If you haven’t heard, there’s a big shake-up under way in the St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic Archdiocese John Brewer of the Pioneer Press has the latest with a background interview with Archbishop John Nienstedt on the reasoning for the plan, which includes 21 parishes merging into 14 others. The complete plan is available on the archdiocese’s website as a PDF.
This is not the sort of news that is typically met well; in America, our two civic tragedies are the closing of a neighborhood church and a neighborhood bar. However, in a collaboratively written piece in the Pioneer Press, this announcement seems like news that parishoners were long expecting. “You don’t see a lot of kids around here anymore,” one says. “[W]e’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” says another.
Rupa Shenoy of Minnesota Public Radio delves into some of the reasons for the restructuring. She quotes Father Peter Laird, vicar general of the archdiocese: “Our giving has remained fairly constant. The difficulty is that costs have increased, and in some aspects our structures are becoming increasingly taxed.” Additionally, there has been an unmistakable drop in attendance. According to the archdiocese, “Nearly one-third of weekly masses in the archdiocese are less than one-third full.”
There have, it seems, been accusations that some of these church closings have been political — Nienstedt responds to the charges in a piece by Rose French of the Star Tribune. According to Nienstedt, churches were not selected for closing based on being too liberal. It’s all about what Rose summarizes as “tighter budgets, shifting demographics and a projected shortage of priests.” Of courser, all this leaves questions unanswered: Why the decline in parishioners? Why the projected shortage of priests? None of the stories cited attempted to answer that question, which is puzzling. We at the Glean suspect the archdiocese itself has attempted to answer the question.
On the topic of religion, Eric Ringham of Minnesota Public Radio asks the gubernatorial candidates a question that will allow us to segue neatly into the world of politics: What role should a governor’s religion play in his performance in office? All three frontrunning candidates gave more or less the same answer: that religion should be a guiding force, but the specifics of one religion should not set public policy; the governor’s job is to represent their entire constituency. That’s an especially interesting answer from GOP candidate Tom Emmer; after all, two of his planks (opposition to abortion and opposition to gay marriage) are explicitly religious in nature.
It’s worth noting that only three candidates were asked the question. They almost never get talked about, but there are other candidates, such as Linda S. Eno of the Resource Party and Chris Wright of the Grassroots Party, whose logo replaces the dot in the letter “i” in his last name with a marijuana leaf. Sure, they’re barely a blip in the polls, but at the moment, the same can be said of IP candiate Tom Horner, and he’s treated as a contender. But perhaps we at the Glean just wish the debates were open to more candidates, if only because they wind up being so interesting. Take the recent New York gubernatorial debate that included Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Not only does McMillan have one of the best campaign theme songs in modern politics (it plays automatically on his website), but he’s also a scintillating public speaker.
Speaking of Horner, at the moment, he’s polling at 14 percent, well below the 20 percent that he himself said he would need to stay competitive. It would take a heck of a jump in the next few weeks for Horner to win the election — and we haven’t found anything even similar to it in Minnesota politics. Heck, as far as we can tell, if Horner were to win, it would be the biggest political upset in history. Sure, there’s the legendary 1991 special election between appointed Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford and former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, where Wofford pulled ahead by 40 points. But he did that in six months, not three weeks, and had James Carville as one of his campaign managers. Sure, Horner was recently endorsed by the Strib, but as Eric Black points out, if an endorsement by the Strib indicates anything, it indicates who is going to lose the next election.
Speaking of endorsements, Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio reports on something interesting: A number of rural Republican mayors are, at best, ambivalent about supporting Tom Emmer out of fear that Emmer will cut state aid. “I don’t think Emmer is going to give us what we need,” Scheck quotes Glencoe Mayor Randy Wilson as saying. “I just think he doesn’t want to look for solutions.”
The most interesting thing taking place in mayoral politics is occurring in the tiny town of Mt. Holly. You may not have heard of this town — it is, in fact, one house, whose owner, Mike Haeg, has sort of wrangled semi-official status as a town, and made himself mayor. According to his blog, Haeg’s current public works project is to exchange direction arrows with whoever is interested. You know the sort — the type that hang from a pole outside the “M*A*S*H” tents that say “Chicago, 18,000 miles.” Send Mayor Haeg one of these arrows and he’ll hang it outside on his very own M*A*S*H pole, and then send you one in exchange to points to Mt. Holly. Ah, democracy.
In arts: Are you thinking about the federal duck stamp contest? Well, if so, kudos to you, because you’ll be competing against two nearly unbeatable Minnesota brothers whose only competition seems to be each other. This years winner, as reported by MinnPost’s Mark Neuzil, is James Hautman, his fourth victory. He defeated his brother Robert by one vote. Robert has won twice.
In sports: As it turns out, firing a Gophers coach isn’t as simple as handing him his pink slip and having security show him the door. No, you’ve got to buy out his contract, which will cost the University $775,000, according to Jana Shortal of KARE11. And, as MPR’s Tim Post points out, the next coach will probably cost more. For the University employees who were laid off this past year, it must be quite satisfying to know that at least the University can find this sort of money for their football team.