New-Style Parishes

New-Style Parishes

by Bill Droel

The late 1800s and early 1900s were boom years for U.S. Catholicism. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Eastern Europe and elsewhere populated urban neighborhoods, building churches and schools. Using Chicago as an example, its Archbishop James Quigley (1854-1915) issued a 1910 decree for the construction of more churches so that no one would need to go more than one mile to worship. “A parish,” he wrote, “should be such a size that the pastor can personally know every man, woman, and child in it.”
In that very year, there was already a square-mile neighborhood in Quigley’s diocese with 11 parishes: four for Irish-Americans, two for German, two for Polish and three for other Eastern Europeans. Over 70% of this Bridgeport neighborhood was Roman Catholic in 1910. Several other Chicago neighborhoods easily surpassed Quigley’s goal of one per square mile.

With some changes in the lineup, Bridgeport maintained 11 parishes into the 1980s. In the 1990s the number was reduced to seven. Today, using the same boundaries, Bridgeport has six Catholic churches. The same downsizing happened in most East Coast and Great Lakes areas. Detroit, for example, lost 30 parishes in 1989. Continue reading “New-Style Parishes”


Realistic Voting

Realistic Voting

by Bill Droel

The term intrinsic evil is appropriate in a philosophy or theology classroom where students are presumably acquainted with some Aristotelian distinctions. Used in a presidential campaign, the term asks too much of electoral politics. Our U.S. Catholic bishops employ the term intrinsic evil a dozen times in their 2016 election guide, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The term’s use there is, in the opinion of “The Working Catholic,” one more example of moralizing; one more ingredient in the disenchantment and frustration of our citizenry.

Politics is a “messy, limited [and] muddled activity,” writes Bernard Crick (1929-2008) in Defense of Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1962). Yet it is the most beautiful way of balancing public interests, lifestyle choices, conflicting rights, interwoven responsibilities and changing times. Politics (with its laws or policies) is always imperfect because politics is an exercise in this-worldly approximate justice. Its results at sunset must be renewed through the exercise of public virtues tomorrow morning. Continue reading “Realistic Voting”

Full of Grace

Full of Grace


by Bill Droel

The phrase Godless world is popular with some presidential candidates. In recent months it has also occasionally appeared in Catholic publications and catalogs. Catholics are mistaken to use the phrase or others like it.

Catholics believe in the Incarnation and the Redemption. God, through God’s creation and through Christ’s death and resurrection, is already in our holy world. Encounter with God for a Catholic is thus normally mediated through the world. Catholics experience grace (God’s love) through family, neighbors, co-workers and others. Catholics meet God in the sacraments; the little sacraments of daily life and the liturgical sacraments.

Most Catholics most of the time do not claim a so-called direct or individual relationship with God. The relationship is mediated. God’s love and God’s truth come by way of the world; by way of discovery in the classroom or the lab, inside the ups and downs of home life, through art, music or literature, through conversations and action on the job, through stories about one’s grandparents, and through the worldly accomplishments and setbacks of predecessors in the faith. Continue reading “Full of Grace”

When America Hated Catholics

When America Hated Catholics


In the late 19th century, statesmen feared that Catholic immigrants were less than civilized (and less than white).

By Josh Zeitz

September 23, 2015

In the late nineteenth century, political cartoonist Thomas Nast regularly lambasted Irish Catholic immigrants as drunkards and barbarians unfit for citizenship; signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply,” lined shop windows in Boston and New York and dotted the classified pages in many of the country’s leading papers; statesmen warned about the dangers of admitting Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe onto American shores, for fear that they were something less than civilized (and less than white). It wasn’t unusual for respectable politicians to wonder aloud whether Catholics could be loyal to their adoptive country and to the Pope.

What a difference a few decades can make. Today, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these Catholic immigrants occupy the halls of Congress, governors’ mansions and state legislatures. One of them currently resides in the Naval Observatory. And when the head of the Catholic Church comes to visit, he will be warmly welcomed and hailed by politicians of all parties and all faiths.

Indeed, America has traveled a long road since the days when many native-born Americans regarded Catholic immigrants as an ideological and racial threat. Continue reading “When America Hated Catholics”

Vocation Crisis

Vocation Culture


by Bill Droel

There’s a vocation crisis among physicians. First, a crisis of numbers. Not enough young adults, particularly those from the United States, are applying to medical school and not enough of those who do apply want a general practice. Second, a crisis of meaning. Many doctors, to greater or lesser degree are disillusioned.

Meagan O’Rourke, writing in The Atlantic (11/14), reviews seven recent books by or about physicians. “The very meaning and structure of care” is in crisis, she concludes. It relates to our fee-for-service medical economy, concerns about litigation, the pace of patient encounters, ambivalence about medical technology, doctors’ relationship to hospital administration, complexities of private and public insurance and more. According to one survey, 80% of practicing physicians are “somewhat pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of the medical profession.” Only 6% describe their morale as positive. Continue reading “Vocation Crisis”

Time to Renew Your Membership!

Dear Friends on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord,

In one month, we will be gathering for our annual Catholic Labor Network Gathering as part of the USCCB’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. I hope that you will be able to join us. If you have not registered yet, you can do so at:

I would like to invite you to renew your membership in the CLN, or if you are not a member, join for the first time. For the very reasonable dues of $25.00 for an individual member, you can help support the regular newsletters, the advocacy, and the ongoing evangelization of our Catholic Social Teachings as they relate to work.

Attached is the 2015 Membership Form. You can also go to: for an online copy of the application.

Fr. Sinclair
CLN-Spiritual Moderator

Pope Francis Describes 15 Ailments, Sicknesses, and Diseases in the Vatican Curia

Pope Francis Describes 15 Ailments, Sicknesses, and Diseases in the Vatican Curia

In his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, Pope Francis described various ailments, sicknesses, and diseases “that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia.” Francis said, “They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord.” While intended for the Curia, Pope Francis is highlighting some problematic behavior that can easily apply to the average Christian, as well, making his remarks relevant for not just those in the Curia. Here are the 15 ailments described by Pope Francis:

  1. Considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable,’ neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body.
  2. ‘Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness, the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation.
  3. Mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God.
  4. Excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant.
  5. Poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.
  6. Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love.’
  7. Rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the color of one’s robes, insignia and honors become the most important aim in life.
  8. Existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honors.
  9. Chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren.
  10. Deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honoring people rather than God.
  11. Indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships.
  12. The funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance.
  13. Accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure.
  14. Closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself.
  15. Worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power.

The New Suburban Poverty

The Working Catholic
Bill Droel

The New Suburban Poverty

The very idea of a suburb in the United States has long been promoted as a safe, affordable family-friendly place; that is, as an alternative to a less-desirable, polluted, somewhat dangerous urban neighborhood, and one dense with rental units. Historically in Europe and Africa a suburb is usually the opposite. There the upwardly mobile live in the city and the working poor live in a city’s outer ring.

Real estate developers marketed the U.S. notion of suburb even before the Civil War, explains Elaine Lewinnek in The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl (Oxford University Press, 2014). At first, the ideal suburb was an area just outside the center city. A neighborhood like Bridgeport in Chicago (home to our White Sox) was a suburb until its 1889 annexation into the city. Riverside, Illinois, was likely the first planned suburb in the country; designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1868. Riverside is 14 miles from Chicago’s Loop, among the first ring of suburbs. A suburban population boom occurred in the years after World War II into the 1970s. World War II also accelerated black migration from the South to Northern cities. In those years, Lewinnek concludes, the promotion of suburbs “merged with ideas about class and race.”

Now the pattern is reversed. Suburbs, writes Mike Gecan in After America’s Mid-Life Crisis (MIT Press, 2009), are “no longer young, no longer trendy, no longer the place to be, no longer without apparent limitations or constraints.” In fact, the number of suburban poor has increased by over twice the number of urban poor within the past 15 years. The median age in all those first ring suburbs (with some exceptions, notably among those that developed prior to World War II) has increased—in some places slowly, other places quite noticeably.

With an increased senior citizen population and with a low attraction rate for young professionals the first-ring suburbs have a “pattern of development [that] doesn’t yield enough tax revenue to pay for the infrastructure needed to support” their current residents, says Leigh Gallagher in The End of Suburbs (Penguin Press, 2013). Add to this picture fragmented local governments, a wholesale restructuring and relocation of job opportunities, changed immigration patterns, global economic factors and more. The appeal of suburban life might persist for some people, Gallagher writes, but the suburban locales of the 1950s to 1970s are passé. Those who presume an idyllic suburbia now look at places “located so far from [the city] that they are not really a suburb of anything.” And those exurbs are hardly immune from new realities.

The first ring suburbs and maybe more so those in so-called collar counties are, says Gecan, in the throes of a “midlife crisis.” Though some remain in denial about this fact, it is “better to face reality,” he advises.

How? For starters, realize that prosperity is not caused by hardware. Therefore renovating a suburban train station or, heaven forbid, opening an even bigger mall will alone not address the situation. Likewise demographic trends do not cause poverty. Both prosperity and poverty are a function of political (in the wide sense of the word) and cultural decisions. To be continued…

Droel is editor of INITIATIVES (, a newsletter about faith and work.

Pope Appoints New Promoter of Justice


Pope Appoints New Promoter of Justice

American Jesuit Father Robert Geisinger to Become Vatican’s New “Chief Prosecutor”

Vatican City, September 10, 2014 ( Staff Reporter

Pope Francis has appointed Father Robert J. Geisinger SJ to the post of Promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Vatican Radio reports.

He takes over from Father Robert W. Oliver, who has held the position since Jan. 3, 2013. Father Oliver, who is from the archdiocese of Boston, has been appointed Secretary of the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Father Geisinger has served as the General Procurator for the Society of Jesus and is a member of the Chicago Province. Father Oliver, of the Archdiocese of Boston, has been appointed Secretary to the Vatican Commission for the Safeguarding of Minors. 

The Promoter of Justice is often referred to as the CDF’s ‘chief prosecutor’ and is charged with investigating canon-law offenses that are regarded as being the most serious, including crimes against the sanctity of the Eucharist, violations of the seal of confession and allegations of the abuse of minors by clergy.

Prior to Father Oliver, the post was held by Bishop Charles Scicluna who was credited with constructing the 2010 universal norms that extended the Church’s statutes of limitations on reporting cases of sexual abuse and expanded the category of ecclesial crimes to include sexual misconduct with a disabled adult and possession of child pornography. He also led investigations into the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel. Since 2012, Bishop Scicluna has been an auxiliary bishop in Malta.