Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A.'s mother grew up on Buffalo's East Side, and A. and her sister started out there too. They all went to Corpus Christi, and still feel a connection to the parish, one of the many Polish churches in that neighborhood. The East Side has become pretty significantly depopulated over the course of the last fifty or so years, and the people who live there now are more likely to seek spiritual fulfillment at a mosque or a Baptist church than at a Polish language Mass, but there is still a touch of Polonaise in the neighborhood. When the diocese announced that it was going to start shutting down parishes the East Side was one of the places that was targeted. Corpus Christi was independent from the diocese, staffed by Franciscans. Six or seven years ago the Franciscans decided they were done-- the parish enrollment had declined to the point where it no longer made sense for them to staff it. It looked like that was going to be the end of the parish, and in A's family this was a big deal, even though none of them still belonged to it. At the eleventh hour the the Pauline Fathers agreed to take it over, and appointed Fr. Anselm Chalupka as pastor. He did a good job, although you couldn't really say he turned it around. He raised money to repair the decrepit physical plant, he was a visible presence in the life of the East Side, and he was a charismatic figure. Part of it was that by the usual standards of inner city Buffalo clergy he was shockingly young: when he came to the parish six years ago he was 33. Part of it was that he was a native Pole, which must have pleased his constituency, and which made him rather exotic to everyone else. He grew the parish to 370 people from 250, which is pretty good-- I'm not sure how many of the 120 were related to A, but probably a couple were.

Today was his last day. He has been sent to a parish in Yonkers. A's family wanted me to go to his last Mass in Buffalo, because he'd told them that his wish was to see the church filled once before he left. He got his wish, and looking around before the service started it occured to me that the scene resembled something that a Polish Leo McCarey might have made a movie about. They put on the whole kielbasa, a Tridentine Mass, and there was a full house in attendance. Then came the homily. Using Mark's gospel about prophets not being honored as his departure point Fr. Anselm noted that biblical prophets don't predict things so much as they speak the truth. From there he moved into a discussion about how Darwin's "Evolution of the Species" has been used as a justification for atrocity and then-- even knowing it was coming I couldn't believe it was happening-- he made the argument that the United States is perpetrating a holocaust against the unborn. It was like watching Godwin's Law enacted before my eyes. Two days ago Scott Roeder was convicted of murder, after having been allowed to raise the defense of justification for gunning down a man in his church, and there I was, listening to a guy with an accent like a vampire movie call me Hitler.

So here's where I am on the preservation of historic churches: turn them into brew pubs. Nobody's ever called me Hitler in a brew pub.

| Comments:
Did you people who supported this stubborn relic of a parish not NOTICE they were celebrating a TRIDENTINE Mass there??? Why are you so shocked that they would also take the idiotic position that one is anti-life BECAUSE one is pro-choice?

Here's the thing of it. THE CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE OF GOD. This does NOT mean the Vatican or the pope or any one church official of whatever Religion speaks for God OR God's people.

A friend asked me to write an e-mail to CBS asking them not to run an ad during the Superbowl featuring Tim Tebow whose mother chose to have Tim Tebow although she could have aborted him during her pregnancy. My answer to my friend was to say that Mrs. Tebow and her son make a perfect case for the right to CHOOSE as Mrs. Teboe did.

Noone will speak for each of us to God other than ourselves. If everyone would just get that straight and then, if he or she chooses, gets down on his or her knees and praises and thanks God for all the blessings each person receives in whatever amount. And if each person chooses not to understand God's ways of blessing him or her, that's still a matter between the two of them and nobody else.
No yelling, please. First, it is a rat trick to invite people to one sort of event and then smack them in the face with something else entirely. Second, the homily was poorly reasoned, and not altogether consistent with current Catholic doctrine (or Darwin's actual theory-- it is intellectually dishonest to set up straw men like that). Most importantly, the timing was appalling. The Roeder trial concluded two days earlier. Buffalo happens to be the other place where a doctor was assassinated as a result of urgings delivered from the pulpit. Yes , it's a Mass, and yes, everyone should have expected religious speech. However, hate speech, which I think can reasonably be defined as speech intended to incite, is another matter.

As for St. Tebow, I think William Saletan (of all people) makes a reasonable point in this piece in Slate,: "[Pam Tebow's] story certainly is moving. But as a guide to making abortion decisions, it's misleading. Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers. Placental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses. No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn't end up with Heisman-winning sons. They ended up dead. Being dead is just the first problem with dying in pregnancy. Another problem is that the fetus you were trying to save dies with you. A third problem is that your existing kids lose their mother. A fourth problem is that if you had aborted the pregnancy, you might have gotten pregnant again and brought a new baby into the world, but now you can't. And now the Tebows have exposed a fifth problem: You can't make a TV ad.

"On Sunday, we won't see all the women who chose life and found death. We'll just see the Tebows, because they're alive and happy to talk about it. In the business world, this is known as survivor bias: Failed mutual funds disappear, leaving behind the successful ones, which creates the illusion that mutual funds tend to beat market averages. In the Tebows' case, the survivor bias is literal. If you're diagnosed with placental abruption, you have the right to choose life. But don't be so sure that life is what you'll get."

I don't care about the building-- I don't care for most churches, actually. I care a little about the neighborhood, and I thought it was a good thing that the parish stabilized, because it stabilized a part of Buffalo that is racked with desperate poverty and needed the help. A brew pub would have been better.
I was at that Mass, and it was a 'Novus Ordo' not a Tridentine Mass. If you can't tell the difference, maybe you should try going to church more often!

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