The buck passed

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 07, 2005

Bishop Joseph Adamec, of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, ordinarily isn't afraid to throw his weight around. As a number of conservative, orthodox, and/or traditionalist Catholics have learned, Bishop Adamec is ready and willing to denounce his critics; if he can, he'll follow up with ecclesiastical discipline.

So the faithful in Pennsylvania might have been set aback by a January 3 letter from their bishop.

A bit of background: The Altoona diocese, like many others, has required Catholic children to participate in a program about sexual abuse. Some parents have objected, arguing that the program is inappropriate for children and that the real problem is not the failure to educate students about abuse, but the failure to curb abusive priests.

Those parents are right; but for my present purposes, that's beside the point. What fascinates me is the bishop's indirect response to their complaints. Note particularly the passage in italics-- which was not highlighted in the original:

All children enrolled in our Catholic Schools and those attending Religious Education Programs within our Diocese must be offered the Teaching Touching Safety Program. The school program is to be completed by March. That for religious education students must be completed by May…

Allow me to repeat myself. This is not new information to you. Neither you nor I have an option in this matter.

It's true, no doubt, that lay people have no option here. That's Bishop Adamec's regular approach, and he won't let Vatican directives or the Code of Canon Law curb his style.

But when he says that he has no option, he's talking nonsense. The bishop is the boss in his own diocese. Period. We would have thought that Bishop Adamec would be the first to recognize that fact.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: peco - Jan. 08, 2005 10:29 AM ET USA

    I need to know more about how to resist the absurd "requirements" for Confirmation. We too are subjected to the diocesan policy that requires a retreat (which is co-ed). All the nearby parishes here in the rural west have the same diocesan policy. What can be done? The diocese seems determined to require this policy.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 08, 2005 12:08 AM ET USA

    As a follow-up, let's not begrudge a bishop his status as ordinary of the diocese. It's his by right and we can't take it away from him. However, I am ordinary over my children and my house and no bishop can take that away from me.. Let him have the churches, what money is left after the abuse settlements, and his miter--he will not get my children.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 9:40 PM ET USA

    Sounds like its time for a little Cannon (sic) Law for Bishop PowderKeg. I recall reading at that back in the Apostolic days, diocese concentrated all their efforts on teaching adults and the adults taught their children. Since when does the Church have the canonical right to educate my kids AGAINST the wishes of their parents? I'm a bit of a pushover, but seems to me that direct letters to Rome with a cc to His Ineffectualness are in order.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 6:28 PM ET USA

    It sounds as though he has a significant number of gay priests he may not be able to control so much violate the innocence of children so they are hardened up enough to fight off the abusers.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 5:23 PM ET USA

    Abraham T: Crock, indeed! The only canonical requirements for Confirmation are Baptism and proper disposition. Likewise, this “touching” teaching program imposed by Adamec is a crock. By all accounts that I've seen and heard, Adamec is a scoundrel. This report seems to confirm that.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 4:06 PM ET USA

    Sounds familiar. In my diocese, the Arlington, VA diocese, it is mandatory that children preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation attend a co-ed retreat. Fuhgetaboutit! Ain't happening on my watch. Those retreats are generally an aerobic event for the chaperones as they chase kids around the campus. And where did the "Retreat" idea come from? For teenage kids it's a crock. My children'll likely be confirmed outside this diocese if this requirement holds. Any recommendations???

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 3:44 PM ET USA

    Who's in charge in Altoona? The lawyers?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 1:17 PM ET USA

    In the education of children, parents have the first and primary responsibility. The bishop is actually an agent of the parents. If his decision is unjust or wrong, parents have a moral obligation to resist through whatever form is appropriate. This guy is copping out by using the inclusive we, in this case, "you nor I". It's a rather thin excuse for a defect in pastoral care.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 1:11 PM ET USA

    Parents are the first and the major formers of their children. But they need to decide by their actions Who their model is. If it is Christ, their actions need to reflect this. Bishop Adamec is only the boss over those who cower under him and over faithful Catholics--not absolutely but only when faithfully discharging his duties. As a faithful Catholic in the Joliet diocese, I do not allow our Bishop or any of his appointees to form in any way my children. And Confirmation is wildely available.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 07, 2005 1:00 PM ET USA

    Of course it's not true, but by phrasing it this way he is able to diffuse criticism by shrugging and saying "there's nothing I can do." It's a highly effective bureaucrat's gambit. What we haven't yet grasped is that bishops have no temporal power beyond what we give them. We don't have to give our money,send our kids to Catholic schools or CCD. Every Catholic in Altoona could up and start attending one of the many Eastern rite churches there and there would nothing beyond screaming he could do