Newsday is currently running a series on the History of the Diocese of Rockville Centre to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the first suburban diocese. As previously noted, Newsday has in the past been openly anti-catholic so this piece was moderate by previous standards. It does however reveal its bias by giving an inordinate amount of attention to the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a group ostensibly formed to protect the rights of children and families (good) but many of its leading members have been known to reflexively oppose the Church on most of the hot button issues of the day. So much so, they have often been referred to as the Voice of the Faithless.
As the article recalls the history of the diocese under the leadership of longtime Bishop McGann, an interesting juxtaposition occurs. I believe this was accidental but instructive nonetheless. As the one trustworthy source perspective on Church matters, Newsday turns to VOTF to sum up the near utopia experienced under Bishop McGann. Emphases and [comments] mine.
The charismatic McGann had to make some tough decisions in an atmosphere of decline (though many now criticize him for not handling abuse cases with sufficient force). In December 1983 he announced the closing of Holy Trinity and Maria Regina high schools.
McGann also shut down the St. Pius X minor seminary in Uniondale, arguing that few of the students were going on to become priests and it was a costly endeavor.
By 1978 the diocese faced fiscal problems severe enough that McGann instituted the first Bishop’s Annual Appeal, seeking donations from the faithful to keep the diocese going. It started with a goal of $5 million, which rose to $8 million by 1990.
While coping with decreasing donations and Mass attendance, McGann still forged the way for changes in the diocese set into motion by the Second Vatican Council. Lay women and men could now distribute Holy Communion. Girls could serve on the altar at Mass. Laymen could be ordained as permanent deacons to help officiate at Mass.
“This was a very thriving diocese under McGann,” said Dan Bartley, a leader of Voice of the Faithful. He added that McGann established one of the best adult education programs in the country. [Ok, nobody goes to mass, priestly abuse, schools closing left and right, no money, but we’ve got altar girls. Thriving, got it.]
McGann also carved out a niche as an activist on social issues that related to church teachings. He advocated for nuclear disarmament, preached against abortion, encouraged governments and private enterprise to create more affordable housing, and spoke out against the U.S. government’s role in Central America in the 1980s.
McGann made headlines with his activism on behalf of Latin American causes, and he worked energetically to manage the demographic and cultural challenges before the diocese, but when he celebrated his 20th anniversary as bishop in 1996, there was another milestone, this one more stark.
Not a single priest was ordained that year.
See, life was great under McGann. This is a very unusual statement coming from VOTF considering that some 66 priests of the diocese have been accused of sexual abuse, the bulk of which happened under McGann’s leadership. No, the diocese was ‘thriving’ because McGann was a champion of all the progressive causes.
Life in the diocese was so good, that at the end of his tenure not a single priest was ordained in a diocese of 1.4 million Catholics. Think about that.
Clearly, the criteria for ‘thriving’ used by VOTF and Newsday is different than I would use. I am by no means suggesting that this is all the fault of Bishop McGann, rather that Newsday and VOTF see everything only through the lens of their ‘progressive’ agenda.
The juxtaposition of the ‘thriving diocese’ quote and the myriad failures of the Diocese and the abysmal record on priest recruitment is quite telling. I would almost think that it was on purpose if this were not Newsday.