Cleansing Fire

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Vatican Rules 3 Massachusetts Churches May Remain Open

February 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Monk

The Boston Herald is reporting today that the Vatican has ruled “that three western Massachusetts churches closed by the Springfield Diocese should remain open, parishioners learned today, including one that parishioners have occupied in protest for two years.” The article goes on to state, “With similar rulings on churches in the Allentown Diocese in Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts decisions could signal a new Vatican policy that makes it tougher for local bishops to close and sell church buildings, said Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, a group formed to fight church closings….The principal item in the job description of the bishop is the salvation of souls,” Borre said. “And you do not achieve that by destroying the presence of the Catholic church in a diocese.”

Maybe there is hope for the DoR parishes under siege by our Bishop.

The full article can be read here:

bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1317002

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24 Responses to “Vatican Rules 3 Massachusetts Churches May Remain Open”

  1. avatar Dr. K says:

    The principal item in the job description of the bishop is the salvation of souls

    Exaclty. And if closing a church endangers the welfare of souls, then perhaps it is not the best action to take.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    The Vatican also ruled last month that St. Adalbert Basilica in Buffalo must remain open as a place of worship – Bishop Kmiec, however, still plans to stop weekly Masses in September.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Does any on know exactly where the STA people are with their petition to Rome?

  4. avatar Faithful says:

    1) “Catholic Presence” in any given location is not a building. Catholic Presence is tied in with CATHOLICS who dwell in that location. If the people in any given location can reasonably get to mass (even if they have to drive a few miles) the Church is fulfilling it’s mission. “Salvation of Souls” does not mean “Keep open buildings.” “Salvation of Souls” means provisions for the spiritual needs of the people are to be provided.

    2) If the closure of a building endangers the welfare of souls the bishops should not close the building? What kind of thinking is that? I think the better question is “Why is a person’s Faith life tied up with a building and not God?” “Why is a person’s Faith that weak that it cannot withstand the closing of a building?” You don’t see a problem with Faith developement such that it cannot withstand the closure of one or more parishes? I do! I see a BIG problem with that!

    3) Most everything you folks write on I agree with you, but not in this case. I see the problems that keeping open churches that are not needed cause. People have to get beyond the buidlings and realize that evangelization is the mission of the Church not real estate.

    4) I understand a parish is very special to people, and very important to them. I understand they don’t WANT their parish to close. But sometimes WANTS have to take a back seat to NEEDS.

  5. avatar Matt says:

    Faithful,

    Do you mean to suggest that STA is “not needed”? Ask the folks up in Irondequoit how it’s been since then. Ask them about the heterodoxy they’re forced to endure, as well as the lack of space in CTK which now has 4 weekend Masses (St Cecilia and St Margaret Mary now have three apiece.) You mean to tell me that CTK could not keep 3 Masses and have one allotted to STA? Or that, between the SEVEN priests in the parish, they couldn’t manage to say ELEVEN instead of TEN Sunday Masses? 4 active priests*3 Masses per priest+ 3 retired priests * 1 Mass per priest=15 Masses. That is not putting an undue strain on these men. As it stands, the mere CHANCE that a soul would be lost is sufficient reason to keep operating a parish if there’s any chance at financial viability. There is NO reason for that closure, it is wholly unjustified.

  6. avatar Monk says:

    Faithful,
    You are misconstruing “buildings” and “parish.” According to canon law, a parish is a “person” that once created has a life and right to exist. Only for grave reasons can a parish be extinguished. Parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle are appealing the Bishop’s decision to extinguish their parish. It was a grave injustice for the Bishop to close an existing parish that wants to continue to exist and has the financial means to do so. The Bishop’s obligation is to provide a priest for a parish faith community, not extinguish the parish. Unless one has lived through their parish closing unjustly, they have no idea what is lost and the pain and suffering of so many including the current parishioners but also the parishioners from past generations, the lost future parishioners that will never be, and the Catholic presense (most importantly the Eucharist) in the Irondequoit community at large.

  7. avatar Gretchen says:

    Faithful,
    With the cessation of masses at STA, there is now a shortage of seats for the potential number of mass participants in Irondequoit. How does one maintain the faith without the availability of participating in the Eucharist?

  8. avatar Faithful says:

    Matt,

    I cannot speak to the specific situation in Rochester. What I can say is that many Dioceses are finding it necessary to review their structures and whether or not all of them remain to be necessary. What Rochester is doing, therefore is not unique to them. In short, you can’t blame liberalism for this. Perhaps you can, but not directly. It is not just liberal bishops who are doing this. That is my point.

    I think a certain amount of pruning is necessary if the Catholic Faith is to survive and become stronger. How I wish the people rather then wasting time and effort on appealing closures to Rome, closures which they are unlikely to win, would spend time and effort facing reality and comming together to form a better more vibrant parish.

    Denial ain’t just a river in egypt.

  9. avatar Faithful says:

    Monk,

    Don’t you realize EVERYONE who is having their parish supressed is saying that? EVERYONE is making those same claims: here at our “financially solvent,” “growing,” “vibrant parish.” I am sure now, you can see why I read your comments with a grain of salt.

    As for having no idea as to the pain and suffering—spare me. I have no idea as to the pain and suffering that come from bi-pass surgery. Does it follow someone should not have bi-pass surgery becasue it will be painful and cause the person to suffer? Does it follow I cannot intelligently suggest that they have the bi-pass simply becasue I have never been through one?

    I don’t need to have been through the pain and suffering of a parish closure to know that it can be a good thing. (I admit I cannot speak to your case, but I see the same issues in my diocese, and therefore have some familiarity with them) Sometimes pain and suffering are GOOD, sometimes pain and suffering BRING LIFE from DEATH. Sometimes we have to EMBRACE A certain amount of pain and suffering in order that we may have LIFE. Didn’t Christ say “Take up your cross and follow after me?” What do those words mean to you?

    I disagree that a parish should stay open simply becasue it CAN stay open. The question is not “CAN a parish stay open” but “Is there a LEGITIMATE pastoral NEED for that parish?” (The key word being LEGITIMATE)The bishop’s obligation is to provide a parish for the parish community? And just where is he getting the priests from? The fact that there are not enough priests to go around is not a grave enough reason to think about consolidation? What would be a grave enough reason for you to consider consolidation?

  10. avatar Faithful says:

    Gretchen,

    Please keep in mind when I speak, I am speaking from my experience in my diocese with these issues. I cannot speak directly to your issues in Rochester in your particular parish. I can only speak in general.

  11. avatar Dr. K says:

    STA’s situation:
    -7 priests in new the Irondequoit parish of 3 churches (certainly not a shortage)
    -Financially sound with extra money in reserve from estate of deceased former parishioner and Msgr. Burns Trust of $500,000
    -Was averaging around 500 weekly parishioners
    -Pastoral need due to traditions only present at STA (use of altar rail for Communion) that are not present anywhere else in the DoR for a Novus Ordo Mass. Other parishes in the diocese frown on Communion while kneeling, and there have been many priests quick to chastise parishioners who do so despite permission from the Vatican.
    -Perpetual adoration in the adoration chapel. I do not believe the other parishes have perpetual adoration.
    -Ample church that can seat approximately 1,000 people. Facilities and parking are also ample.

    We are not dealing with a parish of 150 people that is riddled in debt. This is a sound, orthodox parish with potential for growth pending the upcoming residential developments near Lake Ontario.

  12. avatar Daniel says:

    Mr Denial,

    Everyone who is awake is aware of the numbers and see the great potential and opportunity that is very real for one who has faith and witnesses to the power of the Holy Spirit in what appears to be small, weak or falling down. We see great potential and are thwarted needlessly. Rationalizations fall short and are empty and are not what are required here. Spirit alive was a hollow attempt to save face. It is a great desolation the way these beautiful blessings from God theses churches, parishes and schools have been and still are in the hearts, minds and spirits of people, have been tred on and discarded. If there was a great outward, genuine expression of the love of the people in these parishes, schools and churches that have been discarded, or care and compassion this would be a different story. These people have been spurned for his social engineering project and devoid vision. His time is running out to play house. This characterization does little justice to the full scope of abomination, dishonesty, calculating spirit and double talk that has been laid across this diocese. Your attitude, spirit and dim vision have been what we have had too much of. Keep your tares where you are. It doesn’t take just a liberal to do what has been done here. We are aware that lack of constuctiveness, creativity, inspiration, great heart and spirit are not exclusive to our diocese or liberals. Get out of the way, play the potter or money changer, if not the man.

  13. avatar Anonymous says:

    Dr. K. you cannot include retired priests in your calculations, they are no long obligated to stay in one area to say mass and often spend weeks away on vacations. You claim that there were 500 weekly parishioner if STA had 2 weekend masses that would be 250 per mass. If the church holds 1000 people then the church was only a quarter full during mass. Even half full is questionable for keeping a church open. And having a communion rail is not a pastoral need,especially for 500 people when the diocese has over 360,000 people.

  14. avatar Faithful says:

    Dr K,

    I realize 500,000 in reserve sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn’t when it concerns running a parish. Granted it is nice to have that money on hand—but a new bolier would cost 100K. Repaving the parking lot another 100K. Fixing stained glass, re-roofing the Church, fixing the organ, fixing this fixing that….it all adds up. I am not saying your parish needs to do all this, I am simply trying to help you realize that for a parish 500K in reserve is not all that much money.

    In my diocese, it was not uncommon for older pastors to stock pile money and not maintain the structures. (Becasue in the old days the mark of a good pastor was that he left money in the reserves.) What tended to happen then was 30 years of negelect. New pastors would be forced to come in and spend a great deal of the money to fix and update the structures. That 500K became 200K or less real quick- and that was just doing the absolute essencial things–not painting the dingy looking church, etc. That on top of deficit spending in some cases.

    As for “Financially Sound” to me a parish that is financially sound is one that is not living offering to offering. This is to say if a parish has a bad week or two in the offering it does not sink them. A parish that is financially sound is able to do capital projects WITHOUT having to dip into reserve. The parish is able to budget say 20K to fix the old air conditioning, or 30K to renovate the parish kitchen. A financially sound parish is able at the end of the year to have a surplus of money and place more money in reserve. Can you say this about your parish?

    But even if you CAN, even if Bill Gates himself has pledged 30 billion dollars to the parish, the question I think people should ask in these situations is not “CAN we have a parish, and CAN we provide a priest” but “SHOULD we? IS there a REAL pastoral NEED for the parish—or are we simply operating on pastoral WANT and emotional attachment?”

    Those are serious and tough questions everyone going through this in dioceses everywhere need to ask themselves. Perhaps in some cases the answer is “No, there is a real pastoral need” in which case that need should be DEMONSTRATED AND PROVEN with real facts and figures: we have the people, the priest personal, and substantial money. I submit however, the answer in most cases boils down to pastoral want and emotional attachement vs. need. That anyway is my experience, and I can only tell you what my experience is.

    Here is my experience growing up: in a town of maybe 5,000 people, the town had not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE CATHOLIC PARISHES. FIVE! At one point it got so absurd one priest had three of them, and another had two of them on top of being principal of a school! You think this is right and just? You think this is what God intends when the parishes can unite EASILY under roof, with one priest who is fully dedicated to them? Sir, if you think so, then I advise you to reflect more fully on what it means to be Catholic, and what the mission of the Church really is—becasue IT ISN’T REAL ESTATE! God did not commission the apostles to go and manage real estate that is no longer a pastoral necessity.

    Remember: The Real Estate exists to AID and HELP the mission of the Church, but it IS NOT THE MISSION.

  15. avatar Faithful says:

    Thank you anonymous—I cannot speak directly to DR K’s figures, so I am glad to see someone who can.

    But DR K, remember, I am writting primarily from MY experience of this in my own little area of the country and surrounding areas. As I said, my experience is primarily people with emotional attachment to their parishes, which they then project as a NEED.

  16. avatar Dr. K says:

    Even half full is questionable for keeping a church open.

    Almost every parish should be closed in this diocese if that is true, starting with the Cathedral.

    Faithful – There is likely more money in reserve, not to mention the regular collection totals. I was just demonstrating that the parish had some extra (known) money around and that it was not in financial crisis like many closing parishes. The parish has been financially sound for years and has money in the bank. The other parishes kept open in Irondequoit over STA are NOT financially sound.

  17. avatar Anonymous says:

    They are now

  18. avatar Faithful says:

    Dr K,

    There is probably NOT more money in reserve. This isn’t 1950. The days of pastors hiding money from the Diocese are over. Besides- in an era where people are demanding “openess” “accountability” and “transparency” it would not behoove a priest to hide money anyway. Openness, accountability, and transparency cannot just be only when it is convienient for the people, it must be always.

    But–regardless you did not answer my original point: Why should a parish stay open just becasue it CAN? Should there not be some demonstrable pastoral NEED for a parish to stay open? I operate out of the premise that the parishes SERVE the mission of the Church, but ARE NOT THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH. (Again, look at the example I cited, which you did not speak to either.)

  19. avatar Monk says:

    Faithful,
    It’s difficult to respond to you because according to your posts you have no facts or familiarity with this specific situation. You take what is said with a grain of salt yet you express opinions based on nothing other than your feelings. I won’t bother to give you any other facts but I will say that Catholics have always been taught to seek justice which is why this matter is being pursued. This closing will not shake our faith but we will continue to seek a just, reasonable outcome based on facts and figures rather than feelings. Obviously, the Vatican is also interested in pursuing justice in regard to parish closing also.
    On a personal note, I have to say how disappointing is your total lack of charity towards the people involved.

  20. avatar Faithful says:

    Monk,

    Well, I can say that if Dr. K is counting retired priests in his totals, that anonymous is right. Retired means retired. Any service or ministry a retired priest performs is strictly voluntary. Therefore when looking at how to staff parishes with priests, a Bishop cannot count the retired priests in that total.

  21. avatar Monk says:

    Faithful,
    Well our diocese won’t “officially” count them but in my experience most retired diocesan priests are eager to continue parish pastoral service in some way. That is certainly the case in the situation that Dr. K references. Also, because you don’t have the facts, you don’t understand that some of the retired priests that Dr. K is referencing are ordered priests serving in our parish. They have stated that they never retire and continue to serve in whatever capacity their health allows. It is disturbing to see Churches shuttered when priests are routinely concelebrating at other parishes in the same town. In many situations, the retired priest in a parish is closer to parishioners than the active priests that have so much administrative responsibility. Keep in mind that the Rochester diocese considers a priest retired at 70 years when 75 years is more typical in other dioceses. Even our Bishop can serve until 75 years. Once the parish structure is broken down as it has in the DoR, the result can be that retired priests are cast aside and feel not wanted and they leave and serve elsewhere. The bottom line is that what we experience here is a concerted effort by our diocese to not utilize our retired priests. They get in their way of their goal of a lay run church.

  22. avatar Faithful says:

    Monk,

    I can’t say I like “lay run” or even even “sister or deacon” run parishes any more then you. I agree with you that the administration and leadership of a parish is by nature the role of the priest. While it is possible for a lay person, a sister, or deacon to “administrate” a parish, or “stand in place of the pastor” (however you want to say it—I can’t think of a better way right now) I grant such a situation is not ideal, and dioceses shold be working as hard as they can to ensure this never becomes the norm, and is only done in severe cases.

    I applaude the retired priests who serve in your area, and are willing to keep right on working as if they are not retired. Not all priests can or should be expected to have this same mindset however. My point is that while it is great to see priests who are retired but are not really retired, the service they perform is NOT obligatory—they do not owe it to anyone. At any time they are free to pursue other interests, or hobbies, or travel, etc, just like any other retired person. Therefore a bishop when in pastoral planning must always assume reliance strictly on those priests who are not retired. This is not a case of liberal vs. conservative, but common sense. Even a Conservative bishop would have to consider this. Your bishop might not be counting on the retired priests becasue he wants lay run parishes, regardless of his motive—he is doing the right thing there. He is, in short, doing the RIGHT thing, but for the WRONG reason.

    How about this as a question for your bishop: “If you think lay run parishes are so great, how about a lay run diocese? Why not follow that model all the way to the top, and YOU lead by example? You can take care of the “pastoral” things of the Diocese, and a lay person can run the Diocese! While we are at it, we have to make sure a women, possibly an IHM sister has that position, and you can report to her! Now there is a “new” and “improved” model that should be “cutting edge!”

    I wonder whether your bishop would go for that suggestion!

    What do you think?

  23. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Faithful!

    How about this as a question for your bishop: “If you think lay run parishes are so great, how about a lay run diocese? Why not follow that model all the way to the top, and YOU lead by example? You can take care of the “pastoral” things of the Diocese, and a lay person can run the Diocese! While we are at it, we have to make sure a women, possibly an IHM sister has that position, and you can report to her! Now there is a “new” and “improved” model that should be “cutting edge!”

    that is brilliant!

  24. avatar Monk says:

    Faithful,
    Well said. I’ve enjoyed “chatting” with you. God Bless…..may we all be faithful to Christ and His Church!

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