Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Games People Play

July 6th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Bishop Clark now claims that he has not issued a formal decree to close either St. Thomas the Apostle or St. Salome churches. Rather, the bishop says that all he has done is consolidate the five IPPG parishes into a single parish with five worship sites. How very interesting…

Here is an excerpt from Bishop Clark’s response to the St. Thomas the Apostle appeal submitted by Ms. Jennifer Lockemeyer (procurator for STA), emphasis added:

“After due consideration, I have determined not to revoke or emend the decree.

The petition raises seven objections to the decree. Objection 1 asserts that the consolidation of the parishes in Irondequoit penalizes St. Thomas the Apostle above the others. That is not the case since the decree treats each of the current parishes in the same manner. Objections 2, 4, and 5 concern the possible closing of St. Thomas the Apostle as a place of worship. My decree of May 26, 2010 addresses only the consolidation of the parishes. Should the Diocese of Rochester decide, in the future, to remove the church building as a place of worship, you will again have the opportunity to voice objections and propose recourse.”

Here is the bishop’s response to an individual parishioner’s concerns, emphasis added:

“Thank you for your recent letter requesting me to keep open St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Irondequoit.

The decree given in this matter on May 26,2010, directed the creation of a new parish by the consolidation of the parishes of the parishes of St. Cecilia, St. Salome, Christ the King, St. Thomas the Apostle, and St. Margaret Mary. The decree contained no specifics concerning which churches would close or remain open.

Please keep in mind that each church, as a sacred place, has a status distinct from the status of the parish.

I am grateful for your interest in keeping the Church in Irondequoit vibrant and faith-filled. Please know that my prayers are with all those Roman Catholics who worship and minister in the Churches of the Irondequoit planning group. I ask that you continue to support the consolidated parish and the parish leaders.”

So according to Bishop Clark, he has not decreed to close either St. Thomas the Apostle or St. Salome. Really? This does not jive with everything we have heard and seen from the media, the Catholic Courier (our official diocesan newspaper), and from the mouth of the new IPPG parish pastor, Fr. Norm Tanck.

Examples of conflicting reports in the Catholic Courier, the official DoR newspaper:

1. “Irondequoit parishes to begin transition July 1“:

“Starting July 1, five Irondequoit parishes will begin developing a plan to transition into a single parish with three worship sites, said Basilian Father Norman Tanck, who will lead the pastoral team for the new parish.”

“Father Tanck said part of the transition plan will include setting closing dates for St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostles

2. “Archbishop: Many areas are experiencing closings, declining Mass attendance

“Archbishop Dolan said of Bishop Clark, who recently affirmed an Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group decision to close St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes in Irondequoit.”

3.  “Bishop approves consolidation plan for Irondequoit

“Bishop Matthew H. Clark has approved the Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group’s recommendation to consolidate the group’s five churches into a single parish consisting of three worship sites: St. Margaret Mary, Christ the King and St. Cecilia.

St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle churches will be closed as part of the plan, for which a time table is to be announced.”

Additionally, have a look at the survey handed out to members of the five IPPG churches during Mass a few weeks ago. The survey asks the people which sites they plan to attend for worship. Notice how Christ the King, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Cecilia are listed, but St. Thomas and St. Salome are not. How come STA and SS are not included in this survey if they really aren’t up for closure?

Unfair survey which excludes STA and SS as possible worship sites

I pose another question to you, our dear readers: If it has been true all along that St. Thomas and St. Salome are not decreed to close, then why hasn’t the Diocese media relations man, Doug Mandalero, contacted the local media outlets to inform them of their error? If it is indeed true that STA and SS are not yet slated to close, how come the diocese has issued absolutely no correction to the countless media reports on this situation? How come their official newspaper, the Catholic Courier, has repeatedly stated that these two churches will close? Why haven’t Fr. Hart and/or Bishop Clark come to a podium to say that St. Thomas and St. Salome are not going to close, and that everyone has the story wrong?

There are two possible reasons to explain the vagueness of Bishop Clark’s May 26th decree and the DoR’s failure to correct (alleged) errors in the reporting of this situation:

1. The diocese is going to backdoor St. Thomas and St. Salome. Basically, the bishop will dissolve the parishes, thus eliminating the rights of each of these parishes. Then, when closure is decreed at some date in the near future, an appeal would be more difficult to save a worship site vs. saving a parish.

2. Perhaps the bishop has had a change of heart since issuing his decree. Perhaps he has carefully considered the STA appeal and realizes that they have a good case, and do in fact deserve to remain open in some capacity. It is also possible that the recent news that Fr. Morgan Rice CSB will be staying in Rochester (thus giving us an extra priest that we were not expecting before) might make it possible to keep STA open.

Personally, I think reason #1 best describes what is going on here. We will see. The people of STA need to contact their Canon lawyer who should be able to see through any surprise tactics that the diocese might employ in order to close STA and St. Salome.

Please keep these people in your prayers.

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8 Responses to “Games People Play”

  1. Bernie says:

    Given the way the diocese has operated in liturgical practices I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that you are absolutely correct in thinking that there is a “backdoor” strategy.

  2. Verbose … and yet vacuous!

    Regardless of how he explains it, the end result will be the same: more hard feelings and fewer people at Mass.

  3. Mike says:

    Dr. K,

    I agree. Reason #1 is the more probable.

    Now that the Bishop has created St. Irondequoit Parish (or whatever it will be called), all the assets of the now-dissolved parishes – including STA’s impressive bank account – now belong to that new mega-parish.

    When I was growing up were had a word for that kind of behavior: stealing. Today it’s just business as usual in DOR.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s called double talk.

  5. Wondering says:

    I wonder if it is simply a technical/legal issue. Could it be that if the decree did not specifically mention the closing of the two parishes, then there can be no decision in that regard? One would surmise that an official cannot emend or revoke a something that does not exist in the document under consideration. A court of law, for example, cannot rule on a matter if the matter is not before it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you close a parish, who gets the money?
    Who owns the parish? The Parishioners or the Diocese?

  7. Dr. K says:

    Could it be that if the decree did not specifically mention the closing of the two parishes, then there can be no decision in that regard?

    Yes, you are correct. I read through the decree once again, and the bishop makes no specific mention of closing St. Thomas or St. Salome. That was my reaction when I first read the decree (see post here). However, the media started claiming that STA and SS were to close, and so too did the Catholic Courier on more than one occasion. Mr. Mandelaro did not once step in to say “Hold on a minute… Bishop Clark has only dissolved the five parishes. No decision has been made about closures.” How come the diocese has not clarified this before now? Where was the diocese when all this misinformation was flying around, including in the Catholic Courier?

    One thing though- the bishop’s decree is a little ambiguous. When he says “I will accept the recommendations of the Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group as presented to me” that could be taken to mean that he also accepts their recommendations to close STA and SS.

    I think the diocese needs to carefully rethink what it’s about to do in Irondequoit. The game has changed over the past few months. Fr. Rice is staying in Rochester and providing us with an extra priest that we didn’t think we would have (there are now 5 active and 5 retired priests serving the IPPG parish, excluding Fr. Beligotti!), STA has acquired a decent sum of money from the estate of a deceased parishioner, and it has been revealed that much of the IPPG data on STA was incorrect or grossly exaggerated. The diocese also knows now that the people of STA are truly passionate about keeping STA and their traditions alive, and will do whatever it takes to protect them. I hope that the diocese will sit down with the people of St. Thomas, and figure out a way to make this work. The good of these souls would require it.

    As I posted elsewhere, the IPPG parish could function with three active priests ministering at four worship sites. For example, Frs. Tanck, Rice and some priest chosen from Frs. Horan/Leone/Abas. If you look at the three-site clusters/parishes in the diocese, they are frequently staffed by just two active priests. Thus, three active priests should be able to handle four sites if two priests can handle three. Add in the five retired priests who can offer weekend Mass assistance as needed, and the four-site solution seems quite reasonable going forward.

  8. Ludwig says:

    Would it be rude of me to check “other” and write: “whichever site is without Fr. Tanck?”


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