Saturday, November 7, 2015


Contrast this with what is happening in the post-Vatican II Church:

Prior to Vatican II, a typical large urban or suburban Catholic parish might have had two, three or four or more priests. Their salaries were small compared to the laity. They drove simple cars usually owned by the parish. If there was a parish school or a religious order's private school, it was staffed mostly by religious who earned meager salaries thus keeping tuition very low and allowing the poorer class to use Catholic schools. The budgets of both the parish and the school were meager as were the staffs. Volunteer laity filled in the gaps. Some full time or part time lay positions were of meager salary.

After Vatican II it was proclaimed by the elites that the decline in vocations to both the priesthood and religious life as well as the exodus of many from their religious vocations was a good thing because the laity could then take their rightful place in the institutional structures of the Church.  And the mantra was that we needed highly educated and trained laity in these positions once held by priests and religious. This meant that we needed full-time workers on the parish level who were paid a competitive living wage. We needed to separate positions so the laity that  hired could focus on their particular area.

For example, a parish would hire a full-time Director of Religious education who would then need to hire people to direct the RCIA, CCD, adult religious education formation and bible studies and the like. The DRE would supervise the other paid staff and of course there needed to be administrative staff to support the professionals.

Then there needed to be full time directors of music who then would hire assistants for children choirs, extra Masses and paid cantors and choir members.

Then there would be pastoral assistants to do what priests once did such as visiting the sick, the homebound and creating ministries for parishioners to attend.

Priests then were freed up to go to meetings galore to make should the monster bureaucracy was ticking along okay and well-oiled and well paid.

I know of some parishes where the priests don't even meet with the bereaved. Laity are delegated to do this, make home visits, plan the liturgies and take care of the details. The priest shows up for the funeral Mass, but a lay pastoral assistant might lead the Vigil for the Deceased and a deacon or in his absence a layperson will do the Rite of Committal at the graveside.  The priest becomes a functionary disconnected from the messiness of grief.

With the loss of religious nuns and brothers in our Catholic schools, laity were hired for all positions and their salaries had to be competitive with public school teachers. Thus school budgets sky-rocketed pushing the poor out of our Catholic schools and making them academies like any other type of school with the religious dimension weakened or simply a veneer. 

The worst offenders of the post-Vatican II bloated bureaucracies is on the diocesan level. When I was ordained in 1980 our diocesan administration was divided in the following way:

The chancery housed the financial administration of the Diocese and was where the bishop worked. There may have been an executive secretary for the bishop, a financial administrator who had a secretary and a few others working in a rather small downtown Savannah building across the street from the Colonial Cemetery. 

Then there was a small separate building for the Diocesan Tribunal. It may have had a priest or two and a few administrative people. It was a small, lean mean operating machine.  It was within walking distance of the chancery and both near the Cathedral.

Then some miles away on Skidaway Island (great name no?) there is a huge piece of property where the diocesan high school seminary had been but also a place for a summer camp going back to the 1940's. The old seminary building housed the Department of Christian Formation that would have included the Superintendent of Catholic Schools (a nun), The Director of Religious Education, (a nun) and maybe a priest to assist part time to assist with plans and programs. There was a newer post-Vatican II position of Social Ministry director (a nun). There might have been one or two administrative people for this professional staff.

I was the vocation director but full time at the Cathedral as associate pastor and then later I was pastor in Augusta and moved my vocation office with me. Do you think I had an administrative assistant? NO! 

Fast forward 35 years. I don't have the statistics but the number of employees full time and part time has grown extremely considerably as has the budget for salaries and benefits.

Fortune Magazine has a good article on Pope Francis as business man. You can read the whole article HERE. But the following excerpt captures my sentiments about our post-Vatican II rich, bloated Church:

...The revelations have finally lifted the veil on the rampant mismanagement that the old Vatican hierarchy long concealed from the faithful. It now appears that much of the cash that Catholics send to Rome that’s supposed to be helping the poor is being clandestinely misused to run the bloated Vatican bureaucracy.

...Pope Francis believes in lean, efficient government for a basic reason: The less the Vatican spends on administration, the more it can lavish on what the Pope cares most about, helping the poor.

...Pope (Francis) first makes a general point about waste in the Curia, the Vatican’s administrative arm:

“It is universally ascertained … that the number of employees has grown too much. This fact creates a huge waste of money that can be avoided.” He goes on to condemn a “30 percent increase in employee expenses” over the past five years.

Pope Francis goes on to demonstrate that he fully understands the importance of competitive bidding and stringent enforcement of contracts:

“We have to create a protocol for estimates and also for the last step, payments. One of the department heads told me they come to me with an invoice so we have to pay. No, we don’t. If a job was done without an estimate, without authorization, we don’t pay.” Who cares if a “poor clerk looks bad?” Concludes the Pontiff: “God help us, but we don’t pay!”

My Final Comment: What Pope Francis is trying to do administratively in the Vatican is a model for all dioceses and parishes.

It use to be seen as funny when Pope Saint John XXIII was asked "how many people work at the Vatican?" that his answer was "about half!" That isn't funny any longer given the egregious amount of money spent for so little especially when so many fewer personnel paid a pauper's wage prior to Vatican II did so much more!


Gene said...

Lordy, lordy...this is an old argument. Not all Priests take vows of poverty. I do not see anything wrong with a regular Priest getting a decent salary that allows him to travel, eat well, and have hobbies/sports to pursue. I am far more concerned about the sincerity
of his beliefs and his Liturgical and pastoral practice. If a Priest is a devout believer who understands the mission of the Church and his calling, I don't care if he is Donald Trump. Such a Priest will understand the place of money and the evils that can attach to it and not be compromised by it.

Anonymous said...

A friend said to me the other day "Isn't it time we buried Vatican II?" I couldn't agree more. If I never hear mention of that Council again, it won't be too soon. I can't see much good that came of it.

Snide remarks are often made about Traditionalists but, in reality, they are in the main living that simple, modest life that was the norm for Catholics prior to the shake up in the 60s and 70s. They are having families, bringing them up and living a simple wholesome Catholic life. The priests in the traditional orders are living, by and large, a much simpler life than their confreres who offer the Novus Order Mass. Also, I find it is only we who attend the Novus Ordo Mass that have the worries about the Church because those who are able to attend the Traditional Mass are somewhat removed from all the modern innovations etc that we often have to suffer through. For example, they don't have to worry what the Mass might be like, if there will hopefully just be guitars at Mass rather than marakas and bongo drums that there were the Sunday before. There are no problems with the Mass, as the priest will follow the rubrics and, by and large, they get good sermons - the worst sermon inflicted on them might be one that is on the boring side from a young priest finding his way. They won't have to put up with mime or a deacon putting up slides of his grandchildren and singing a modern rendition of a psalm, for example. Yes, Traditionalists are laughed at and ridiculed but, to my mind, they are the ones with common sense in the Church. They didn't just moan about what was happening, but they set about getting back the one thing they knew would rebuild the Church, the Traditional Mass. The young men entering the Traditional orders are also the sensible ones because, by and large, they are out of the fray and are not stuck with a myriad of liturgy meetings, etc, and so can spend their time doing what a priest should be doing. As far as I am concerned the conservatives - finally waking up - remind me of the foolish bridesmaids ... and as far as I am concerned "Vatican II" requiescat in pace!

Anonymous said...

Isle of Hope, not Skidaway Island.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, but you still have to skid away to get to Isle of Hope, no?

Gene said...

Jekyll, Jekyll, yuk, yuk. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Really Pope Francis is a model to follow? What has he done about the German bishops who get paid thousands, THOUSANDS, of Euros per month. Not year, per MONTH. When the pope's close advisor, Cardinal Marx comes to Rome he stays in a palatial villa recently purchased by the German conference of bishops. There wasn't a spare room in that hotel that Francis lives in? Where did the German bishops stay for the last 200, 300 years?These are the same bishops who want to allow communion for non repentant Catholics living in adultery yet who refuse not only communion, but confession and anointing of the sick and Christian burial to those German Catholics who refuse to pay the Church tax. I'm not being uncharitable, it's the truth. Yet not a word from Francis. In a way I guess he is a model for the typical Catholic parish of today and how sad that is.

Anonymous said...

If people are putting their faith in Francis as an adept administrative reformer they better think again. I don’t know of too many liberals who improve business operations, unless they can personally profit from it. When they have their own money on the line then they become ruthless greedy profiteers.

The man who wastes his time on promoting Communion for people in adulterous relationships, thinks that free markets cause exploitation of the poor and imagines that a 4 billion year old earth is too fragile to permit people to have a little A/C will be incapable of identifying real problems and crafting practical solutions. Half-baked liberal logic will cause a lemonade stand to go BK.

St. John Paul lived in the normal papal Vatican quarters but his room was Spartan conditions. Compare that to the extra cost that Francis causes by his trumpet blaring humility at the Vatican Hotel.

Expect a lot of talk and innuendo about conservatives fighting Francis reform and in a couple of years from now we’ll be hearing about; "if it wasn’t for Francis’s internal saboteurs he would have accomplished so much more." Or, success will be proclaimed even though operational chaos will be what there is.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Excellent post.

One factor you don't mention, however, that I think has made a huge difference in administration and its costs: legal questions.

Today, parishes and dioceses are far more focused on legal matters than we were 40-50 years ago. My parish has a youth director; and most people have no idea of the hoops he jumps through, and the paperwork involved, in arranging for events. And I'm not being dismissive: a lot of it is about child protection, and that's important.

But it all takes time, effort, and it all adds up.

Anonymous said...

No to be snarky, but ante concilium work was done for the greater Glory of God and a reward more substantial than money later. Today, we have "professionals" working for the benefits in the here and now. That will always cost more.

Anonymous said...

I handled financial issues (I have a degree in accounting) at my former parish as a volunteer - handling bank reconciliations, preparing year end financial statements for submission to the diocese and prepared financial documents for and served on the finance council. After a merger, I offered to continue to do this for the newly merged parish in addition to taking on more duties. Again as a volunteer. The new pastor informed me that he wanted a non-parishioner who would be compensated for this job. He hired three different people for the job - all parishioners and all men and all from the other parish that was part of the merger and all as a part-time second job for them. A poor financial choice in my opinion. And then we were all asked to contribute more because the payroll of the parish was increasing. We changed parishes.

Jusadbellum said...

I compare the chancery staffs of Savannah with the five surrounding dioceses and see that it's got the SMALLEST OF ALL chanceries in terms of both numbers of staff and total budget. Fr. Fox's point is well taken. It seems that modern chanceries must have staff to ensure the diocese (and parishes) are within the law.... thus I'm seeing relatively large administration or finance offices who handle parish audits, taxes, liability, HR disputes etc.

Every diocese has had to hire a full time lay staffer to handle Child protection education and certification.

Every Diocese needs a tribunal office. If there are diocesan schools, it needs a Catholic Schools office. Every Diocese needs someone in charge of Family Life, Catholic Charities, and Faith Formation. At a minimum that means at least 3 people to handle the CCD, youth, and young adult constituencies.

Nowadays doesn't every diocese need a Hispanic outreach person or staff?

If you are going to have a department like Catholic schools and you have only the number of employees that Savannah does, it's hard to see how you could cut those positions and still expect that department to do all it does.

Ditto with every other department I've checked out online compared to dioceses in Charleston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Augusta.

Most of these diocese (that I've looked into) have published annual reports so you can itemize how much each department costs vs what they accomplish.

Can you tell us explicitly which department seems too bloated? I see Savannah has a new chancery building. But I also see in their annual report that the renovation seems to have been paid for by a sale of the old building not their annual appeal or parish taxes....

So might this not be a case of presuming bloat where - in context - none exists?

Anonymous said...

It may be a bit of "apples and oranges" here. The Atlanta Archdiocese is far larger than its counterpart 245 or so road miles to the southeast, by better than 10-1 margin (I've heard estimates of 1 million Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese, maybe 80,000 in the Savannah one?) There are two auxiliary bishops up here---doubtless they require at least a secretary. Of course we also had the controversy last year of our bishop planning to move into a $2 million home in the posh Buckhead section of Atlanta, plans for which he abandoned after public outcry.

Did dioceses used to have "annual appeals" in the old days (like pre-Vatican 2)? Seems like a lot of our parish offertory (maybe 30%) goes to the diocese in one form or another---annual assessment, support of schools, etc. We are told the appeal is a "contribution", but it really isn't, anymore than someone "contributes" to a robber when held up. If the parish does not meet the "goal", well the archbishop gets it anyway. Of course we are not a congregational Church so there are obligations to support the Archdiocese, but I do wonder "how much is enough?" If 10 percent is good for the Lord in tithing, should 10 percent be enough to support the chancery?