PLANET, ALMOST ALONE AMONG MEDIA, HAD ST. STAN’S STORY RIGHT, plus, SQUATTERS SHOULD ABANDON THEIR SIT-IN, and EDUCATIONAL MASTURBATION
BY DAN VALENTI
As The Planet has presented in the past two days, both in cyberspace and on the radio airwaves, the mainstream media, led by the Boring Broadsheet, mischaracterized the Vatican’s ruling on the former St. Stanislaus Kostka church in Adams (the best mainstream coverage came from the Springfield Republican).
We were right. They were wrong.
Tony Dobrowolski’s piece in the BB today essentially admits this, though the writer repeats a factual error in claiming Rome decision means the church “must reopen.” Nowhere does the decree say that. Use of this misleading phrase, therefore, can be attributable to one of four causes: (1) ignorance of the facts, (2) laziness, (3) bias, or (4) orders from management. We don’t know which applies, nor do we care. Fact is, the mainstream media blew the story (though we will still buy our good friend Tony a Gansett this year at a Colonial game).
What did The Planet do? What was our approach? We carefully read every word of the five-page decree. Then we consulted a lawyer. NExt, we took it to a Latin scholar. Finally, we gave an objective, thoughtful, and measured account based on the Vatican’s words themselves and not the emotions of the moment.
Conor Berry is correct in telling The Planet the squatters at St. Stan’s reacted as if the Germans had just surrendered in V-E Day. That would be worthy of sidebar treatment but nothing more. The jubilation, premature as it was, made a great photo op, agreed, and the sight of the bell ringing has a appeal (pun intended or not, take your pick).
The Diocese Speaks
With all due respect to a sweet woman, Laurie Haas was able but not qualified to pronounce definitively on the decree. Only the diocese can do that. She can, did, and should give her opinion, but the Eagle and others took that as the definitive answer. The Planetinstead, started making calls, sending e-mails, and digging. We relied on the only words that have legal weight. Here’s what the diocese says:
From Mark Dupont’s 2/16 statement. Dupont is spokesman for Bishop McDonnell speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Springfield:
“In the matters of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Adams; St. George Parish, Chicopee; and St. Patrick Parish, Chicopee the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop McDonnell to amalgamate those parishes, St. Stanislaus into Pope John Paul the Great Parish and both St. George and St. Patrick into the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Chicopee. In these three instances, however, the Congregation has indicated that, in its judgment, sufficiently grave reason was not provided to close each of these church buildings and that they should be used in some manner as determined by the Bishop. It has to be stressed that in each instance the parish itself is not being reestablished and that any permitted use of the building will not be the same as when it was a parish church.”
There it is in plain English: “The [Vatican] upheld the decision by Bishop McDonnell” and “[T]he parish is not being reestablished and … any permitted use of the building will not be the same as when it was a parish church.”
The Boring Broadsheet also left out the fact that Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, apologized to Springfield Bishop Timothy McDonnell “for having failed to provide the diocese with these decisions in advance of their public release.”
The Church is Not the Building
Overlooked in all the emotion is the fact that the 200 occupiers of St. Stan’s have been, are, and will be squatters every additional moment they cling to their sit-in, their good intentions notwithstanding. The diocese had and has every right to evict them for their defiance of ecclesiastical law. Local police have the power to give them the boot on the basis of temporal law. The diocese nor the police has chosen to do so.
The illegal occupation of St. Stanislaus illustrates what happens when a parish loses spiritual focus and becomes morbidly addicted to bricks and mortar. The Planet does not buy the arguments that St. Stan’s history, architecture, or aesthetics — all worldly, temporal items of the materialistic world — deserve a favored place over, say, Mt. Carmel Church in Pittsfield, which closed last year.
Mount Carmel Church provides a great example for the stubborn squatters at St. Stan’s. The parishioners of the former parish gave the world the best example of how one handles the colsing of a beloved parish.
Immigrants saved for and literally built Mt. Carmel Church on Fenn Street in Pittsfield in the 1920s. My grandparents were among the founders. My mom was baptized there. She married my dad there in 1944. This year, they celebrate 67 years of marriage. The Planet received the sacraments of baptism, confession, communion, and confirmation at Mt. Carmel. We attended Mt. Carmel School from K-8.
There’s Mature and There’s “I’m Taking my Football and Not Going Home”
When Mt. Carmel received notice of closure last spring/summer, the emotions were no less than they were at St. Stan’s. The Mt. Carmel parishioners, however, displayed their spiritual maturity and handled it like growups, unlike their brethren in Adams. Mount Carmelites agreed to disagree but moved on with their spiritual lives. They didn’t freeze their anger in amber. They didn’t let loose with the crocodile tears. There was no bit of phony self-pitying.
My parents are now communicants at Sacred Heart Church in Pittsfield, and they have found a new parish home in a vibrant church. THAT’s how you handle it, St. Stan’s.
We should point out in fairness to the former parishioners of St. Stan’s that the vast majority moved on and found new homes. They let go of the building and freed themselves in doing so. At the new John Paul II parish (former Notre Dame) in Adams, you will see a healthy mix of old and young, seniors and families, in a range of demographics and social strata. It’s working.
At St. Stan’s, you find a tiny group of protesters calcified in their bigotry. What else do you call such recalcitrant ethnicity? This is an aging and getting-older group that will soon be passing away. They are dying out and chose to be fossilized rather than die with dignity. They do not welcome people who do not share their language of worship or traditions. That’s not the Church of which The Planet wishes to be a member, and that’s not the Church of which we are a member.
The Church is not a building. It is the people. Holy Mass can be celebrated in the most elaborately beautiful cathedral or on a battlefield with an MRE case serving as the altar. A mature Catholic understands and embraces this. People who occupy buildings and won’t let go embarrass the faith.
Why U.S. Public Schools Have Failed
The Boring Broadsheet did not confined its fiddling to St. Stan’s while the inferno rages. On Tuesday, it ran a nauseating piece of puffery on the NON-EDUCATIONAL actions of a local public school, as if it’s a good thing. The piece, with Jenn Smith’s byline, opens this way:
“PITTSFIELD — On Monday at Wahconah Regional High School, a math teacher and his students serenaded an auditorium full of colleagues and classmates with a rendition of Billy Joel’s song ‘The Longest Time.’
“An English teacher dedicated and performed an original song for the school and then later played guitar backup for a group of senior-class girls who sang ‘Lean on Me.’
“Teachers and staff wore buttons that read, ‘Voices: The Wahconah Staff is listening,’ printed in the school colors of white and blue. All was done in honor of Monday being the school’s 14th Civility Day program. It is an effort of teachers opening up their hearts and sharing kind words and talents with their students, in hopes that their kids will do the same amongst themselves.
“’The voices we hear every day are loud and clear. Some are happy, some are not,’ said English and theater teacher Pamela Fortlage-Gold. ‘Hopefully our program today will reassure you that we do hear you and we’re here for you.’”
We interrupt the story at this point. On the surface, it would seem all warm and fuzzy, like some educational versions of “The Waltons,” until you realize that in conducting its 14th Civility Day, WHS wasn’t helping the kids with one bit of teaching in the hard skills they and the country will need to compete in the global marketplace.
But don’t take The Planet’s word for it. The website askville.amazone.com recently carried this story:
|“The United States is no longer the world leader in secondary education, according to the rankings of an international organization. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development places the United States 18th among the 36 nations examined, USA Today reported Wednesday.
Headed to the top of the heap is South Korea where 93 percent of high school students graduate on time compared with the United States where 75 percent receive their diplomas. The … downward trend of U.S. education worries economists.
“‘The United States has rested on its laurels way too long,’ Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, told USA Today. ‘Other countries have increasingly caught up and surpassed the United States.’
“‘We’ve been asleep for a good number of years as a country,’ says Richard Freeman, an economics professor at Harvard.”
The details are ugly. Check this story: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-07/teens-in-u-s-rank-25th-on-math-test-trail-in-science-reading.html . It details how U.S. teens are way behind their global counterparts. For more information, check out these sources:
So as bad as all this, who can defend the mutual masturbation that took the place of education at WHS? A good place to start reversing our country’s educational downslide would to ban smart phones in grades K-12. If kids need telephones, OK, but no school and no parent should allow children mobile and unsupervised Internet access during school time. That’s the recipe for disaster.
As for Jenn Smith, she’s a fellow graduate of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University (The Planet got our master’s degree there in December 1975). She has worlds of talent, and it’s a pity she isn’t being turned loose on real stories. We’d hire her in a second and use her properly. Message to Tim Farkas: Let this woman go.