Saturday, June 20, 2015

SGG’s School: A Bad Bargain

In his Bishop’s Corner in SGG’s May 3 Sunday bulletin, Dannie Dolan stated that this year’s SGG school enrollment was “more than any in the history of our little school” -- obviously intending to give the impression that the school was doing “better than ever” – and to refute the bad press that it has been getting.  Dannie’s comment, however, brings to mind one of Mark Twain’s more memorable quotes: “There are lies, there are damned lies -- and then there are statistics.”

Statistically, Dannie’s comment was correct.  The enrollment there is at the highest it has ever been; and since last year, it has grown by 25% or so. But what Dannie doesn’t mention is that this 25% increase is the result of one family (with six or seven kids) who recently joined up at SGG.  This information came our way by virtue of an e-mail that Pistrina Liturgica received recently from one of its readers (someone obviously intimately familiar with what’s going on at SGG).  The e-mail was reprinted by Pistrina in the comments section of one of its articles, and we have excerpted the following from it:

The swell in enrollment from last year to this year is due to the coming of one new family with 6 or 7 kids. Don't know the story behind it, and who knows what may become of them after the bloom is off the rose. I have a feeling this is another single parent situation or something, I could be wrong but I have strong doubts they pay any significant tuition.

The e-mail then went on to add:

Eight of the children belong to two families, let's call them the X family and the Y family. Now Mrs. X and Mrs. Y are sisters, and their parents are diehard Gerties of 30 years or more. Mrs X and Mrs Y are the youngest in their family, the older ones attend Immaculate Conception and send their kids there. Not that it's much better but it seems to at least be a real school. Mrs X and Mrs Y are probably the only families that pay tuition. Two of the children are kindergarten age. Interestingly, there would be one more but he was pulled OUT two years ago to go to a real (public) school with a music program as the boy is very talented. So you see one of 'our young organists' isn't really 'ours' anymore.

And then,

Another set of siblings, second-generation Gerties, accounts for four or five more of the children. This is another typical traddie low income scenario, almost guaranteed they don't pay.

It’s obvious from the foregoing that these four families account for the MAJORITY of the “student body” (18 or 19 students, out of a total of 25 or 26); and this does NOT include three of the principal’s kids (who go there tuition-free).  So, adding them in, the running total is 21 or 22 (out of the overall total 25 or 26) -- with only eight or so out of that total paying any meaningful tuition.  This is why the school is such a millstone around Dannie’s neck: with that few children paying tuition, how can he afford to pay the principal (and others in his family who are on the payroll – which, at last count, included his wife and at least one of his daughters)? 

Note also that there were at least two other teachers on the faculty as well (one was, we believe, a “volunteer,” and the other got a “nominal” salary).  But even granting that these two teachers received nothing at all, two things are certain: first, the principal and his family are getting the lion’s share of the “school money”; and second, tuition from eight or so students isn’t even going to begin to cover that “lion’s share.”  So where’s the bulk of the money coming from?  The Gerties, of course.

And what have they gotten for their money?  Not much.  In its first ten years of operation, the school graduated ONE student outside the principal’s family.  In fact, the vast majority of graduates have been the principal’s children.  (This year was no exception: the only graduate was one of the principal’s sons.)  And of those who do manage to “graduate,” NONE have achieved what one would call “academic distinction.”  The school, in fact, is woefully inadequate in preparing a student for competing academically in today’s world.  Perhaps this is why the older sibling of those two sisters (the “Mrs. X and Mrs. Y” mentioned in the e-mail) sends his children to another school (Fr. Jenkins’ Immaculate Conception School).  As the e-mail’s correspondent put it, ICseems to at least be a real school.”

And although the school’s enrollment is now “more than any in the history of our little school,” twenty-six students (for grades K through 12) is a pathetically small amount, given the size of SGG’s congregation.  Actually, most of SGG’s parents with school-age kids home-school them – or send them elsewhere (as that sibling of those two sisters does).  They know that not only will their kids get a better education, but they also won’t be subjected to the principal’s brutality (that resulted in half the parish exiting SGG back in 2009.*) 

The school’s physical facility itself has eight classrooms – for 25 or 26 students.  So, what are most of the rooms used for?  It turns out that  most of them are filled, not with students, but with Dannie’s junk.  The facility has turned out to be a huge waste of money.  But the biggest waste of money is its running cost.  Consider, for example, that the total remuneration that the principal and his family get for running this “school” is probably close to $100,000/year (and perhaps more).  Then consider that SGG’s weekly collection averages around $4000 (actually, it’s been running closer to $3000 lately); but assuming the  $4000/wk. figure, that’s $200,000 a year — which means that potentially half of it is going to the principal and his family. 

Remember, too, that there are other salaries to be paid, whether they be for other teachers, or for people who work in the parish office.   This doesn’t leave much for Dannie and Tony to live on – including “extras” (“doing Lent” in Mexico, “convalescing” in the posh desert southwest, or doing European “apostolates”).  That is why he needs to “put the squeeze” on the Gerties to pay his “high energy bills,” etc., to make these “extras” possible.

So, unless the school tuition is astronomical (which it can’t be), the bulk of the “school” cost (i.e., the cost to support the principal and his family) has to come from parishioners’ donations.  And what are they getting for their money -- besides giving the principal’s kids a free ride?  Nothing, basically.  The school is a financial (and academic) sinkhole, and parishioners are beginning to realize this.  That’s why most parents keep their kids out of it (that, and also because they don’t want their kids to be subjected to the principal’s sadistic “discipline”).  But as bad as the school is academically, spiritually it is even worse.  Just as Dannie focuses on irrelevant ceremonial minutiae (while ignoring fundamental Catholic morality), the school does much the same: children are told that “infractions” such as wearing an “inappropriate” head-band in church are mortal sins – yet, according to Dannie, watching porn isn’t.  It’s just a case of “boys will be boys.”

The school’s raison d'être is simple: to give the illusion that SGG a “full-service” operation.  In reality, the school is just another facet of Dannie’s “show” – long on cosmetics, and short on substance.  And what has it really “accomplished”?  In its more than twenty years of operation, how many priestly vocations has it produced?  Answer: ZERO.  And how many “graduates” (other than the principal’s children) has it produced?  Answer: less than a handful.  (The principal’s family accounts for more grads than all the rest combined.)  What the school has “accomplished” so far is to drive away dozens of SGG’s youth -- especially boys (and especially those who were recipients of the principal’s “discipline”).  And for such nonsense, the parishioners have paid a premium.

And the worst part is, they have no idea what that premium is.  So far, the Gerties have just “accepted” it.  But it’s time that they “un-accept” it.  For their own wellbeing, they need to insist on accountability – or, better still, insist on eliminating the school – because, whatever its cost, it’s a bad bargain.  But what could one expect from an operation run by Dannie Dolan?  And because of that, what they really need to do is to eliminate the whole SGG regime -- and the sooner, the better. 


* One “telling” thing is that among those “home-schoolers” are many SGG “stalwarts,” including the man whose father wrote several books that Dannie and Tony keep (and sell) in SGG’s bookstore.  This man, although he has first-hand knowledge of the abuses that occurred in 2009, pretends that “nothing bad” ever happened and that “all is well” – BUT, the fact that he doesn’t send his kid to SGG’s school “says something.”  He probably knows “down deep in his heart” that the school is a cesspool, and that the abuses that occurred there were for real -- but he “pretends along” for (perhaps) “appearance’s sake.”

Saturday, June 6, 2015

It’s All About the Show

In SGG’s May 17 Bishop’s Corner, Dannie Dolan lamented the poor attendance for the High Mass on Mother’s Day: Mother’s Day was interesting this year. I think I was a little disappointed as I was looking forward to a big attendance, mothers telling their grown up and away children that all they wanted was for them to come to Mass that day, as they used to do. But this has probably passed away with the corsage. High Mass attendance was thin.”  You see, for Dannie, “it’s all about “the show” – and Mother’s Day, with its May Crowning, its procession, and its over-the-top polyphonic High Mass, is always one of Dannie’s more spectacular “shows.”  (The procession is almost right up there with the one for Palm Sunday, except that it doesn’t sport a donkey – at least, not a four-legged one.)

For parishioners to have passed over this two-hour extravaganza for a Low Mass is, to Dannie, downright inexplicable – and almost sinful.  You see, for Dannie, “the show” is the only thing that counts.  Actually, to paraphrase the late Vince Lombardi, one might say that, for Dannie, “the show” isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.  “Dolly Dressup Dannie” doesn’t seem to realize that, in God’s eyes, a Low Mass is just as efficacious as a Pontifical High Mass -- that, for God, they are one and the same.  God does not care how many “bells and whistles” a Mass has.  (The first Mass – The Last Supper – certainly didn’t have any.)

Dannie also doesn’t seem to comprehend that there is more to Catholicism than “spectacle” – Catholic morality, for instance.  It is amazing that Dannie can place so much importance on “the show’ (such as, his “triple play” Requiem Mass for a woman who, ironically, was not only “Novus Ordo,” but who actually loathed Dannie), yet to show utterly no concern for a dying Terri Schiavo.  Speaking of “the show,” just last week Dannie was “waxing poetic” about an arcane “Praegustatio” rubric, and proudly proclaiming that SGG was “the last place in Christendom to observe this rubric, otherwise fallen into obsolescence.”  (The rubric has to do with the Mass celebrant having one of his MC’s consume a host before the rest are consecrated – “as a precaution against anyone poisoning the prelate.”) 

This is just another typical example of Dannie’s “false traditionalism”: he pays attention to superfluous rituals like that (to give the culties the impression that he’s an “expert” of rubrics and that he’s “guarding cherished Catholic traditions”), when in fact he’s resurrecting meaningless superficialities from the past that have long since lost their relevance (and which the Church has long since wisely discarded – and which, in this case, had no religious relevance to begin with).  In this way, he figures that, if he can demonstrate to the culties that he’s “preserving” rituals like “Praegustatio,” he’s taking care of everything else “Catholic.”

Actually, this will eventually backfire on Dannie, as people come to realize that, while he cares about obscure and irrelevant minutiae like this, he (and Tony) never cared one jot for things that matter -- a dying Terri Schiavo, for instance.  Keeping this arcane rubric “alive” is really “important” for Dannie; yet keeping Terri Schiavo alive wasn’t.  According to Dannie and Tony, her death was “justified”: it was okay for her to be starved and dehydrated to death -- not to have even a few drops of water for her parched, cracked, and bleeding lips.  Nor did it matter to them that she was oozing blood from sunken, dried out eye sockets.  This was “okay.”  It was “justified.”  Terri’s life -- and her final death agony -- were not “priorities” for them.

According to Dannie, it was also “okay” for the principal’s sons to watch porn and animal torture videos on the school computer (we wonder if Caravaggio played a “cameo role” in one of them) -- or for one of those sons to impregnate a fellow student.  According to Dannie, these were just cases of “boys will be boys.”  And according to Tony, the reporting of the myriad abuses witnessed by dozens of SGG’s parishioners back in 2009 was just so much malevolent fiction.  (In his words, all of what these people said amounted to “a few complaints about our little parish school [that] suddenly became a world-wide campaign of lies and calumny.”  According to Dannie and Tony, then, all of these dozens of people (all of whom, thankfully, have since left SGG), are liars and calumniators. So much for Dannie and Tony’s “morality”!

Dannie and Tony just pretend that none of those abuses ever happened, and they just go on with their “show” – often two-hour-or-more “bore-a-thons” that Gerties with crying babies are expected to sit through and “enjoy” – and God help the poor wretches whose babies are “disruptive” during the “performance”: their only option is to take the misbehaving toddlers out to the “crying room,” i.e., the vestibule, which is freezing cold during the winter and broiling hot in summer.  For this, they are expected to be “tickled pink” to endure this ordeal – er -- “show” that Dannie and/or Tony put on.

Well, perhaps the Gerties are tiring of “the show.”  Perhaps watching twelve middle-aged men getting their feet washed on Maundy Thursday is NOT “an edifying spectacle” for the children, nor is watching a donkey trudging along in a Palm Sunday procession (especially if you’re downwind of the beast).  These “spectacles” are, for those who have seen them umpteen times before -- and especially for those poor little tykes whose parents dragged them to church for the “foot washing” snore-a-thon -- an exercise in tedium.  We’re surprised that Dannie hasn’t come up with some “new material” to “update his act.”

But the truth is, people are catching on to his act -- and coming to realize that things like donkeys in Palm Sunday processions are just so much tinsel (and, for that matter, weren’t really done back in “the good old days”).*  The young, especially, see Dannie’s show as pretentious.  They’re not really impressed by his Barnumesque ostentation – especially after they’ve witnessed his “double-standard” hypocrisy (such as, having a boy beaten with a wooden paddle for missing his homework, while doing nothing about the principal’s sons' "porn escapades"). 

And the other parishioners?  Already worked to the nubs, they’re sick and tired of being “guilt-tripped” by Dannie for “not doing enough” (see “Guilt-Tripping” Won’t Work Anymore, Dannie).  They’re tired of being asked them to “sacrifice” and pay SGG’s “high heating bills” while Dannie vacations down in Mexico (or to “donate” so that Tony can buy himself a new organ).  They’re also probably getting tired of seeing the lion’s share of their donations going to support a school that is little more than a subsidized tutoring service for its “principal's” children.  And they’re getting tired of Dannie’s pretentious “show” – because they see that it’s just a façade, behind which there is no real Catholicism at all (especially, as noted before, Catholic morality).  They’re seeing it for what it is: a caricature of Catholicism – a sham. 

So, again, Dannie’s boastful braying about “praegustatio” will only backfire on him – and reinforce the growing feeling that he’s not about fundamentals, but about superficialities – about “the show.” And as attendance at “the show” (along with revenue) continues to dwindle, Dannie will have to get more and more desperate, and resort to even more draconian measures to stem the tide of the exodus, which means that he’ll try to put the squeeze on the Gerties even more -- which, in turn, will only irk them more.  That, coupled with his well-known “uneasy relationship” with the “principal,” ought to make for an “interesting” situation as time wears on.  As things get more “unsettling,” we shall see that situation “maturing”  -- and the curtain coming down on Dannie’s “show.”


* People are also getting tired of being in his act.  The choir, for instance: all of its male members have quit (including one who is a really dyed-in-the-wool “cultie”).  It now contains only women, and is “directed” by the principal’s wife.  According to one informant, the choir lately sounds a bit off-key, and has gone “downhill” under her tutelage.  (Perhaps that’s why Dannie felt compelled to make his Mother’s Day comment in defense of it: “Oh, and the choir was absolutely at its best.”)  Perhaps, too, she is the reason why those men quit.