Mr. Wilkes, also the author of The Good Enough Catholic, presents examples of parishes that he and other Liberal, dissenting types would champion as beacons of Catholic-lite. One example is Christ The King in Las Vegas.
The church has no kneelers, so nobody kneels. The Tabenacle which houses our Lord's body has been shunted
off to a side chapel! Pita bread is used for Communion and,
if you walked in to the Church, you'd never guess it was a Catholic Church. There is nothing adorning it's walls. No Stations of the Cross, no nothing. Not real orthodox stuff.
Word of mouth and trial and error are better guides.
Mr. Wilkes offers an inspiring overview of "excellent" Catholic parishes, but the nuts and bolts of running an "excellent" parish are ignored. This is not a "how-to" book as much as a presentation of church communities too good to be true.
In fact, I have been to three of these "excellent" parishes and can assure you that they are simply hyped parishes who at one time or another had a charismatic pastor. They are the flavor of the month, and in a few years will look as faddishly ridiculous as afros or SUVs.
St. Mary Magdalen in Florida, where I grew up, is now a parish ruled by a "lay-ocracy" of parishioners, typically wealthy, who push through their own programs at the expense of less influential members. They recently raised money to renovate their 25 year old chuch, but wealthy members convinced a weak pastor to spend the money on a gymnasium instead. A product of central Florida's explosive growth, they will be saddled with brick-and-mortar monuments in years to come.
Old St. Pat's in Chicago prides itself on a celebration of diversity and ecumenism. One Holy Week, the pastor and his parishioner confidantes decided to cancel the Holy Thursday liturgy in favor of a Seder--limited seating (100 people) at $20 a head. Most parishioners were excluded from a celebration of one of Catholicism's most solemn liturgies. Fortunately, Cardinal Bernardin had a proper liturgy in the cathedral not far from good old Pat's.
Santa Monica in California is a touchy, feel-good church with a dynamic pastor, lots of wealthy parishioners (then-Mayor Riordan donated $1 million to repair a bell tower damaged in an earthquake), and enough film stars in attendance to rival Spago's. In the country's largest diocese, it offers good liturgies and an involved community that is unrivaled by other Los Angeles parishes; the diocese has no commitment to liturgy, so anything rising a few inches above the ruck is bound to be considered "excellent."
Mr. Wilke would do better to look at the true nature of his parishes, which may not have been possible in his short stays. The diamond may shine on first look, but closer examination shows a diry black core.