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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

FALLOUT

By Fr. Wilson ( articles ) | Jan 20, 2004

The Most Rev. William Murphy, was a Boston priest, aide to Cardinal Law and ultimately auxiliary bishop of Boston when he was appointed IV Bishop of Rockville Centre, N.Y., the diocese comprising the eastern three-fifths of Long Island.

The wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis and other decisions he has made in his first years at the helm of a troubled diocese has found Bishop Murphy facing his priests' concerns.

Rockville Centre is a remarkable diocese. With 1.5 million Catholics, it should be a showcase of ministry in the Catholic Church. It has everything: semi-urban areas, to rural, to farmland; every ethnic group one could think of, poor, middle class, upper middle class and vastly wealthy areas. The Diocese was founded in 1957, carved out of the Brooklyn Diocese (the other holy see, you know!), and immediately there commenced two distinct trends: the vocations collapse which has been a hallmark of our age of 'Renewal,' and the great migration from Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens to the suburbs.

The Rockville Centre Diocese -- Nassau and Suffolk Counties of NYS -- is thus populated with a rich ethnic mix, including the middle class families who had been the backbone of vocation recruitment in the city, in an earlier day. The resources of this diocese are awesome: yet it has the worst priest-to-people ratio in the country. Its beautiful seminary, built for 250, serving at least four million Catholics (Brooklyn as well as Rockville Centre), has less than forty seminarians (over five years).

There are many, many fine, orthodox Catholics on Long Island weary of the misgovernance of their diocese over these past forty years - it has been disgraceful, and long predated Bishop Murphy. They need a break (cf. "Diocese of Dallas") too. May these current problems be honestly addressed, honestly resolved.

Sadly, there are two things which militate against this:

The first is, frankly, best expressed in the words of a Catholic journalist who said, "The Bishops think that the Church is all about them, and the rest of us ae just window dressing." That is just... true. No matter how compromised a Bishop may be, in terms of governance or scandal or whatever, it's HIS church. "HIS" meaning the Bishop. I do not mean to say that Bishop Murphy is the most dreadfully compromised, etc; not at all. But, looking at Manchester NH, or St Petersburg FL, or any one of a number of places -- the Bishop is there, period, barring extraordinary circumstances (the District Attorney comes knocking at the door). Even if it's not helpful. Even if it is harmful. He's there. It Is His Diocese.

The second -- this really sad situation where circumstances have played into the hands of revisionists in that Diocese. I have held back from saying this as long as possible, but it's impossible not to conclude that Voice of the Faithful is a revisionist, heterodox organization. The speakers they choose at their gatherings, and the comments of observers who might be sympathetic were they not seeing what they are seeing, point to a clear conclusion.

There is a crisis in the Rockville Centre Diocese. Sadly, there are priests using this crisis to advance a revisionist agenda. There's also the ubiquitous figure, familiar from other dioceses, of the Bishop Who Won't Go Away -- in this case, he can be tainted by his Boston associations, he can have swiped a home from helpless nuns and renovated it for over a million bucks, but, hey! He's the Bishop, the Sweet Christ in Rockville Centre. It's the Universality of the Church: whether Manchester NH, or St Petersburg FL, or Los Angeles, or wherever.

May this be resolved on behalf of the long-suffering people of Rockville Centre.

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