Dick Cavett to MC dinner for Iona’s Br. Liguroi

Who wouldn’t want to have Dick Cavett MC a dinner honoring them?

I mean, Dick Cavett.

Well, retiring Iona College President Brother James Liguori will get the honor on Friday at Iona’s 50th Annual Trustee Dinner. The black tie event will be at the Waldorf.

Also scheduled to be on hand: “American Pie” maker (and Iona alum) Don McLean; Dick Gephardt; former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney; Westchester’s own Rob Astorino;  Cardinal Ed Egan; and others.

Not a bad supporting cast for Br. Liguori, who has been president of Iona for 17 years. And Dick Cavett at the mike.

I recently wrote about Liguori being the last of a string of Christian Brothers to serve as president. Incoming President Robert Nyre is a layman. There simply aren’t as many Christian Brothers — or Catholic brothers, period — as there used to be.

By the way, the College of New Rochelle, at its commencement on May 26, will confer honorary doctorates on its own president, Stephen Sweeny,  who is retiring in June, and on Archbishop Dolan.

It’s a changing of the guard for New Rochelle’s Catholic colleges.

Go Red Storm!

I’ve written about football several times lately, thanks to the Super Bowl and all, but I have a quick note today about basketball.

I’ve never been much of a basketball guy, although I’m watching a lot more hoops these days because my 11-year-old loves it.

I was driving home from an assignment yesterday and was listening to Michael Kay’s show on ESPN radio. Yeah, I like sports talk radio. I miss Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN and really like Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN. Kay’s real good on the Yanks.

Anyway, Kay was talking about how far St. John’s basketball has fallen since its heyday in 1985, when the team made the NCAA’s Final Four. I know you don’t hear much about St. John’s basketball these days, but I didn’t realize the team had fallen on consistently hard times.

A lot of St. John’s alumni called up. Sure, they’d had it with the team’s coach, Norm Roberts.

d0872a0f3a8e4a8ba9672bda852b157fBut many were also calling out St. John’s president, Father Donald Harrington, a Vincentian priest who has run the university since 1989. Skimming the guy’s bio, it seems that he has done quite a lot for the school.

But callers were complaining that Harrington is unwilling to pay a coach about $5 million a year, as several basketball powerhouses do. Roberts makes about $600,000.

I couldn’t help feeling bad for Harrington, a priest I’ve never met.

You have to figure that St. John’s, like every other college, is hurting financially. They’re probably trying to hold tuition down so that students can afford to attend. And it’s a Catholic school, with a presumably religious mission.

ab1347880a5d4fdcb35ab5b443deb258Just a couple of weeks ago, Harrington gave Archbishop Dolan an honorary doctorate.

Harrington said:


I had the pleasure, in a sense, of watching the State of the Union Address earlier this week. It was very striking to me how often one side stands and the other side doesn’t. Very rarely does that audience, which is typical, stand together. Tonight, both figuratively and literally, we stand together with no hesitation – because in each individual (honored) we see the face, the vision and the heart of St. Vincent de Paul himself.


And yet, Harrington may face the choice of having to spend millions on a big-name coach to keep his team competitive — or risk the displeasure of alumni and the New York media.

I’ve never rooted for a college hoops team (except on rare occasions when I’ve filled out a March Madness sheet — to miserable results).

But, as of today, I’m rooting for St. John’s.

Hey, we beat Louisville yesterday!

Also at the bishops conference…

As I mentioned in my Tastykakes post earlier today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore (where the Catholic Church got its start in the U.S.).

The agenda has to do with more than sweet cream (and whatever else Tastykakes are made of).

Cardinal George of Chicago (right), the president of the Bishops posse, opened the gathering yesterday by wondering what life would be like without ordained priests, according to Catholic News Service. He considered the possibility of more authority resting with professors, political leaders and therapists — and didn’t like the picture.

Catholic BishopsOf course, “the church would be deprived of the Eucharist, and her worship would be centered only on the praise and thanksgiving,” he lamented.

Today, the bishops celebrated their influence in keeping health-care reform legislation “abortion neutral.”

“It was a good example of how we as a conference can work together to have a positive influence on legislation,” said Bishop William F. Murphy (left) of Rockville Centre (Long Island) in a report to fellow bishops.

At Cardinal George’s request, the bishops applauded in unison to show their support for Murphy’s statement, according to CNS.

George said the conference would “remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation…We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation.”

Interestingly, the left-leaning/progressive National Catholic Reporter reported that George, in his opening address, talked about the need for Catholic colleges, publications and other organizations to more closely align themselves with the bishops’ leadership. He said that Catholic groups that do not do so are “sectarian, less than fully Catholic,” and talked about the bishops strengthening their relationship with Catholic universities and media.

NCR reports that George did not name specific Catholic media, colleges or  other organizations that he had in mind. But he said that “if any institution, including the media, calls itself Catholic,” it is the moral responsibility of a bishop to assure that it is Catholic.

There has been much talk in recent years, both from the Vatican and in the U.S., of Catholic colleges and universities strengthening their Catholic identities.

But how might the bishops reach out to independent Catholic media? NCR is probably itching to find out.

Also, the bishops affirmed today in a pastoral letter that  the church defines marriage as between one man and one woman — and that sex is meant for procreation.

(The bishop in the middle of the picture, by the way, is Archbishop George Niederauer, chair of the bishops’ communications committee.)

Photo: AP/Rob Carr

Archbishop Dolan likes joyful priests and Twinkies

I was a day late, but I got around last night to watching Benedict Groeschel’s interview with Archbishop Dolan on EWTN.

It was Groeschel’s Sunday Night Live show, which airs at 7 p.m. most weeks from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. (I probably would have attended if it wasn’t on Father’s Day. My kids wouldn’t have understood.)

You can watch it on Saturday at 5 p.m.

There were a lot of bellylaughs from Dolan, as you would expect. And some funny asides and quirky moments from Father Benedict, who has recovered well from a stroke of a few months ago but clearly doesn’t have the energy he did a few years back.

The show started with Groeshel calling his guest “my boss” and mistakenly calling him “your eminence” at one point.

“Some of these guys become cardinals,” Groeschel said with a shrug.

Most of the show focused on this being the Year of the Priest.

“One of the more towering pastoral challenges we have is to reclaim a sense of joy in the priesthood and a sense of appreciation for the gift of the priesthood in the church,” Dolan said. “I think this Year of the Priest might allow us to do that.”

He continued: “For the past 40 years, what do we have? A lot of questioning. A lot of criticism. A lot of scandal. A lot of departures from the priesthood. Who knows what that is all about. But that has left wounds in the priesthood.

“What you gently see coming about in the life of the church, I think, is a rediscovery of the mystery, the message, of the priesthood. And I’m thinking this Year of the Priest might be a real booster shot to accomplish that in the church universal. I’m raring to go for this.”

Even more so than usual, Dolan spoke with a barely containable…exuberance.

He talked about leaving Thursday for Rome to receive his pallium from the pope (the pallium being a wool vestment that goes to metropolitan archbishops who oversee neighboring dioceses in limited ways).

Sunday happened to be Groeschel’s 50th anniversary as a priest. He and Dolan reminisced a bit about the “beautiful early days” before Vatican II made things nutty.

Groeschel: “I think the vocation ceased to be and what happened is it became a job or a profession. Don’t ever call the priesthood a profession.”

The duo talked a lot about the declining numbers of vocations to the priesthood.  Dolan offered an explanation that I’ve heard many times: “The problem is not that the Lord isn’t calling. He is calling. The problem is that we’re not listening.”

When Groeshel said that as a boy, he wanted to be a fireman, Dolan responded: “Well, you’re still saving the people from fire!”

Dolan laughed long and hard. I mean hard.

When he calmed a bit, Dolan said that he thought one reason that we have fewer priests is that fewer men are taught by nuns as children — a very plausible point.

Dolan said that the key — and he told me this several times in an interview — is that priests have to go about their lives with joy. Parents will not want their boys to become priests if their parish priests seem uninspired and tired all the time.

“Who wants to join a group of crabs?” he said, laughing. “Some of us have become that way.”

They talked a bit about the rise of a “new atheism,” which Dolan said might be a good thing if it shakes up the faithful. “I wonder if for too long we maybe coasted…” he said.

Groeshel started a conversation about what it means to be an orthodox Catholic. He said he did not like to be called conservative: “Conservative means preserving the status quo. I think the status quo should be dynamited.”

Groeschel said he has started a campaign to get nuns to wear habits, and acknowledged that he has gotten at least one angry letter from a dissenting nun.

He also came down hard on Catholic colleges and universities that do a poor job “representing the Catholic faith.” Dolan grimaced when Groeschel brought it up.

Groeschel came up with this unique, Groeschelian statement:

“I would think there is a special place in purgatory for those who run so-called Catholic colleges and universities that are not really living up to it. And when they get there in purgatory, they have bubble-gum flavored soda and Twinkies to live off for a long, long time.”

Well, the Archbishop of New York responded without missing a beat: “I wouldn’t mind that. I like Hostess Twinkies.”

Another ‘mistake’ for Fordham?

Obama wasn’t the only pro-choice pol to be honored by a Catholic university this past weekend.

Fordham gave an honorary degree to Mayor Bloomberg.

And Sen. Schumer apparently spoke, unannounced, at Fordham Law’s graduation.

The NYPost reports that Archbishop Dolan didn’t know about Bloomberg’s honor. He probably couldn’t have known about Schumer, who tends to show up at graduations around NYS and nab a few moments at the podium.

Last fall, Cardinal Egan slammed Fordham Law for giving an award to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, saying that the decision was a “mistake.”

A statement from the archdiocese at the time said that Egan addressed the matter with Fordham and that “As a result of these discussions, the Cardinal is confident that a mistake of this sort will not happen again.”

‘Without Jesuits, how can you call yourself Jesuit?’

The worsening shortage of Catholic priests will soon affect all corners of Catholic life.

That includes Catholic colleges.

The following AP story raises a real good question: How can Catholic colleges remain Catholic if the religious orders that provide their administrators and (some) faculty run out of priests?

Associated Press Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The shortage of Roman Catholic clergy isn’t just being felt in church.

Religious orders that have founded and run Catholic colleges and universities across the U.S. — in some cases for more than a century — are grappling with how to retain the institutions’ distinct religious identities in the face of declining numbers of priests and nuns.

d905df96dcc64c7581e89a240cc39884.jpgThe Rev. Timothy Lannon, president of Saint Joseph’s University, can envision a time when a lay person will lead the Jesuit school in Philadelphia because of the dwindling number of his brethren. So it’s important now to instill the order’s philosophy on campus through curriculum and staff initiatives, he said.

“Without Jesuits, how can you call yourself Jesuit?” Lannon said (that’s him).

Saint Joseph’s is not alone, said Richard Yanikoski, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

As religious orders shrink, the critical challenge is for Catholic identity “to be built into the goals and operations and practices of the institution,” Yanikoski said.

Retaining that identity was somewhat easier in previous generations when priests and nuns who ran the schools wore religious garb as they carried out teaching and administrative duties, he said.

“Everyone could see the Catholic identity of the institution in those people,” said Yanikoski.

Yet diminishing numbers, and members of orders opting for secular dress, have combined to change that sensibility at places like Saint Xavier University in Chicago, which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and where Yanikoski served as the third lay president.

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Benedict expected to have some things to say about Catholic colleges

For almost 20 years, there has been a simmering debate in the world of Catholic higher education about how Catholic all those Catholic colleges and universities need to be.

In 1990, Pope John Paul II called for Catholic institutions to refocus on their Catholic identities — and to be careful about widening the scope of their liberal arts missions to the point of allowing un-Catholic theology to masquerade as the real thing.

A papal document, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, spelled things out like this:

13. Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture(16), every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics:

“1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;

2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;

3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;

4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life”(17).

14. “In the light of these four characteristics, it is evident that besides the teaching, research and services common to all Universities, a Catholic University, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message. In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities. In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative”(18).

tjndc5-5b4wpivnwoks8s2d7p4_layout.jpg John Paul II started a debate that hasn’t gone away or been resolved. What does it mean to be a Catholic college? This question came up in 2004, when I wrote about Iona College returning crucifixes to its classrooms at the request of a benefactor.

Now Pope Benedict XVI is expected to pursue the question further.

He’ll address Catholic education offices (including Catholic college presidents) in Washington on April 17. The expectation is that he will ask Catholic educational institutions to act more Catholic.

The Rev. Timothy Broglio, archbishop of the U.S. military services, tells the Washington Post: “It’ll be very clear and distinct ideas. . . There will be no mistaking what he wants to say.”

But Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, says: “Whatever he says, I think, for the most part, it will fall on deaf ears. Universities are tough institutions to turn around, and faculty are very powerful. . . . I don’t think it will have much of an effect.”