In an opinion piece in the New York Times a few weeks back, the writer said he was glad to be leaving Albuquerque because it was a “land of violence” where the rate of violent crime was twice the national average.

While the article provoked lots of discussion locally, the writer’s views of the city were not challenged by anyone at the City or State or in the local press. As one who frequently travels to large urban areas around the country, I found it hard to believe Albuquerque is extraordinarily dangerous. Could it be that I’m oblivious to the level of crime in the areas of the City I don’t frequent?

The FBI Crime Statistics for 2012 (the most recent full-year FBI numbers available) do indeed state that the rate of violent crime in Albuquerque is twice that of the country as a whole.

So Albuquerque is the most dangerous place in the country, right? Not exactly.

It turns out that of the 74 U.S. cities with more than 250,000 people, only 7 had violent crime rates lower than the national rate. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure that large urban areas would experience more violent crime than do smaller cities or rural areas. The FBI numbers confirm that.

In the FBI ranking of large cities, Albuquerque comes in not at number 1 in violent crime but at number 29.

Among the 28 large cities that have higher rates of violent crime than Albuquerque, some a great deal higher, are Houston, Tulsa, Kansas City, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Las Vegas, Nevada. The writer of the Times article said he thought Albuquerque felt more like the Mission District in San Francisco than Tucson where he’d previously lived. Yet the rate of violent crime in Tucson is just below Albuquerque’s, ranking only 5 places behind it.

In any event, the FBI and the American Society of Criminology both caution against ranking cities based on FBI crime data.

The FBI on its web site says its data should not be used for rankings because they lead to “simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.”

In November 2007, the executive board of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) approved a resolution opposing not only the use of the ratings to judge police departments, but also opposing any development of city crime rankings from FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

The ASC resolution opposed such rankings on the grounds that they “fail to account for the many conditions affecting crime rates” and “divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities”, though it did not provide sources or further elaborate on these claims.

The ASC resolution also states the rankings “represent an irresponsible misuse of the data and do groundless harm to many communities” and “work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public”.

Certainly the City can and should do better in many ways but some perspective is in order.

PART I. THE TAKEOVER AND THE AFTERMATH

A former Aquinas Newman Center parishioner wanted to know if other former ANC parishioners were interested in celebrating Mass together at the Norbertine Community’s Abbey on South Coors. Knowing the Abbey chapel is quite small, she called ahead to see if it would be okay if 20-30 former ANC parishioners came to the 9:00 A.M. service on August 24.

Told that it was okay, she sent out an email to a few parishioners. They passed them on and on August 25 more than 200 former ANC parishioners converged on a chapel that seats only about forty. The Norbertine staff brought out chairs from the library, from offices and anywhere they could. In the end, almost all attendees found a seat. It was a fishes and loaves kind of happening.

Clearly, the former ANC parishioners hadn’t lost their sense of community in the two months since their church buildings and Dominican priory were in a sense expropriated by the Archbishop of Santa Fe by his removal of the ANC’s Dominican staff. The Dominican Order had created the ANC at the University of New Mexico more than 60 years ago and has staffed it since. The staff that replaced the Dominicans is of a different stripe altogether. They are from what is commonly referred to as the traditionalist wing of the Church, meaning (among other things) they do not embrace Vatican II. They yearn for the bad old days.

On the weekend of July 5th-6th, ANC parishioners attended the first Masses under the new staff at ANC. But many did not return. The chapel had been greatly changed in the few days since the July 1 takeover and this was the first opportunity for parishioners to see them. The altar had been relocated to the chapel’s east end and now had the look and feel of a stage on which the celebrants were to perform rather than engage. The former half-circle seating around a mid-chapel altar was no more. The long and narrow alignment meant that the Mass would now be more heard than seen by those sitting in the back half of the chapel, the reason why the altar had been in its former location.

The chapel had been redecorated but the effect was not pleasing. The formerly bright and cheery chapel now seemed dark, dull and lifeless. One parishioner aptly characterized it as “creepy”. Parishioners’ artwork that had formerly brightened the chapel and brought joy and inspiration was gone, replaced by dreary statues and Stations of the Cross depictions that must have come from the Dollar Store. The altar now sported three fancy chair/thrones on which the presiders now occasionally sat, dour and unsmiling.

The new pastor had little to say at his first Mass about the takeover and made no effort to mollify unhappy parishioners. His homily was okay but simplistic and portended a future of disappointing preaching. The standard set by homilists from the Order of Preachers (as the Dominican Order is called) would now only be a memory. What was most striking about the service itself was all the genuflecting, bowing, nodding and ceremonious moving about on the altar—a kind of formalism that brought to mind my altar boy experiences of the ‘50s. I had thought that platens were a thing of past once dry, non-slippery communion hosts began to be placed not on recipients’ tongues but on their hands, in accordance with Vatican II. After all, one of the rationales for the change was to reduce the number of dropped hosts. Yet here they were again. Altar servers carefully held the platens under the priests’ hands to catch wayward communion hosts. Communion was distributed only by clergy—lay people are no longer worthy at ANC. Further, there will be no women altar servers with possible exceptions for pre-menstrual females. For now, only men measure up.

Unsurprisingly, things have not gone well at ANC after the takeover. Several lightly-paid but popular ANC staff members were terminated when the new staff took over on July 1. These terminations occurred because the new pastor had decreed that only clerics, not lay people, had the qualifications to oversee religious education for children and the preparation of Catholic converts. For similar reasons, a lay Bible study teacher for many years was told he could not continue his classes at ANC.

Most of the choir members, most of whom have sung at the ANC for many years, had intended to stay on under the new pastor. But it wasn’t long before the new pastor complained that they were “distracting” the faithful and almost all decided to move on to other parishes and other choirs.

At this point, with Mass attendance and Sunday collections down by more than half, some say by much more than half, all of the remaining ANC administrative staff and the music director have now been laid off. The pastor pleads for more donations, saying he doesn’t want to ask the Archbishop for financial assistance to the parish, yet it’s hard to think of anyone more appropriate to help out.

In light of how things are going, the new pastor, who had refused all requests to meet with parishioners before the takeover, has now instructed his 26-year old associate pastor to reach out to current and former parishioners and invite them to an open community meeting. These efforts seem unlikely to bear fruit.

Needless to say, there was no reason for any of this painful, slow-moving disaster to happen. Before the takeover, the ANC was by all measures a thriving parish with increasing membership, a much-loved clerical staff and parishioners who generously funded and volunteered time to student activities at ANC, including a Sunday night dinner. The dinners are now being discontinued for lack of funds.

Why did all this happen? Although he claimed he sought only to increase vocations among students, Archbishop Sheehan had not been happy with the ANC for a long time, apparently because the Dominican priests at ANC followed the charism of their religious order, took Vatican II reforms seriously and embraced the words of Pope Francis. That is why they declined to follow the Archbishop’s wishes that they devote more of their preaching and parish activities to such matters as abortion politics and gay marriage. The Dominicans were also in his doghouse because they allowed women to speak from the pulpit from time to time, always earning reprimands from the Archbishop, even if the speaker was a Dominican nun.

Whatever the Archbishop claims were his motives for banning of the ANC Dominicans, the operative fact is that he is a traditionalist who, well after Pope Francis’ inauguration, wrote in praise of Pope Benedict for stifling Vatican II reforms. He wanted his parishes to follow his traditionalist lead and the ANC didn’t go along.

So a Pope Benedict Archbishop took down a Pope Francis parish.

PART II. WHAT CAN WE DO NOW? WHAT MUST WE DO NOW?

The deed and the damage have been done. The ANC diaspora has occurred. Hundreds of former ANC parishioners are now checking out other parishes in the Archdiocese and finding new spiritual homes. The Dominicans are gone and they won’t be coming back. This is not to say the ANC could not be resurrected by the appointment of a new pastor who truly believes that Vatican II is the law of the land.

Barring that unlikely event, what must we do? We must do two things: (1) be a positive influence on the selection of Archbishop Sheehan’s successor and (2) support efforts to reform the governance of the Catholic Church. Without such reform, other U.S. Archbishops will, like Archbishop Sheehan, continue to stand in the way of implementing Vatican II, hoping that Pope Francis’s tenure will be short, as it may well be considering his age.

According to Vatican II, we lay Catholics are entitled to assume this role. It said that the Church is the “People of God”, not the priests and the hierarchy. Yet when Church authorities began to roll back the reforms of Vatican II, we lay Catholics failed to assume our responsibilities as the People of God. We shrugged our shoulders in what-can-we-do resignation, allowing ourselves to remain an adjunct of the Church while the Church continued to define itself as the priests, the bishops and the pope.

To look back to several significant events since Vatican II is to see plenty of reason for us to join reform efforts. We see bishops covering up for pederast priests and then spending vast sums on legal fees to avoid compensating victims, many of whose lives were ruined. We see the Vatican rejecting the use of condoms for HIV prevention. We see continued sanctions on remarried divorcees while retaining the wink, nod and humiliation of the meaningless annulment process. We see the Vatican blocking the beatification process for Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred in 1980, a block that was lifted only this year. We see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing the Affordable Care Act on several grounds including its failure to allow employers to restrict access to contraceptives. We see Cardinal Müller criticizing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for “promoting radical feminist themes”. In a most personal way, we have seen a willful Archbishop single-handedly ruin a parish and then refuse to meet with even a single parishioner to discuss his actions.

It’s time for the People of God to step up to the challenge of improving Church governance. As you will see, there are already many working in this vineyard who can show us the way.

Influencing the Selection of the Next Archbishop of Santa Fe.

If we have learned anything from the ANC fiasco, it is that we don’t want another autocrat to be our new Archbishop. We want someone who thinks that lay people can make meaningful contributions to Archdiocese decision-making and will listen to them. Archbishop Sheehan claimed that is the case now but no one is taking that seriously, nor should they.
This point of view and others we wish to be considered in the selection process need to be brought in a useful way to the Apostolic Nuncio. It is the Apostolic Nuncio who will forward recommendations to the Vatican for Archbishop Sheehan’s successor.

We can do so through an organization known as Voice of the Faithful. VOTF is a leading and responsible advocate for Church governance reform. It was created a little over a decade ago when Boston Archbishop Bernard Law was discovered to have protected and reassigned predatory priests, enabling them to continue their crimes. These disclosures eventually led the Archbishop to abruptly move to a palace in Rome so as to avoid criminal charges in the U.S. As Catholic author James Carroll puts it, this incident created an “explosion of Catholic awareness of Church failures”. Very quickly, VOTF grew from a few dozen to more than fourteen thousand people. Today VOTF has more than 100 affiliate organizations and more than 25,000 members. The slogan of VOTF is “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.”

In 2012, the Bishop Selection Working Group of VOTF launched and continues to host a web portal (http://www.votf.org/bishop/) enabling Catholics to provide input into the selection of bishops, such as the needs of their diocese, the desired qualities of their next bishop, and the names of potential nominees. This input is then transmitted directly to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington D.C. who is charged with making formal recommendations to the Vatican on candidates for bishop. In 2012, nearly 200 Chicago-area Catholics utilized this portal and another 200 filled out a related second survey. The lay participation was said to be the best-facilitated volunteer input to a Catholic bishop selection in modern times.

Surely we can and should do as well.

John Doyle who chairs the VOTF Bishop Selection Working Group, advises that though there were few if any acknowledgements of the many letters recently sent by ANC members in regard to Archbishop, that does not mean they were not read by the Apostolic Nuncio and his staff. In fact, Archbishop Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio, has committed to assuring that all input reaching him from individual Catholics via the bishop selection web portal will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.”

Mr. Doyle recommends that as broad a cross-section of Catholics as possible should respond. He also suggests that letters should not focus solely on Archbishop Sheehan’s actions at ANC. That would contribute to an impression that only the disgruntled parishioners of a single parish have concerns. The ANC disaster is over. Our concerns are much broader.

For example, we are all hopeful the new Archbishop will actually consult and listen to the laity. Also, many of our former ANC parishioners are strong supporters of Vatican II and so we hope to have an Archbishop who intends to it as well. These are merely illustrations. Speak from your heart.

Improving Church Governance.

The ANC disgrace occurred because there are no checks on the authority of the Archbishop of Santa Fe, no matter how wrong-headed or venal the exercise of that authority may be. In any other organization, including those far smaller than the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, board members or advisory groups have meaningful roles in decision-making. The chief executive officers report to them. Not so in the world of Catholic governance. An Archbishop shares power only if he chooses to do so. It remains as described in that old expression, “pray, pay and obey.”

This same situation exists in all Catholic Archdioceses, though clearly not all Archbishops are autocrats in the Archbishop Sheehan mold. A strong proponent of improved Church governance is Emeritus Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco. He has written two books on the subject that received praise from Pope Francis. Archbishop Quinn proposes a more collegial church as is envisioned in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, “The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”. Archbishop Quinn and his book are described in a National Catholic Reporter article in July: http://ncronline.org/news/people/quinn-priest-group-church-poised-moment-far-reaching-consequences.

You might also consider getting a copy of James Carroll’s Toward A New Catholic Church published in 2002. You will find it just as, if not more, pertinent today as it was then.

Even if all that you can offer is prayer, you should be engaged in the efforts to improve church governance. Those who are able should also consider supporting VOTF and/or other organizations that advocate for improved Church governance. And we should also consider creating a local organization that could affiliate with one or more of these national organizations for assistance in making our voices heard.

I cannot provide sufficient information here on which you can make an informed judgment on whether to support these organizations. You will have to go their websites and study their descriptions of their work. I have studied the websites of the organizations listed below and I am enthused that such robust efforts in the governance arena exist:

Voice Of The Faithful (votf.org), described above, also supports victims of clergy abuse and has other worthy programs such as the bishop selection effort.

Call To Action (cta-usa.org) was created in the 1970s in collaboration with the U.S. Bishops but the bishops were not enthused about some of the reforms proposed and backed away. Be sure to read the 1990 Call For Reform which can be found in the History section of the website.

FutureChurch (futurechurch.org) advocates for collaborative governance, married and celibate priests, male and female Church leadership and broad access to the Eucharist

The American Catholic Council (americancatholiccouncil.org) is a quite recently-formed organization that has developed a Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that all will find very interesting. The ACC held a national meeting in Detroit a couple of years ago that my wife and I attended and we found it both instructive and inspiring. Interestingly, the Archbishop of Detroit threatened any priest who attended with sanctions, yet quite a few were there.

There are likely other worthy organizations similar to these that you may discover and want to support.

Finally, in the aftermath of the Archbishop and ANC, it is important for all of us to do a better job of staying informed about what’s going on in the Church today. The National Catholic Reporter does an excellent job of covering developments in the Church and you’ll remember it told the world about Archbishop Sheehan’s actions at the ANC. The Reporter is a well-written and independent source of news and information on all facets of the Church and it has gained some predictable enemies in the process. The Reporter also includes stories of Catholics doing great things around the world that help us maintain pride in our church, despite the shortcomings of some of our Archbishops. The National Catholic Reporter can be read online at ncronline.org. It has no paywall though voluntary contributions are requested. Or you can subscribe and get the newsprint version.

As VOTF says: Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

From what I saw and what others are saying, it was quite an operation at the Aquinas Newman Center this week when the former Dominican chapel, as it had evolved over 64 years, was re-made into a “traditional” church.

The Dominicans are gone, banned by the Archbishop effective Tuesday, and the views of parishioners on the changes were not solicited.

So there they were, the newly-appointed parish priests, seminarians receiving on-the-job training in authoritarianism, even the Archbishop, all marching in, tossing out what they found unacceptable, often just not fancy enough, whatever suited them — out with the old, in with the ancient.

Giddily redecorating their conquered prize, they were like Huns who had just taken the castle.

THE END IS NEAR

July 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

The final Masses under the Dominican Order at the Aquinas Newman Center were held last Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29.

At each Mass, Fathers Dan Davis and Rich Litzau, the only Dominicans still in residence as their departure day neared, thanked the congregation warmly for their love and support over the 64 years of Dominican service to the parish.

There were several standing ovations at each Mass and each closed with a “Vaya con Dios” prayer and a community blessing over the Dominicans, with congregants singing the Dominican blessing.

The Dominicans are leaving ANC by virtue of their removal from the parish by the Archbishop of Santa Fe effective June 30.

Parishioners reluctantly left the Church, many with tears in their eyes, providing final hugs to the last of the “banned” or “deported” priests, as they are sometimes described in the parish. Other Dominican parish priests and a religious brother had left earlier, reporting to new assignments in the Midwest.

Big changes at ANC are already in process.

The artwork that has been a prominent feature of the ANC chapel for many years will no longer be displayed. With such a bounty, the parish was able to display a different selection of original sacred art in each liturgical season. Even an Our Lady of Guadalupe painting has been rejected as sacred art, despite the reverence with which she is held in Hispanic New Mexico.

Many of the altar vessels (in particular, those not made of silver or gold) and linens have been deemed inadequate and are being discarded. The rejected linens were lovingly hand-sewn by parishioners over the years.

The altar wine was found to be insufficiently pure and will be replaced.

The parish’s modest tabernacle does not meet the new staff’s standards and is being replaced by a more elaborate one.

[It’s a wonder that funds for all this are being made available. Is it thought that such finery will win over a skeptical parish? All that glitters is not gold.]

Next on the hit list was the library. On Wednesday, seminarians and others were brought in to review all the books in the parish library and to remove those deemed unsuitable.

The former ANC staff is largely being eliminated. Minimally compensated lay people have for many years directed various parish programs such as RCIA, campus ministry, religious education, parish liturgy and development. Now all but the music director (though he will no longer oversee liturgy) have been advised that priests and deacons will assume the management of most or all of these activities.

The use of lay Eucharistic ministers who distributed communion is being discontinued. Hereafter, only priests, seminarians and deacons will be permitted to distribute communion. Long communion lines can be expected.

It appears the new staff of two diocesan priests who replace the former Dominican staff of four priests and a religious brother will be stretched quite thinly.

Canon law since 1983 has expressly permitted girls and women to serve as altar servers and for years they have served in that capacity at ANC. But that will end. Only men will hereafter be permitted to be altar servers and they will be required to wear cassocks and surplices.

As rumored, the chapel is being extensively remodeled. Decades ago, in the spirit of Vatican II, the parish community moved the altar from the east end of the somewhat narrow chapel to its middle, bringing parishioners closer to the presider at Mass and each other. Until now, the congregation has sat in a semi-circle around the altar.

Apparently this has been deemed not sufficiently orthodox and so workmen arrived early Tuesday to begin tearing down the existing altar and moving it back to its former location and adding other orthodox features. Members of the Knights of Columbus are to arrive soon to add even more traditional trappings.

On the chopping block is an adoration chapel containing the tabernacle. It was created years ago at the west end of the chapel. It provided parishioners who wished to pray quietly outside Mass times the opportunity to do so in solitude. The tabernacle will be relocated to the new altar, a move which the new pastor has characterized as “moving Jesus out of the closet”.

Similarly, a small chapel at the rear of the church building, formerly used for smaller prayer services and for daily Masses, will no longer be in service.

It’s very hard not to consider all these actions high-handed. Decisions in all these matters are being made and carried out by persons who know little or nothing about the parish, its parishioners or its 64-year history.

ANC parishioners were not consulted on any of these changes. The new pastor resisted all attempts to meet with parishioners before the July 1 transition date, saying he was too busy.

As all of the public Masses during this week were canceled, most parishioners will learn of the remodeling of the chapel and the many other changes for the first time at this weekend’s services.

What’s next? God only knows.

Try as I might, I’m having a hard time developing enough Christian goodness to be forgiving or even nice about the forthcoming changes at Newman which include running off the Dominicans who staffed the parish for over 50 years and then unilaterally deciding to redo the church and staff before their first day in charge so that all evidence of the Dominicans’ presence will be eradicated.

But it’s also true my wife and I also recognize that we have  taken the joys of our relationship with the Dominicans over more than 50 years for granted.

We had it so good for so long. All we had to do was show up at Mass and be informed, guided, encouraged and inspired by any one or more of our thoughtful Dominican preachers.

We never had to wonder where to go for a meaningful sermon, to get spiritual guidance, or find an intelligent voice of reason when we needed it.

It was all there for the asking.

Now we’re forced to explore and discover what our future parish connection will be. Stay with the parish and its new pastor? Sample other parishes? Check out the preaching there? Gauge their music programs, the availability of Bible study, the quality of the catechism programs, their Mass schedules, other possible considerations?

This could be good for us, make us stretch a little, think harder, become more proactive in our desire to be good Christians, take a more affirmative, intentional role in determining our spiritual future.

Yes, what the Archbishop and his designated pastor are doing is hard to forgive.

Here’s the sad thing: we’re presided over by an Archbishop who after 50 years as a priest still doesn’t realize that changing the layout of the Newman Center chapel really isn’t going to make its parishioners better Catholics.

A CATHOLIC SPRING

March 25, 2014 — 2 Comments

A Catholic Spring Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Is it silly to group these together?

A bit, if only because one is not Arab. Overblown? Maybe. Frivolous? Sort of. Ridiculous? Not really.

All around the world, whether governments, religious organizations or other big institutions are involved, there always seem to be a few leaders who believe they have all the answers, certain there’s no reason for any input from those they claim to serve. In every case, it’s just a matter of time before things start going bad.

Until recently, you could count the Roman Catholic Church among these hapless few. You saw the headlines.

The Catholic Church actually made the decision to change its ways fifty years ago at Vatican II. But the Vatican II reforms were pretty much put on ice during the reigns of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

All that has changed in the course of the last twelve months as Pope Francis has made it clear that Vatican II really is the law of the land and it’s time for the Church to get in sync.

Unfortunately, some haven’t gotten, or choose not to hear, the message. They hope Pope Francis is just a flash in the pan.

As only one example, six months after Pope Francis became Pope, our traditionalist Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe was still saying in the Archdiocesan newspaper how grateful he was that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had kept the lid on Vatican II reforms.

Demonstrating just how he feels about all that Vatican II foolishness about dialogue and collaborative decision-making, the Archbishop marched in to the Aquinas Newman Center at UNM on a Monday morning a few weeks back, announced that effective July 1 (just a few days before his mandatory retirement) he was cleaning house, removing the Dominican staff, sending them back to where they came from and installing traditionalist priests of his choosing.

His actions stand a good chance of wrecking a growing and thriving parish of 750 families and hundreds of UNM and CNM students.

Ironically, this was the same month that Pope Francis declared that bishops need to work more cooperatively with priests from religious orders in their dioceses and respect their unique ways. Like the Dominicans, for instance.

The Aquinas Newman Center was actually created by the Dominican Order, not the Archdiocese, more than 60 years ago and has been staffed by the Order ever since. Two diocesan priests, one a 26 year old, have been chosen to replace the four Dominican priests and a religious brother the Archbishop has banished. The new priests will hardly have the capacity to serve parishioners in anything near the robust fashion the Dominicans have and there is little likelihood they will turn them into traditionalists.

So why would the Archbishop make these moves? Why push out four Dominican priests when the Archdiocese has such a shortage of priests that each year it has to bring in more and more Asian and African priests to staff its parishes?

The reasons for what the Archbishop has done are simple, and not limited to a lack of priestly vocations as he claims.

The Archbishop simply likes the old ways of the Catholic Church and he thinks the Dominicans should have foisted them on the Aquinas Newman Center. You know, the ones where Archbishops get to tell everyone what to believe, what’s sinful, how to vote and who is allowed to receive Communion (not divorced and remarried Catholics, for sure). And oh yeah, and who gets to speak from the pulpit (women? no chance, doesn’t matter who they are).

Not surprisingly, this kind of stuff is a hard sell at a university-based parish.

Well, the Archbishop has sure fixed their wagon. He’s got the Dominicans packing up and heading off while flummoxed parishioners are doing all they can to stop the destruction of their parish. And Archbishop Sheehan? Well, he’s preparing to move into the not-so-modest-or-Pope Francis-like retirement house the Archdiocese bought for him in the Oxbow development overlooking Albuquerque.

Was Archbishop Sheehan forthright enough to step up beforehand, tell the Dominicans or the parish what he was thinking, provide any kind of warning before his Monday Morning Massacre? No.

Does he feel the need to meet with parishioners to explain, even discuss his action? No.

Do we need a Catholic Spring? You bet.

The three gaming casinos on the Navajo Reservation have created badly-needed jobs on the reservation. But a proposed gaming compact negotiated by the Governor’s office extending and expanding gaming on the Navajo reservation should not be approved by the Legislature unless it expressly permits the approval by the State of online gaming. In 2011, the U.S. Justice Department declared that online gaming did not violate federal law. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have since authorized online gaming and eight other states have it under consideration. Many expect it to be adopted across the country. If New Mexico approved online gaming, the state could gain badly needed revenues. While the wisdom of expanding gaming in New Mexico is certainly debatable, the state has other options, given that online gaming could have a potentially devastating effect on tribal casinos. For example, the state could offer the gaming tribes a deal under which it would agree not to authorize online gaming if the tribes agreed to badly-needed updates to their gaming compacts. These updates would include:

  • Increased revenue sharing to replace the revenue lost by not authorizing online gaming.
  • More comprehensive regulatory oversight. The LFC staff reports it currently is not possible to determine if tribal casinos are in compliance with their compacts.  
  • Shortening the inexplicably long terms of the compacts. Many casinos have been operating since 2001 or earlier and most of the current compacts are dated 2007. But they won’t expire for another 24 years. Arizona’s gaming compacts are much shorter. 
  • Limit the deployment of so-called Class II gaming machines on which tribes are not required to share revenue. Originally, Class II gaming meant bingo games. But now tribal casinos are increasingly deploying so-called Class II bingo gaming machines that look and play like slot machines except that no revenue from these machines is shared with the state. In 2012, the Navajo Nation opened a casino devoted exclusively to Class II gaming machines that does not share revenues with the state.
  • Require, as Arizona does, that gaming tribes share some of their revenues with non-gaming tribes not so fortunate as to be located on interstate highways.
  • Require the tribal casinos to compensate local governments for the emergency services provided to them. 
  • Resolve the controversial “free play” promotions where casinos entice gamblers by letting them pay for free but if the gambler wins, the winnings are used to reduce the “net win” shared with the state.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the programs of assistance to problem gamblers that casinos are required to be provide must be enhanced. The state must be allowed to assess the extent of problem gaming, gauge the effectiveness of the treatment gaming tribes are providing and make sure enough resources are devoted to treatment.   

There is good reason to believe that problem gambling in New Mexico is far more serious problem than we now believe. A series of articles on problem gambling recently appeared in Oregon’s leading newspaper, The Oregonian. The state of Oregon contracted for an extensive study of problem gambling in that state. The study concluded that most of the revenues from the state’s licensed slot and poker machines come from just a sliver of players who lose thousands of dollars yearly, primarily from slot and video poker gaming machines. The study found that problem gamblers typically remained at slot and poker gaming machines until their wallets were empty. Past studies of problem gambling have reached similar conclusions. A recent book by an MIT scientist details how math experts and neuroscientists were hired by by gaming machine manufacturers to create whole new generations of electronic slots meant to attract younger customers used to playing arcade-style video games. The idea, says the author, is to lull players into a sense that they’re winning even as they lose 60-90% of the money they put in these machines. The newspaper reports that new gaming machines will soon be available in Oregon, and likely in New Mexico, that are designed to be even more addictive than those now in use. It’s important for New Mexico to discover whether the scope of problem gaming in New Mexico is similar to that of Oregon. The New Mexico Council on Problem Gaming, designated by the gaming casinos and racinos to carry out their obligations to assist problem gamblers, chooses not to disclose the number of problem gamblers that have contacted it. However, its most recent annual report states that 72 percent of problem gamblers who have contacted NMCPG primarily use slot machines. These gamblers averaged 21 hours per week at casinos and they had average gambling debts of $11,600. The NMCPG also reports that in 2012 tribal casinos and racinos provided a total of only $212,000 to NMCPG to treat problem gamblers, one-eighth of what is spent in Arizona for treatment. Whatever happens with the proposed Navajo compact, the decision whether to authorize online gaming does not have to be made now. That question will, however, become a moot point if the Legislature approves the Navajo compact without assurance that future approval of online gaming is permissible and does not relieve the Navajo casinos of the obligation to share revenues with the State.