Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Coadjutor Bishop Nienstedt: "If we want to keep the schools alive, we have to tell Catholics to have more babies!"

The man who will be the next leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis could bring changes in style and focus over time, church observers said Tuesday.

New Ulm Bishop John Nienstedt, 60, was introduced as Pope Benedict's choice to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn, whom Nienstedt will shadow until Flynn retires in about a year.

Nienstedt, a Michigan native, said he intends to carry on Flynn's work on behalf of immigrants and the poor.

Observers said it's too early to tell whether the newcomer will shift direction at the archdiocese, which has been relatively free of controversy under Flynn's moderate leadership. But they saw Nienstedt's passion for bioethics and moral theology as a clue that he may take a stronger stand on such issues as contraception and gay marriage.

In an interview before Tuesday's news conference in St. Paul, Nienstedt -- a tall, athletic man with a crisp manner whose official title will be coadjutor archbishop -- said his priorities will include vigorous recruiting for the priesthood, working with the archdiocese's priests to strengthen their churches and improving training for lay workers.

He has pushed for an amendment to the state Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman and has taken conservative stances on issues ranging from Terri Schiavo to the causes of homosexuality. But he skirted questions about whether he will be liberal or conservative, calling such labels "too political" and saying that "the Holy Spirit, not I" will mediate disagreements among Catholics.

"The church is like a football field with goalposts and boundaries, but a good many things can be accomplished within the structure of the game," he said. "Jesus has given us instructions, and we have to be faithful to them, so if someone is out of bounds, they may be whistled down. But yes, we can always talk about issues."

Broader public role predicted

Prof. Robert Kennedy, head of the Catholic Studies Department at the University of St. Thomas, said he wouldn't be surprised if Nienstedt, given his background as a moral theologian, were more outspoken than Flynn on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and stem-cell research.

But Nienstedt's chief challenges, Kennedy predicted, will be demographic changes: a surge of Hispanic newcomers changing the face of the U.S. church even as they ensure its growth and "this period in which a lot of people are becoming more casual about their faith."

The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, said that although Nienstedt may be considered conservative by some, he took a cautious stance while serving as chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on priestly formation. "He was chair when all hell broke loose with the sex abuse crisis and looked hard at what we were doing wrong," Reese said. "And priests are better trained now, and there is a better screening process."

A 'contraceptive mentality'

At the news conference, Nienstedt lamented "the contraceptive mentality in this country" that has made Catholic families smaller, saying it has made parents more reluctant to encourage their sons to become priests and imperiled some Catholic schools. "If we want to keep the schools alive, we have to tell Catholics to have more babies," he said.

[Has any other Bishop had the guts to say that since the publication of the Humanae Vitae Birth Control Encyclical by Pope Paul VI? I hope and pray to hear a lot of truth coming from Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt.]

He acknowledged that one challenge to recruiting new priests was the pall cast over the priesthood's image by the sex abuse scandal.

He said he intends to spend as much time as possible at Catholic seminaries and schools to seek out new church leaders and hear the concerns of young people. [...snip] StarTribune Read it All


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Bishop Nienstedt would like to give Catholics the financial means to educate those babies in what is rapidly becoming the Catholic Private School system. The parochial school in this country began as a way for the children of poor immigrants to gain the necessary skills and education to be able to move into the mainstream of American society. Today, the cost of an elementary Catholic parochial school education is prohibitive not only to the children of immigrants but to many third and fourth generation American families as well. And that's with the dedicated teachers who staff the schools being paid unjust wages. Perhaps the Bishop would like to invite those Catholics who have benefitted from generations of Catholic education and are financially able to begin to give back in justice. As always, the responsibility for yet another of the problems plaguing the Catholic Church in America falls to the non-ordained rather than to management.
Hopefully, his time as Coadjutor will give the Bishop enough space to learn to think before he speaks - especially about matters in which his own experience is extremely limited.

Anonymous said...

Why to our Protestant & Reformed brothers and sisters, to say nothing of the Mormons, put us Catholics to shame with respect to sacrificial giving to support the materials needs of the Church - starting with Catholic schools.

If the Lord Jesus is Lord of our lives, then the Lord Jesus - not the so-called institutional Church - is also Lord of "our" money. Are we willing to lay our resources at the feet of the Apostles (in our case, the successors to the Apostles) for the good of the all God's People. And, yes, there is an necessary, institutional expression of the People of God, and that institutional expression has bills to pay.

It's not Bishop Nienstedt's direct responsibility to give me or anybody else the financial means to pay for a Catholic education. It *is* the Bishop's responsibility to be an exceptional, publically-accountable steward of the resources the Catholic faithful give him to do the job the Lord called him too. It is also our job - I'm referring to the People of God here - to be exceptional, publically-accountable stewards of the resources which, ultimately, God give us. If Catholic school teachers are not paid a just wage for educating our children, shame on US, and not necessarily shame on the pastor or bishop.

Hopefully Bishop Neinstedt's year as coadjutor will give the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul time to consider just how high their individual and collective calling as Catholics really is - and personal changes are necessary in their thinking and priorities to live and lead a truly Catholic life. Adjusting to a new bishop will be easier if that adjustment starts NOW.

Adoro said...

anon1 ~ Perhaps local Catholics can take a serious look at their lives and priorities and realize how much the contraceptive mentality has damanged them spiritually and physically, how it has usurped life, and how his suggestion to "have more babies" is well within his pastoral ability to state. It is a call to Catholics to wake up and live the moral life, not to fall back on what we "prefer" to spend our money on. Children are a gift from God.

Sanctus Belle said...

Well...I agree of course that contraception is evil, a very grave sin. Catholic families have the duty to have the number of children God intends for them. The Catholic school thing is a dilemma. A large family usually cannot afford Catholic education. I know this is true of my family. We teach the faith as best as we can at home, and live it. But there's no way we could afford private school tuition. I've often wondered if there were more orders of nuns teaching/running theses schools who have vows of poverty that the tuition would be more affordable. As it is, most teachers are lay people who need a decent wage to support their own families. How on earth can a system like this make it?

Adoro said...

Sanctus, I believe one of the things that causes the tuition increase, as you noted, was a lack of religious sisters/ brothers teaching. It used to be the orders who began the schools, and of of course, such an operation costs money, but I do think it brings salaries up, insurance, etc etc etc. not having them.

I actually read an article on this once, can't remember where, but they had some kind of financial breakdown. I don't remembrer it because numbers make my eyes glaze over.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

anon1 and 2 (not sure you are the same person or not): Catholic schools were started in this country in response to the withering discrimination and anti-Catholicism, Catholics experienced in the public school system.

The cost of attending the Catholic schools is higher now that we don't have enough clergy and religious teaching in them because, as you pointed out, we have to pay laypeople to do it.

There are subsidies/scholarships in place for low-income children to attend these schools. At many Catholic schools, like the one attached to my parish, in addition to subsidies, there are reductions in tuition based upon the number of children you have in the school.

Does that mean everyone is going to qualify for a free or reduced tuition? Probably not. However, no education is truly free. Even the public school system costs all of us-in taxes-whether we have kids in the schools or not.

Education is something we all must, and should, pay for and support as we can. Especially, a good, faithful, Catholic education.

His Excellency has a good point. If Catholics were having more babies (not using contraception or having abortions) we'd have more clergy and religious to teach in these schools because the inference is we've killed off a bunch of potential clergy and religious.

I agree it's a shame that Mormons tithe more then we do. I'm not sure Protestants in general do. I know Evangelical Protestants are generous with their money.

Most Catholic school teachers that I know are paid a comparable salary to public school teachers. I agree that teachers are, in general, woefully underpaid. However, that's not the point the Bishop is making here.