Monthly Archives: November 2012

Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany: Hypocritical on PC

The Editor of the Evangelist, a Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and a Publication that Advertises a Wide Variety of Goods and Services, Recently Refused to Publish An Ad for An Interfaith Chaplain.

 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
— Matthew 25:35-36

A New Scandal Brewing?


With Attitudes Like Albany’s,
The Church Will Soon Look Like This!
Where are the Leaders?!?

The Evangelist, having received the display ad and having made changes to the ad several times, accepted the ad and accepted payment for the ad. The next day, the advertiser received an e-mail from the editor stating:

We have become aware that you are not working through any parish or with the support of the Albany Diocese. Therefore, we are unable to accept your Compassionate Care Associates advertisement. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Not only is this action by a minor employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany clearly discriminating, it flies in the face of pretty much everything the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has been allegedly supporting (at least on the surface) in terms of interfaith, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, ministry, etc. etc. Do we smell rotten hypocrisy at work.

Or can it be that the Diocese is playing dirty pool? It can’t provide adequate ministers to the sick and dying so no one is going to do so.

And what about the negative PR? What does this action broadcast about the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and its love of all creation, its welcoming of all people, its embrace of all things serving the common good?

The Response is Deplorably Ignorant

Since we are here considering the response of an organ of the Roman Catholic Church as represented in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, it is appropriate to cite some of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the magisterium, which expressly embraces with a sense of anticipation and hope the commitment to ecumenism and interfaith dialogue as a duty of human conscience, but especially the Christian conscience, in relationship enlightened by faith and guided by love,  the  man Jesus the divine Christ himself, in his Passion, prayed “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). This unity, which the Divine has bestowed on his people and on creation overall, and in which I believe the Divine will is intended to embrace all people and all creation, is not just a Divine afterthought or a creaturely wishful thinking, but stands at the very heart of the Christ’s mission. It is heterodoxy to teach that this commitment, this duty, this vision of unity is some secondary attribute of a select community of disciples. Rather, I would assert, it belongs to the very essence of creation. (cf Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, May 25, 1995).

While it is not my intention to proselytize or to be disrespectful of non-Christian traditions when I figuratively or metaphorically use the name “the Christ”, I sincerely believe that our response to persons in crisis, suffering, dying must be such that we are willing and able to see the “Christ” in them and they in turn are able to encounter the “Christ” in us. Although many of us undoubtedly discover this ideally reciprocal response in the context of a religious or spiritual or faith tradition, even those without “faith” can be guided, supported to look beyond their own suffering to see the human dignity and goodness of those who suffer, and of those who minister to the suffering.

The “Christ” should be read here as the imago Dei (the image of the Divine Creator) not just the socio-political affiliation with a company club, a parish. Good works are good works, discipleship is discipleship, charity is charity, koinonia is koinonia regardless of your ‘company’ affiliation. We are all called to compassion and responsibility, unity, and those of us called to a ministry of pastoral, spiritual, emotional care of the suffering cannot and will not be deterred by the ignorant.

Hence, Compassionate Interfaith Pastoral Care, then the Evangelization or Catechesis, if Appropriate and Desired. The Church as Historically and Typically Approached this Ass-end Backwards!

Pope Paul VI famously quipped, «Da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio». (“Satan’s smoke has made its way into the temple of God through some crack.”) —Pope Paul VI, 1972. How true! But the traditionalists and conservatives feeling that the mainstream Church was falling into decline had no idea of how far afield the Roman Church had actually strayed. These fundamentalists believed they knew what that smoke might be and how they planned to halt its spread. From conservatives and their steadfast moral militancy, to separatists and their belief in the need for alternative communities, to Marianists and their tenets of mystical prophecy, the the obstreperous female religious and their disobedience and promotion of an almost heretical theofeminism—but the actual Satan was a special insidious liberalism and it’s that liberal laxity that is costing the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese dearly in terms of credibility and faithful. The Diocese lacks good leaders but has an abundance of negative defensive placeholders. But more on that later. The place is getting too smokey now.

smoke church

Stay tuned for a continuation of this investigation on what the Roman Catholic Church says and what he Roman Catholic Church does, especially through its lay minions, affects all of us at large in our ministries.

We have given the editor until Monday, December 2, 2012, to organize her defense. On December 3, we’ll bring out the big guns. Let the games begin!

The Editor

The Editor

The Rejected Advertisement

Hospital & Institutional Chaplain * Spiritual Guidance * End-of-Life & Grief Support * Funeral Officiation * Memorial Services
Ethics Consultation

Compassionate Care Associates
Interfaith Pastoral Care

By Arrangement Through Your Healthcare / Nursing Care Provider or Your Funeral Services Provider

Telephone: (518) 479-0525 / 466-4482 (Urgent)



Pastoral Care Debacle…

As A Pastoral Care Provider and As A Consumer of Pastoral Care Services in Hospitals and Nursing Homes We Have An Obligation to Be More Critical and Ask More Questions. We Must Have A Voice.

We Must Ask Critical Questions!

Over the years I have done a great deal of reading, research, and critical thinking about pastoral care, spiritual support, chaplaincy and have come to some conclusions. Some of these conclusions are disturbing, others are illuminating, some are constructive, others are serious wake-up calls. So let me throw a couple of them out and get some feedback from my pastoral care colleagues and from some of our readers who may be on the receiving end of our well-meant efforts.

Pastoral care used to be the ministry of the clergy or at least the pious religious, usually in monasteries or in hospitals run by religious orders. The theory was basically to perform acts of mercy, to provide spiritual encouragement and guidance, to attempt to alleviate suffering, and to make the transition from life here to life in the hereafter somewhat easier. Not much has changed from say the 13th century to the 21st century, despite the fact that we’ve had more than 800 years to re-evaluate and update our operations.
From my perspective, pastoral care continues to be a ministry but more than that it is a vocation, a calling. True, we in professional chaplaincy have professional degrees in theological studies, pastoral studies or have even gone through studies leading to the advanced degrees of master of divinity or a doctorate in ministry. Some have succumbed to the lobbying and the arrogance of the 20th century’s panacaea, its answer to everything: certification. But this notion of lobbying and influence peddling, of certification, though well-intentioned enough, has gone awry and has become merely another MBA scheme. Far from its original intention of benefitting the recipient of pastoral care it has become yet another way to promote questionable ideologies, to form cliques, to push political agendas, to become esclusive in too many ways. In fact, by virtue of the numbers, the whole system of certification of pastoral care providers has become almost fraudulent; indeed, many of those certified have forgotten the humility and discipleship that underscores the authentic pastoral care provider and have become mini-celebs, or the divine’s personal liaison to the suffering.

This problem, and a problem it is, is not primally that of the novice who enters the tutelage of a so-called “certified supervisor” in a “certified clinical pastoral education” program, but is created and perpetuated by individuals with an agenda and a mission: that of notoriety and recognition, of being the one who has made pastoral care a bonum fides entity in holistic healthcare delivery. Half-baked didactics, half-hearted supervision, checking the text messages and emails, rushing off to this or that committee meeting, Oops! off to a conference, politicking for that grant or those funds, prettying up the place for the site visit, etc. forms the day-to-day routine of the “certified supervisor.” The intern is left pretty much on his or her own after having paid up to about $700 just to be an intern! What’s worse, the hospital gets reimbursed for the services performed!

In this entire process, however, something is missing. Sure there’s structure. Of course there’s “standards.” And yes, there is the opportunity to learn a great deal on the floors and about one’s self but little thought is actually given to the effects on the recipients of the pastoral care being delivered–and that pastoral care, if we can throw that term about somewhat carelessly, does vary enormously depending on the intern’s background, faith tradition, education, and experience.

All too frequently, as in any hierarchical, corporate organization you’ll go far in terms of the certification process if you don’t buck the supervisor, if you don’t question his or her doctrines and dogmas, if you don’t have any thoughts of your own, if you prostrate yourself before the supervisor, and your don’t ask too many questions–and you’ll fare much, much better if you keep your mouth shut and play stupid. Just be corporate and know your “boundaries.”
Hospitals and nursing homes, despite what we read in the professional journals, play loosey-goosey with pastoral care. Most have no clue what a professional pastoral care minister is and they’re happy in their ignorance. Ask around, if you’re curious or looking for placement or even looking for a care facility for yourself or a loved one and you’ll be shocked to find that pastoral, religious, spiritual care is tucked away between personal laundry services and janitorial services, or is included in the activities department with ballroom limping and paper flower making, or is simply relegated to the volunteer department. In other words, one of the most important aspects of the suffering person’s pilgrimage through bereavement, pain, illness, his or her anxiety and existential questions are largely ignored in favor of things to pass the time and beautician services. In other words, much of what is done takes on a cold technical-scientific aspect or is window-dressing to make the facility as marketable and pretty as possible, not for the patient-resident, but to sell the place to the family and keep the bottom line in the black. That’s at the administrative level, of course.

We cannot do enough justice to the dedicated and committed souls on the floors, in the trenches as it were, those with direct patient-resident contact, the living saints: the nursing staff and the nursing aids and therapists who serve in a vocation on a par with that of the professional chaplain. But we must be clear that the spiritual, the religious, the emotional aspect of the patient-resident, an eminently important part of the healing of the wounds of the suffering, is largely treated with a bandaid.

Turf Wars Are Not Uncommon

There are turf and territory concerns, too. I know of no so-called director of pastoral care or a director of volunteer services who would admit that he or she is unqualified for the job of overseeing and coordinating pastoral care to patients and residents. Regrettably, most are ignorant and most take advantage of their position to be self-important in the institution. The standard is generally “good enough” to get under the wire.

Pastoral care is a healthcare specialty and the professional chaplain is a healthcare profession who makes valuable contributions to patient-resident care on the inter- and multi-disciplinary healthcare team. A local clergy person plucked from the community and providing monthly liturgy or worship ritual or popping in to visit patients or residents affiliated with his or her faith tradition is not a chaplain. Most local volunteer clergy have little or no training in clinical pastoral care, little or no knowledge of hospital or medical technology or procedures, many have their own issues, and most are pitifully overworked and distracted by the demands of their parish or congregation. Local volunteer clergy are poor substitutes for dedicated pastoral care professionals.

Most volunteer coordinators and most directors of pastoral care in our hospitals and nursing homes are unaware of the fact that federal and state laws apply to pastoral care and the Joint Commission for Accreditaion of Hospital Organizations, the people who inspect and accredit hospitals and other healthcare facilities, require pastoral care services, and have scoring categories that apply to how the pastoral care is delivered. Do most hospitals and nursing homes comply? Absolutely not!

I’m Here To Stay…I’m Not Budging!

In fact, the era of the denominational hospital is past! There will be no more “Catholic,” “Lutheran,” etc. hospitals run by denominations and adhering to the denomination’s philosophies, ethical tenets, doctrines, etc. Not if they want to continue receiving federal and state administered funds! The age of the interfaith institution is nigh. No more bedside evangelization and proselytizing is out. You even have to ask permission to pray now! Sure we have some prehistoric remnants, fossils remaining on the staffs and boards, even running the pastoral care departments. These are mostly nuns who are making money for their communities and who defend their turf with a religious fervor. There are also priests and ministers who serve part time as pastors and play pastoral care director or chaplain the rest of the time. In an age when parishes and congregations are starving for pastoral leadership, I cannot understand why religious and clergy are allowed to take secular jobs but Hey! there’s hypocrisy everywhere. But this is definitely a conflict of interests considering the constraints and needs, not to mention competency questions.

Most hospitals and nursing homes drag their feet, put up smoke screens, lie on their websites and in their marketing literature, or do just enough to make an impression, and fail in most of the more critical aspects of pastoral care services to their patients and residents.
This article will be continued…

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