26 July 2013
Dear Bishop Declan, Your Grace,
Thank you for your reply of the 5th inst.
I must confess I had hoped for a substantive, if not necessarily lengthy, response. Although I am but one parishioner of many, I hoped that the subject matter might elevate our exchange to a level of intercourse, albeit brief.
I refer you to the homily delivered by Pope Francis at Lampedusa, on a matter of such importance that it prompted his first visit outside Rome. He coins the memorable phrase “the globalisation of indifference” in a homily he specifies as intended “to challenge people’s consciences and lead them to reflection and a concrete change of heart.”
As we are all seeing, the Holy Father is a powerful and thoughtful user of language. His homilies and statements are entirely devoid of platitude and formula. He could have declared to some effect that he wanted a “new church for the poor.” He didn’t. He quite specifically said he wanted “a poor church for the poor.” (My emphasis.)
How can we square this with a diocese which has funds to invest with JP Morgan yet has not the money to pay for a lawyer when one of its own is threatened with being sliced away from home and parish in a grossly unequal battle? Such was the fate of John Patrick, a member of our choir, last Friday.
Let me answer: we simply cannot. It remains a broken circle.
Why is the diocese investing so much money? Against the future? What future? A future when we have too few parishioners to support our institutions? To plan for such a future seems to me verging on sinful. Did Jesus not say, “Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof”? Or was He a bit off the mark with that one?
I am, from where you stand, a lone, insignificant and probably presumptuous voice. But I have had a lifetime as a communications professional and know very well how to create a ‘story’ when I need one. I know how to reach people. This is my committed campaign: to see Clifton Diocese become an active, visible champion of the poor and the discarded, using both its voice and its assets to help them.
Remember, Jesus did not say in Matthew 25-36 “I was in innocent in prison and you came to me”. You and many of your congregation may be concerned, as many are, about the problem of illegal immigration. If it is a problem – I’m not so sure. Even if those arriving become a burden on us, history tends to support the proposition that their more numerous young will be working to support us in our old age, when our too few children cannot. But it is beside the point. No position on this issue can provide an excuse for a wealthy church not to succour the penniless and over-whelmed in our midst.
So I say this: if you continue to rein in St Nicholas’ spending on helping the poor, I will do my best to out you. It may not concern you. I will probably fail. But not certainly. I have pulled offer tougher assignments in my time.
Respectfully, God bless and forgive us all,