son-in-law and my two precious grandchildren who live in another Vicariate.  After the vote, I emailed my Vicar Forane a photo of those two little kids dressed for Easter Mass. I take this personally.

UPDATE: Here are some of the people of good will (although I’m not so sure they read documents not fed to them by the chancery) representing we laity in advising the bishop. As a vehicle for co-responsibility in leading the Church in her saving mission, this particular council is made up of laity throughout the diocese (without our having a say in the selection of who advises the bishop on our behalf).

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