Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Eight Allentown Churches to Reopen

March 5th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

It happened again.

A few weeks ago the Vatican ruled that three Massachusetts churches closed by the bishop of Springfield should remain open. Today it is being reported that eight churches in the Diocese of Allentown will be able to reopen after parishioners have successfully appealed the bishop’s decision to close these churches to the Vatican.

This victory should provide hope for those fighting to keep open St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit, as well as a few other area churches, as it would seem to indicate that bishops no longer enjoy the power to close churches at their own personal whim.

Excerpts from the AP article:

“Three years later, Lutkus and parishioners at eight other shuttered churches in Pennsylvania’s Allentown diocese have persuaded a Vatican panel to overturn the bishop’s decision to close them down — an exceedingly rare reversal that experts say may signal a policy shift on U.S. church closures.

“This is a thunderclap. I am absolutely floored,” said Charles Wilson, executive director of the Saint Joseph Foundation, a San Antonio, Texas-based group that helps Catholic laity navigate church law.

In a series of decisions that parishioner groups began receiving in January, the Congregation for the Clergy — the Vatican office in charge of the world’s 400,000 Catholic priests — said the bishop had failed to come up with a “grave reason” for shuttering the churches as required by Catholic law.The panel ruled that parishioners must be allowed to use the padlocked buildings for worship.

“It does not bring the parish back to life, but it puts on the table what could be a workable compromise: to physically re-open the locked-up church as a Catholic place of worship,” said prominent Catholic activist Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, which has spent years appealing church closures in the Boston area.

Around the same time as the Allentown decisions, the Vatican also rejected attempts by the diocese of Springfield, Mass., to convert three church buildings from holy to secular use.

While a spokesman said the Allentown diocese is seeking clarification about the Vatican decrees, Wilson and other experts said the decisions should give hope to other parishioner groups fighting to save their places of worship.

Then-Allentown Bishop Edward Cullen had cited a growing shortage of priests in his decision to close 47 churches [Sound familiar? It appears that a shortage of clergy is not a “grave” reason for closing a church]

Barres, who succeeded Cullen in 2009, said he was in “complete accord” with the decisions of his predecessor and adopted them as his own.

Parishioners at 14 of the churches appealed to the Vatican. Some parishioners complained bitterly about the process used to decide which churches would close. They also questioned why newer, more modern buildings were targeted while older churches were left alone.

Traditionally, bishops have been given a free hand to make decisions about church closures, consulting with parishioners but ultimately having the final say even as church law requires them to obtain the consent of “those who legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church.” [I believe this includes those who helped fund the construction of churches slated to close]

It appears the Vatican panel, in overturning the decisions in Allentown and Springfield, has ruled that the bishops should have considered the rights of the laity in deciding to close the churches, according to Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and an expert in canon law.”

Nod of the miter: Saving Our Parish

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6 Responses to “Eight Allentown Churches to Reopen”

  1. avatar Nerina says:

    Incredible! Do the parishioners of STA have an appeal “in the works”?

  2. avatar Shirley says:

    If the parishioners of STA don’t already have an appeal ready to go, then it’s certainly the time to put all the “PRESSURE” on the committie that’s needed to imediately get going!!!!!

    Closing St. Thomas & removing our funds was a horrible fate for our Church.

  3. avatar Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Another good reason why parishioners at St. Thomas have reason to be optimistic!

  4. avatar Louis E. says:

    The targeting of newer buildings,however,may well be welcome to those who prefer more traditional architecture where available…and the church law requiring the building of the oldest merging parish to be the head of the merged parish is also relevant.

  5. avatar Monk says:

    St. Thomas the Apostle parishioners have an appeal before the Vatican. They hired an experienced canon lawyer to handle their appeal. Hundreds of STA parishioners are formally represented in the appeal. It was submitted last summer and it is interesting that the Vatican has yet to make a decision. There is good reason for hope for STA.

  6. avatar Irondequoit Mom says:

    The good news just keeps coming. I can only imagine how those parishioners feel in hearing the verdict. Keep praying for the people in Irondequoit, for the priests, and for the Bishop. Its so interesting how you cannot escape being humbled, and in STA’s case, the result of the appeal will mean a lesson in humility for one side. It has been a terrible fight- revealing more than you ever want to know about some of our priests. (There have been some priests that have fought for equity, but ashamedly, too few). Can we win and be humbled too? I dont know. But as we bounce to different churches’ masses each week, witnessing the smorgasboord of liturgical abuses – I have a little taste of the wandering in the desert.


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