Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Archbishop of New Orleans Does It Again

That is ... pulls another cynical, boneheaded stunt regarding church closings and such.

Only this time, it's even more cynical a stunt, if you ask me. Seems the Archdiocese wants to divert FEMA resources (some $10 million) specifically allocated for the reconstruction of damaged parish schools and church community centers in poor, predominantly black communities in urban New Orleans to relatively wealthy, white suburban churches in St. Bernard Parish and on the Northshore.

Yeah ... that's the symbolic message the Archdiocese needs to send to poorer communities who could use the resources reinvested in their neighborhoods: take the taxpayers money away from poor communities, who are already spiritually damaged and hurting by the Archdiocese's decision to shut down their parishes, and then reinvest this public money in places where the Church can profit more from expanding services to the white monied Catholics in places where everyone knows racism and disdain for anything urban thrives. (And anyone who dares to say that St. Bernard Parish and the Northshore aren't places where the legacy of Jim Crow is more alive than not is just being wilfully blind. EVERYONE knows that racism thrives in these places. It is no coincidence that David Duke's base of operations is located on the Northshore and that David Duke is popular figure in St. Bernard Parish. So the racial symbolism of this move by the Archdiocese, no matter how they try to spin it, will not be lost on folks who are watching with their eyes wide open.)

It's heartbreaking, really. It conveys the message that the Archdiocese doesn't give a rat's rear about poor folks, especially if they happen to be poor, black folks. It also invites protestant churches to step in, fill the void, and heal the hurt left in the wake of the Archdiocese's brazen insensitivity and dismissiveness of these communities. It's heartbreaking, but it also makes my blood boil.

It's no wonder that I've come to consider myself over the past few months to be an Exodus Catholic. I have said previously that I would not tithe to Parish churches anymore as long as this current leadership persists. And I have kept that promise. Now I have one more reason to cement my resolve in this way. If you are a Catholic who cares about New Orleans and its marginalized communities, I would ask you to make the same resolution. Give your money and time to individual communities, individual priests, or the religious orders. If your money and time go to the Archdiocese, you can rest assured that it will likely be re-diverted to causes anti-thetical to the social justice mission and teaching of the Church.

The Archbishop is not God. He is a fallible man. And this one, in particular, is full of mistakes and bad will. In my opinion, he abandoned his flock following Hurricane Katrina and holed himself up in Baton Rouge until he could feel comfortable returning. He destroyed parishes and shut down churches that were self-sustaining for reasons that are beyond the comprehension of any compassionate human being. He exercises political intervention by publicly snubbing (of all institutions) Xavier University, an historically black university, because it invited a prominent black Democratic strategist and pro-choice political figure, Donna Brazile, to be its commencement speaker; yet he NEVER questions the morality of politicians who unapologetically and proudly endorse torture, war, the death penalty, and a myriad list of other anti-life measures. And now he wants to take federal government money away from poor, black, progressive communities and use it for the benefit of predominantly white, conservative, suburban, and relatively wealthy communities. The man is pathologically tone deaf to Catholics on the margins who are starved for compassionate and understanding pastoral leadership. He is so wrapped up in his comfortable, conservative, privileged cocoon that he can't even recognize the damage he is doing to the Catholic community of New Orleans.

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