Cleansing Fire

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Upcoming Guidelines for Closing Churches

July 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

From a reader comes some very interesting news on the Catholic Culture site:

“The Vatican is preparing instructions for the reorganization of American dioceses that are facing severe financial pressures in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal, according to a report on the new Italian web site Vatican Insider.

The report says that the Congregation for Clergy is working on a document that will provide guidelines for the closing or merging of parishes. The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican body that handles questions of canon law, is now reviewing the text, Vatican Insider reports. The document may be released in the fall of this year, the report indicates.

In recent weeks the Vatican has ruled against the closing of several American parish churches. While recognizing the authority of diocesan bishops to allocate resources, Vatican tribunals have indicated that churches should remain open as sites of worship whenever possible. The Vatican rulings have complicated planning in many dioceses where, after paying enormous legal settlements to sex-abuse victims, Church officials are struggling to meet regular budget expenses.

The forthcoming Vatican document could also address questions about the sale of Catholic hospitals. In Boston, the sale of a Catholic hospital system raised serious questions about preserving the Catholic identity of the institutions, which are now under secular corporate management.”

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58 Responses to “Upcoming Guidelines for Closing Churches”

  1. Too bad the Vatican Document did not come out years ago to safeguard our own Catholic Hospital System- St. Mary’s Hospital. Also, some precious churches in the past and present would have had a chance to remain open.

  2. avatar Bill B. says:

    Guidelines will be good. When church property is selected for elimination, there will be no doubt that it could be closed in good conscience. Maybe that last bake sale or garage sale will keep it a church for as long as possible.

  3. avatar Dan says:

    I hope and pray that Vatican officials read this posting. Maybe our saint and good friend St. Padre Pio will direct their eyes to these words.

    Forcing a parish to close against the will of the parishioners is the worst thing that a bishop can do to his diocese.

    Bishop Clark has closed about 35 parishes. Every closing angered the parishioners beyond belief. You just didn’t hear about it. The forced church closings caused tens of thousands of local Catholics to stop coming to Mass.

    I would like to have a conversation with Bishop Clark and ask him why he prefers to fight with his parishioners, rather than work with them and teach them to evangelize.

    The inner city neighborhoods of Rochester need the Catholic Church presence now, more than ever before. The Catholic parish ministry is a very large and important part of the neighborhood fabric.

    Don’t be fooled if you live in the suburbs that surround the City of Rochester. The crime wave of robbery, burglary and assault is spreading like a wild fire, as documented in the recent news reports.

    Closing a Catholic parish in the suburbs will also have the same negative effect on the local neighborhood as we are now witnessing in the inner city areas of Rochester. It is just a matter of time.

  4. avatar Bill B. says:

    The Vatican appears to be trying to touch these issues the best it can; as shown by the news. You have to pray harder because the Vatican has its hands full in Europe. There, mass attendance is almost in the single digits (percentage wise). It was 13% attendance ten years ago. Here it was 33% and dropping. Africa is growing leaps and bounds; however, not much money there. The Vatican realizes the US (North America) is their biggest supplier of cash; I presume they have to walk on hot coals if they want our big bucks. With bigger fish to fry their, we should feel lucky that they do take a look once in a while.

  5. avatar Faithful says:

    Again, dioceses are not closing parishes to pay legal settlements. Please stop spreading this falsehood.

    Let’s look at the archdiocese of LA. How did they come up with the 650 million? First, the Diocese only had to raise 250 of the 650 figure becasue of insurance. The 250 was raised through the sale of Diocesean (note Diocesean, not PARISH property) including the Diocesean Center) and internal loans. I am not aware of parish assets that were raided, nor am I aware of churches that were closed as a direct result of those lawsuits. In fact–the liberal democrats who favor passing such legeslation argue that it works precisely becasue thus far no diocese has had to close parishes or raid parish assets in order to pay lawsuits! While this is a stupid argument—the point is even the legeslature knows the difference between parish and diocesean property. If even a bunch of godless liberal Democrats know the difference, why don’t you at Cleansing Fire?

    As far as I am aware it is only the Diocese of Portland Oregon that has come very close to having to use parish assets to pay lawsuits. What has happened in Oregon is that the lawyers have tried to argue that diocesean property and parish property are one in the same, therefore the bishop can legally use parish assets to pay lawsuits. The Diocese has fought this in court and intially lost, but that decision was reversed by a higher court. It was unclear whether the lawyers were going to appeal. However the Diocese as far as I was aware reached a settlement which I suppose means the lawyers would have had no reason to pursue an appeal. The important thing to note in this case is WHO is trying to raid parish assets: the GOVERNMENT, NOT THE DIOCESE. The bishop is trying to protect and defend them, it is the government that is trying to say they are one in the same. You keep claiming bishops want to raid parish assets to pay lawsuits–I have to ask–why is at least one trying to PROECT AND DEFEND THEM as belonging to the parish not the Diocese? If bishops wanted to raid parish assets to pay lawsuits—why would they waste their time in court trying to defend and protect them? Why would diocees incorporate as several have–like Pheonix AZ so that parish assets can be protected? Can you answer that?

    All of the above information can be gleaned from a simple google search.

    To my knowledge there has been no huge lawsuits in Rochester as of yet, which would have caused the Diocese to go bankrupt, therefore the question of who owns the parish assets would be a non-issue. If there were the media would have trumpeted it.

    Again, there are three main factors driving parish closures: Lack of priests, lack of donations, population shifts. You are scapegoating lawsuits becasue you are in denial and don’t want to deal with the real issues. When you see rich coporations downsizing and closing plants—and many other companies effected by the economy- why would you think the Church would be magically exempt from the economic fall out and other factors like populations shifts, etc? Do you think God just waves his magic wand and preserves the American Church from economic and population realities while everyone else has to suffer them? I have said it before and I will say it again: the year is 2011, not 1950. Please get in your Dalorians, set the time dials for July 2011, make sure your flux capacitors are fluxing, and get back to the future.

    The problems the American Church is facing today is not going to get better until people start facing up to reality and deal with the real issues. The first step is to say “It is not 1950 anymore. It is unrealistic to expect a Church in every small town on every block and unrealistic to expect bishops to sacrifice the mission of the Church and put all their resources into figuring out how to keep open buidings which served their purpose well in a different era, but are beginning to hamper the mission of the Church in modern times.”

  6. avatar Scott W, says:

    Again, there are three main factors driving parish closures: Lack of priests, lack of donations, population shifts. You are scapegoating lawsuits

    Is it possible your beef is with the writers of the Catholic Culture article rather than Cleansing Fire? I only took away the main point that the Vatican is stepping in to provide guidlines for closings. The reasons for the closings they gave I would certainly take with a grain of salt. Maybe I missed something, but I don’t recall CF ever invoking lawsuits as a reason for closings in DOR, but rather that the diocesan leadership is closing in a scorched-earth, If-we-can’t-have-a-nice-proggy-Episcopal-like-Church-then-we’ll-just-chase-every-prospective-seminarian-away approach.

  7. avatar Gretchen says:

    Sorry to get specific as I know you like general, Faithful, but we got it in writing in our parish that insurance claims in our diocese were the reason our insurance costs were through the roof for several years, sometimes almost quadruple what was normal. So, indeed, the diocese took our parish’s assets (in the form of cash) and used it to pay claims. We were never told what the claims were, but to our knowledge no one had sued our parish and they did not originate in our parish. One can imagine what they were…

    A priest shortage is not a viable reason to close a church. If you disagree, talk to Rome. That particular reason has been floating around for well over a decade now, and was indeed one of the main reasons the DOR justified parish closings and church sales. It was wrong then. It is wrong now. The logic is so twisted as to defy commonsense. Temporary shortage of priests….so let’s tear down sacred, holy tabernacles and move the faithful around instead of letting the faithful stay put and moving A priest around. Simply breathtaking. It is not a justification that anyone should feel comfortable espousing.

  8. Oops. meant to say Gretchen from SOP. Apologies.

  9. avatar JLo says:

    Dan (at 10:08 AM), regarding your social ministry thrust… “Catholic parish ministry is a very large and important part of the neighborhood fabric”, I would like to point out that Catholic schools are for the purpose of educating Catholic children according to Catholic thought, and Catholic churches are established so Catholics may practice their faith, live it, receive the sacraments, etc.

    So while I think that the presence of peaceful, loving churches within city neighborhoods (ANY neighborhoods) is a good thing, I also think that Catholics built their churches and schools all those years ago to teach Catholic children and provide the sacraments to all within the parish family. As the thrust went into social ministries outside those basic needs, the costs in time, talent, and money made it impossible in some parishes to maintain their schools and then their churches, not to mention having a bishop who wants to use his taxes for things other than educating the flock and blessing with the sacraments… (Faithful-at-2:16-PM, YOU must also get real in confronting this story… and calmer and perhaps kinder to we simpler folks).

    First and foremost our shepherd should be teaching and leading his sheepfold, especially the children, in the Faith, and that is also the charge to the parents to whom God has entrusted his children. While helping others and evangelizing is a proper outcome of faithful parish families, when you stop letting it be a NATURAL outcome and instead spend funds and time and talent pushing for all kinds of ministries (and progressive ideas) instead of the basics, what you get are neighborhoods devoid of peaceful oases of prayer, and more importantly, the death of parish families… does anyone remember the pre Spiritus Christi days at Corpus Christi? … countless “ministries” and a bogus Catholicism, the rotten fruits of which finally went into complete separation and the loss of so many Catholics who did not know better.

    A shepherd who cares about bringing up Catholics would consolidate schools, not close them, and use those taxes he collects to keep such schools open and affordable. And, Faithful-at-2:16-PM, the loss of Catholic numbers in Catholic schools in the DOR is a result of the antics of the DOR. Other dioceses in America are actually building schools… you can google for that information, too.

    Lastly… I’m almost afraid to ask, but… Faithful-at-2:16-PM, exactly what do you perceive is “the mission of the Church in modern times”?

    +JMJ

  10. avatar JLo says:

    BTW, Gretchen, right on!, especially your second paragraph. +JMJ

  11. avatar Faithful says:

    Gretchen,

    A priest shortage is not a viable option to close a parish? Quite true. And if the only reason bishops were closing parishes was due to priest shortages you would have a point. Dioceses that used the priest shortage as their primary argument for closing parishes were overturned in Rome. Also—if you are going to insist that you just have to have your building despite the priest shortage—then don’t complain when some liberal nun or lay administrator runs it with a Sacramental Minister “assisting.” See how this works? Perhaps if you shed some of the unecessary real estate most parishes would be able to be staffed by a priest pastor?

    In any case dioceses that argued along the lines of population shifts and financial concerns all had their decisions upheld. Therefore Rome agrees that a priest shortage is not a grave enough reason to close a parish, but Rome also agrees that population shifts and financial concerns coupled with the priest shortage is.

    As for insurance claims: you are talking about premiums, which is different then payouts. Perhaps the premiums are going up. Did the Diocese produce a paper which said they raided assets to pay out claims—or are they citing high premiums? There is a difference. If the issuse is premiums then parishes are not closing to PAY OUT lawsuits, but beccasue of the high cost of insurance—which is a valid financial concern. If however the bishop actually gave you a paper which said he literally took parish assets and used them to pay out a diocesan claim–then at least in Rochester my arguments are not correct. However you still need to explain why bishops are largely moving to PROTECT parish assets from lawsuits if as you say they are taking parish assets to pay for lawsuits. You did not answer that.

  12. avatar Faithful says:

    Jlo

    Well, what do YOU think the mission is? Maintaining uncessary real esate at all costs for the sake of nastalgia–for the sake of preserving 1950’s culture in 2011 where there is a Church for every town, sometimes several?

    Fine—but then priests instead of worrying about saving souls, have to worry about roofs, and air conditioners, and parking lot repavements, and broken down kitchen equipement, and raising money to cover the high cost of heat and energy, and the day to day bills etc. The less property there is to manage the more time a pastor has to tend to his parishoner’s spiritual needs, and the more money is avaliable to invest in ministry rather then buildings. The more property there is for a priest to manage the less time he has to worry about tending to his people’s spiritual needs, and the more time he has to spend on things he never got ordained to DO! Don’t you get the fact that priests are having break downs becasue of this? We need priests and it is not getting any easier for the priests we have when you force them to pastor all these parishes, rather then consolidate into one or two and come together as God’s family! It is the same Mass! THAT is what is most important—the building is important only inso far as it AIDS the worship of God. We do NOT worship buildings!

    Tell me- what would you rather your pastor worry about? The salvation of souls or real estate management? What would you rather your offerings went to? The ministry of evangelization or building funds? What would you rather hear from your pastor in a homily? The need to increase offerings becasue of the high cost of real estate maintenance, state of the parish address, the large parish debt—or would you rather he spend his time breaking open the Word of God?

    Why maintain four or five seperate parishes or churches—when only ONE is needed? Yes I realize grandparents gave money for the original building—but even grandparents checked out of their house when the time came that they could not afford to maintain it, or were not physically able to take care of it anymore. TIMES CHANGE, and the Church needs to adapt the physical structrues to the needs of the present, not the needs of a bygone imagined “Golden Era” of Catholicism.

  13. avatar Faithful says:

    Scott,

    In this case, perhaps you are correct.

    However the folks that run this blog are certainly no advocates of parish closings.

    Not that I like to see parishes close—it is just that I choose to live in reality. I saw this kind of stuff comming 20 years ago–so did everyone else–but now that the time has arrived, denial is the name of the game rather then dealing with the unfortunate realities of 2011.

  14. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I’d like to add to the comments, especially on Faithful’s assertions, which have more logical explanations than those which Faithful proposes.

    Faithful asks us not to blame lawsuits for closures, but advances no CONVINCING argument to the contrary. Here’s why. Over and over in that post we read “I am not AWARE….” Well, of course not; with all the secrecy in diocesan financials and in parish financials, without reports on cash use, how could anyone “be aware” of the uses of funds? But that does NOT mean they aren’t being used to pay lawsuits AND claimants. Only that most people are not aware of it. To limit these comments to lawsuits also ignores the situations which are paid off out of court.

    Another word-set to parse is Faithful’s comment that “I am not aware of parish assets that were RAIDED, nor am I aware of churches that were closed as a DIRECT RESULT of those lawsuits.” This is typical diocesan-speak. Raided has a connotation of illegal; so if the assets were taken legally (albeit wrongly) Faithful’s statement could be true, but misleading. Also, “direct result” implies handing the money directly to a litigant. That isn’t how cash flow works. So parish assets get liquidated; an assessment drains cash into diocesan coffers, and later a payment is made by the diocese to a claimant. That is not “DIRECT” yet the payment couldn’t have been made were the parish assets not converted to cash. It is this kind of misleading red herring being dragged by diocesan leadership across the trail of closures that causes a lack of trust, and fuels innuendo. Just where does Faithful think that the money from liquidations has gone, if not to lawsuits and claims?

    “If even a bunch of godless liberal Democrats know the difference, why don’t you at Cleansing Fire?” Answer: Because we’re the victims?

    “You keep claiming bishops want to raid parish assets to pay lawsuits–I have to ask–why is at least one trying to PROTECT AND DEFEND THEM as belonging to the parish not the Diocese?” Answer? Is it because even if the diocese loses everything, it would still have isolated assets in parishes against which it might levy a tax? Hmmm….

    “If bishops wanted to raid parish assets to pay lawsuits—why would they waste their time in court trying to defend and protect them? Why would diocees incorporate as several have–like Pheonix AZ so that parish assets can be protected? Can you answer that?” I think I just did (see preceding paragraph).

    “To My KNOWLEDGE” — there, we have that qualifier again — “there has been no huge lawsuits in Rochester AS OF YET, which would have caused the Diocese to go bankrupt, therefore the question of who owns the parish assets would be a non-issue.” This is a non-sequitur. Bankruptcy and impaired cash flow are not the same. And there are other reasons a diocese might teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. Paying off claimants without a law suit is one such way. Also, claims and lawsuits have to be paid somehow. Where do YOU think the money is coming from to settle lawsuits? I wouldn’t try to argue insurance. Self-insured dioceses make the payment from their pool one year, and raise rates then to make up for it. Outside insurance companies cap payments and aggregate a pool cap as well. Just how do YOU think the diocese is paying what it has paid? And what do YOU think is being done with the cash from asset liquidations?

    “If there were the media would have trumpeted it.” ONLY if they knew about it. Look how the Rochester Press buys into the diocesan announcement that 80+% of the CMA is raised, without knowing it only means it is in the parish’s savings, able to be moved to cover the CMA assessment; it doesn’t mean people actually gave that amount when the announcement is made! The age of the investigative reporter is over, and that helps dioceses, governments and companies to get away with a lot before they are detected.

    “Again, there are three main factors driving parish closures: Lack of priests, lack of donations, population shifts. You are scapegoating lawsuits becasue you are in denial and don’t want to deal with the real issues.” I would blame some priests too, AND their diocesan leadership. When the diocese drops the retirement age, and limits priests to 3 masses of Sunday obligation (Rome permits 5), and some pastors collude to close parishes so they don’t have to work as hard, it is difficult not to say there isn’t a manufactured priest crisis. I would put at the top of the list of causes: egregious laziness and gross scandals. By the way, early retirements increase the need for cash funding of the retirement plan. Where is THAT coming from? And whatever happened to being a priest forever? The lack of donations mentioned by Faithful are very understandable. Why be a bad steward and give money to this diocese to spend on pastoral planning to close one’s own church? Or to a diocese which turns a deaf ear to the complaints and needs of a parish flock? But I don’t buy population shifts as an argument, especially for the suburban parishes. I blame poor preaching and poor catechesis for several generations, making so-called Catholics believe they don’t have to go to Mass, or obey Church teaching.

    The rest I’ve answered before and there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. Faithful is stuck in 1950 and keeps rehashing the points already refuted. It is a straw man argument. And I choose not to engage in Faithful’s sarcasm and gross exaggeration over such a serious matter. If anything, such tactics make me more sure than ever that the impact of lawsuits and threatened lawsuit claims have been an enormous cause of parish closings and liquidation of assets. Until there is transparency about the people’s money, why should anyone believe baseless denials?

  15. The mission of the church in the DoR appears to be a renovated Palace, I mean Cathedral and Rectory, and the state of the art Holleran All Saints Organ over Catholic Education.

    If Faithful wants to make a claim regarding lack of donations, population shifts, and lack of priests – How does Faithful explain the decision to close St. Andrew Church on Portland Avenue when that church brought in the largest weekend collection consistently over all the other churches in the Northeast Cluster, and also brought in the largest rent from buildings, and also monies from Bingo? How does Faithful explain the decision to close St. Andrew Church when it had consistent attendance of over two hundred people (over 200) at the 9:30 A.M mass and at times such as holidays, had three hundred (300)? (There is still is a good attendance despite the fact that we first lost our pastor, Fr. Mike, and then we were told our church was going to close. There is close to two hundred (200) people in attendance currently at the Sunday 9:30 A.M. Mass. Although smaller in numbers, there has been a fairly good turn-out of people in attendance at the Sunday 5 P.M. Mass. How does Faithful explain closing St. Andrew Church when it had been newly renovated in the last ten (10) years with a brand new handicap bathroom installed in the summer, at the time the decision was made? We had a good priest and he was removed. We’ve had an assortment of priests helping out and they are now gone. Fr. Bob Werth and Fr. Mickey McGrath have been assigned and are currently present and I expect Fr. Tracy to fill in from time to time. Where is there a problem with priest coverage?

    The same type of situation from what I’ve read, is true of St. Thomas the Apostle. Many churches have closed when they did not need to in regard to numbers of attendees and money taken in, in addition to having a sound worship site, either because of political reasons and/or financial gain (could get a higher price for the sale of said church building).

    Faithful uses the argument that parish property is not Diocesan property-if that is true, than why does the Diocese have a say in church closings if the property is supposed to belong to the people of the parish? It is not the government who is the ultimate party to be faulted but the pedophile priests and all those in authority over them that did not remove them from their duties and take criminal action against them when they knew there was a problem. When Faithful says there are no sexual abuse lawsuits in the DoR so far-How would we know? There is no transparency in the DoR regarding financial matters.

  16. Faithful, I never said the diocese gave the parish a paper. Our parish leadership did and here is the ‘money’ errr, ‘claim’ quote:

    “The Diocese of Rochester is self insured and sets its own rates. All parishes participate in this program and cannot opt out. Unfortunately, insurance claims, especially personal liability claims during the 1990’s against parishes rose dramatically…claims are now being filed when in years past they were not. The result was that the diocesan insurance fund became under-funded and needed to recuperate quickly. So, all parishes paid significantly more than usual…”

    Of course, we were initially told that our high insurance premiums went to insuring the closed and shuttered St. Patrick’s. In fact, parish leadership even claimed that it would’ve been better to give away St. Patrick’s rather than insure a closed church for the 8 years it was shuttered (St. Patrick’s eventually sold for $487,000). Yes, that was the reason given for why we were paying huge insurance premiums. I kid you not. When they were called on it parish leadership put out the above statement in an insert to the weekly bulletin.

  17. avatar MichaelL says:

    A perfect example of how sex abuse settlements are mis-handled occurred in the Diocese of Albany. In 1997 they settled one claim out of court for $997,500 in a “confidential” settlement. Notice this is just under $1 million. (See see NYT article: Albany Diocese Settled Abuse Case for Almost $1 Million)

    The lawyer for the victim, who said he had been seeking more than $1 million, said he was convinced that the diocese had agreed to the amount of the final settlement in an effort to keep it from the scrutiny of the diocese’s finance council. A senior diocesan official acknowledged that had the settlement been $2,500 higher, the council would have become involved. But he said he did not know if that played a role in the payment.

    By keeping the settlement “confidential” the identity of the priest was kept secret. In fact the whole settlement was kept secret. This is just “hush” money. There was a clause in the settlement that the victim would have to give back $400,000 “if the confidentiality is broken”. The victim decided to speak out in 2002 anyway, guessing that the diocese wouldn’t want the bad publicity from demanding back the $400,00.

    Later in the article it says:

    In 1997, Mr. Aretakis asked the diocese for a multimillion-dollar settlement. He says he never even filed a lawsuit. When he asked why the diocese could not offer more than $1 million, Michael L. Costello, the diocese’s lawyer, sent him a letter explaining that any payout of $1 million or more would require ”the recommendation and consent” of the finance council.

    There have been complaints from the Vatican about how “generous” the American Catholic Church has been in its settlements. In 2002 the USCCB issued a policy ending secret settlements.

    I never thought I would say this, but we should be thankful to the news people and even the lawyers for constantly raising the issue of sexual abuse by priests. There is still lots of house cleaning that needs to be done.

  18. avatar Anonymous says:

    The Vatican thinks the victims got too much? The victims have been given a life sentence. They deserve every dollar they get and more!

  19. avatar Anonymous II says:

    Perhaps some of the sexual abuse was never the subject of litigation or publicity because the perpetrators are dead and perhaps the victims are receiving a yearly stipend from the Diocese to “meet their needs”???

  20. avatar Faithful says:

    Diane,

    Let me just comment on what you said about priests retiring…

    Do you plan to not be retired by the time you are 70? I don’t know what the average age of retirement is anymore, but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that I think most people by 70 would be at least semi-retired. Therefore I don’t think 70 years old is that unreasonable for a priest to retire.

  21. avatar Faithful says:

    Diane–

    Of course I am presuming that the age for priest retirement in Rochester is 70.

  22. avatar Anonymous says:

    Faithful, being a priest is a vocation, just like being a husband or wife or mother or father. You don’t cease to be one just because you’ve turned 70. As you will find in Hebrews 7:17, For it is testified: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

  23. avatar Anonymous says:

    Priests don’t retire from being priests. They retire from being pastors, from having to be responsible for the day to day grind. They retire from endless meetings and from having to raise money to fix broken toilets. They usually continue saying Mass and administering sacraments. The canonical age of retirement is 75 nut many dioceses allow retirement at 70. Too many people here equate priest with pastor. Pastor is the job position from which they retire. They don’t retire from being priests.

    And by the way, when they retire they lose their meager pastors salary and live off social security and the priest pension which isn’t much. And, they have to pay the parishes where they live room and board unless they’ve worked out another deal with the pastor. I guess Diane wants 90 year old men working 50 hour weeks, getting up in the middle of the night and driving in blizzards.

  24. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    Faithful, every time you say “unnecessary real estate,” my skin crawls. A house of God, consecrated, housing Christ, is not simply real estate like your grandmother’s house. We Catholics used to know this. And we’re quite aware that it’s not 1950. Many (most?) of us on this board weren’t even alive then.

    Second, there is a big difference between closing parishes and closing churches. Regarding the latest appeals in Rome, it has been decided that the parish mergers weren’t wrong, but the remaining churches should still be used in some way. That is the big question that dioceses need to deal with. Apparently, Rome still sees value in our churches.

  25. avatar JLo says:

    Thank you, Diane and others who provided some facts in answer to all of Faithful’s straw men. That said so well by you, I guess I’ll be the one to speak of the mystical rather than the practical which is so front and center in all of Faithful’s thinking.

    You are right, Faithful, that the Church is not bricks and mortar. Your July 10, 2011 at 6:02 PM post talks only about bricks and mortar and the practical things priests/pastors have in their care, and you go sarcastically on and on about real estate management and building funds and paying the bills, etc. But you make no room in your thinking for the parishioners who are most willing to take those practical realities out of their pastors’ hands. Have you personally never provided consistent helping hands in your parish? We in parishes want our priests to do the things we cannot, i.e., to provide our sacramental life. We agree with you that such is a full-time job. I’ve been Catholic for all my life and have lived in many parishes, here in my native diocese, and across our country, and have always had the good fortune to meet and work with people I cite to you, those who work tirelessly for their parish’s life. I’m sorry you either have not had that experience or choose to not remember such people and their huge contributions in time, talent and money. Pastors are NOT without such resources to call on and use effectively!

    As to those who are so concerned about retirement, do you not consider what Scripture teaches? It appears you have bought entirely into the world’s program of what “happiness” is: the world tells us to be money successful to put your work life behind you as soon as possible and then sit down slurping whatever as you lay in the sun or travel about finding new sights. But that’s not Scripture’s message to us. Work for us is sacramental, too. It provides our blessings, our way to get through this life to our eternal life. It is not something to despise, but to embrace. Scripture teaches us that we must work our entire lives on this pilgrimage to God. Happy and fulfilled is the person still working, at whatever age is the end of earthly life! Do not get lost in the practical because your regard for the mystical has been chipped away. Do not become part of this world. Go back to God in Genesis and find how God made work sacred work, not drudgery, how he gave it holy purpose. So let’s be Catholic faithful and ditch all this talk of entitled retirement! It’s not even biblical! +JMJ

  26. avatar DW says:

    I think we are playing with semantics here— anything that closes results in a loss. This is the cycle the diocese uses ( i think we can all agree on this)

    The Diocese of Rochester:

    1. Closes parish school ( catholic education not a priority )
    2. Cluster parishes ( lack of priests )
    3. Cut masses ( 3 masses per priest max)
    4. Income falls, attendance drops.
    5. No money, no people = close buildings/parishes.

    Look at the closings in the past 5 to 7 years– they fit the cycle exactly!

    Very very sad!

  27. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    DW, that is the perfect summary of what happens. I’d like to reference this cycle at the SOP blog.

  28. avatar Dr. K says:

    Do you plan to not be retired by the time you are 70?

    How old is Bishop Clark?

  29. avatar Diane Harris says:

    To 1) Faithful and 2) Anonymous 137161

    Faithful asked a question about retirement age of priests in the Rochester Diocese, and that is not an easy question to answer. While 70 seems to be the usual age in many dioceses, it seems to be quite varied in DoR. Some younger, healthy priests may rush to retirement, possibly for some health factors of which we are not aware, and other older priests (pre-retirement) may leave their second-to-last assignment early so that they can “time out” in their late 60’s to retire in the last post. So, we hear about retirements at 68, 67 and earlier, and we hear that the push is to 65, although not articulated as a strict policy. On the other hand, Boston is raising the retirement age to 75 because there is such a need.

    I so greatly admire the older priests who see the shortage (whether a contrived or true shortage need not be debated for the moment) and who step in to fill the need of the people. They may no longer be pastors, but they have pastors’ hearts. There are many who doubtless deserve to be mentioned, but I will pick two whom I have personally known. One was Fr. Jerry O’Connor, who was ravaged by lung cancer. On the Sunday after he got his “no further treatment” death sentence, he said Mass for us at St. Mary in Rushville, sitting on a stool to conserve his energy. He shared the diagnostic information, and candidly said he wasn’t afraid of death but rather of the dying. The entire packed church was completely silent, riveted at the revelation of a priest’s heart. Afterwards, many people acknowledged that he had done more for them spiritually that day than years of homiletic preaching. God rest his shepherd’s soul.

    Another giving priest is Fr. Jack O’Connor, a retired pastor who also “gave at the office,” who also has fought a cancer battle and praise God seems to be on the winning side. He drives all over (as did Fr. Erb who fought his own battle with esophageal cancer) in order to bring Sunday Mass to many souls in the neglected country churches. I have nothing but praise for such efforts. Would they really be better off just staying home and reading the newspaper or playing golf on a Sunday morning? Thank God, some priests at least don’t see it that way. I wish that all priests did.

    I remember a retired priest at the Sisters of St. Joseph, who would sit in the front row with the other ill or aging priests, wear his stole, and would struggle mightily to pull himself up to a hunched position over his walker for the consecration, every single day. When the day came that he just could not raise himself, one could see the personal anguish and grief in his face. He simply wanted to give his all. He died soon after. These priests, like Blessed JPII who suffered so much at the end of life, are an enormous inspiration to anyone who knows they too will someday go through the door of death. They teach far more than a polished homily on a rehashed bible passage.

    They are a much better magnet for vocations that those ordained to a job, rather than to a vocation. Attracting young men through salaries, perqs, vacations, job rotation, benefits programs or early retirement may work in many job areas, but not in a true vocation. The tragedy would be to have lost none of these “benefits” but, rather, the tragedy would be to have lived a meaningless life. The heroes we admire, in the armed forces, as police officers, fire fighters etc. are heroes because they didn’t put themselves first, and as a result what they did “mattered.” If I am to entrust my soul in the pastoral care of a parish priest, of a confessor or spiritual director, I want it to be someone who knows the difference, and not to someone who can’t wait to convene with all the other retirees on a golf course.

    To Anonymous 137161:
    What I have written above on the retirement issue is intended to also provide perspective on Anonymous-137161’s baseless and hostile comment. You wrote:

    “And by the way, when they retire they lose their meager pastors salary and live off social security and the priest pension which isn’t much. And, they have to pay the parishes where they live room and board unless they’ve worked out another deal with the pastor. I guess Diane wants 90 year old men working 50 hour weeks, getting up in the middle of the night and driving in blizzards.”

    It is very arrogant and wrong for you to presume to speak for what I “want”. Did you ask me? No. Your preoccupation with money seems to tell a lot. What I “want” is what the Lord has promised; i.e. that every priest will be a “priest forever,” and be faithful to his vocation and not treat it as a “job” or a “career.” I think it is shameful that what should be the best years of his ministry are spent at parish council meetings, in pastoral planning, and being led into destroying churches and schools, rather than building them. Nowhere did I say that 90-year old men should be getting up in the middle of the night (although I suppose many do) or driving in blizzards. Where do you get this? However, if a priest were to drive in a blizzard and have a fatal accident, would he not be doing what Jesus called “laying down his life for another?” which is showing the greatest love of all. It surely would be more meritorious than choking on a piece of steak at a gourmet restaurant. No, this is not what I want, but what I would like to see stop is diocesan institutionalization of the impression that priesthood is just another job, because it is not. And I want much more care to be taken before a priest and his bishop say, at any age, the words attributed to Satan: “Non serviam.” (I will not serve.)

  30. JLo: Bravo for your comments in your last post!
    Diane Harris: I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Anonymous 137161 also did not view a frequent arrangement of an older priest helping out with masses and confessions at the same church/rectory where he lives. He does not have to drive in a blizzard to celebrate mass. Also, in a real blizzard, the Bishop of a Diocese gives a dispensation and advises the faithful to stay home.

  31. avatar Anonymous says:

    Christian, I was referring to a 90 year old pastor whom Diane won’t let retire having to drive in the middle of the night in a blizzard to anoint someone. But Diane seems to think that a priest who dies like that is perfectly okay. In fact, she seems to desire it. Thirty years ago, I heard Cardinal O’Conner say that the day will come when the people will kill the priests. I guess that day had come. Oh, the bishop only gave that dispensation once, during the big ice storm in the 90’s.

    Oh, Diane, you didn’t mention Father Jim Lawlor who is well past 70 and is still helping out. In fact, he came out if retirement to work full time at St. Charles Borromeo before Fr. Firpo was assigned there. I’m sure it was just an oversight that you forgot to mention his selfless service. You also forgot Msgr. Shannon at the SSH Motherhouse who has worked well past 70 years old.

  32. avatar Nerina says:

    I’m sure it was just an oversight that you forgot to mention his selfless service.

    Anon-195242:

    Read the following from Diane again and take a deep breath. (Note the emphasis)

    I so greatly admire the older priests who see the shortage (whether a contrived or true shortage need not be debated for the moment) and who step in to fill the need of the people. They may no longer be pastors, but they have pastors’ hearts. There are many who doubtless deserve to be mentioned, but I will pick two whom I have personally known.

    At least try to be honest in your retorts and stop stuffing words into Diane’s mouth.

  33. avatar Irondequoit Mom says:

    The Guidelines are coming out, from the C for C, about 3 years after the appointment of Card. Burke as Prefect….hmmmn. First, the C for C has got to be dog -tired of getting their judgements okaying closings reversed by Card. Burke’s Signatura. Does the Vatican move at a snail’s pace? Absolutely. But in this case, they are zooming to get these guidelines out to the US Bishops – why? Because like OLOL, like St. Thomas, like the churches in Cleveland and Syracuse, and Boston, parishioners are fighting back. The pendulum is (hopefully) swinging our way to protect the parishioners and their forebearers’ work and sacrifice. And it is the C for C’s way of allowing some of these Bishops who are doubtless getting poor counsel from these liberal priests (in their late 50s and 60s) to know what their diocese is in for if they start using these churches as ATMs.

    And if I hear one more poster referring to a church as “just a building”, I personally will hunt them down and explain, in person, that my grandparents who came from Italy cleaned houses, work in factories, till soil, pick vegetables so that they can build a house of worship FOR THE AGES (not for 50 years). “Just a Church” – That is the sorriest argument/justification I have ever heard that a church should be closed and we should be happy about it. How about if I pull your wedding ring out of my insinkerator, hand it to you – all mangled and dented – and say to you – well I mean, you are still married, right? That was JUST a wedding ring. If that analogy doesnt suit, Ive got plenty. Just try it ONE MORE TIME.

    (okay, I am hyperventilating, time to get the advair)…

  34. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Actually, I don’t need to say any more. Between JLo, Irondequoit Mom, Christian 1954, Nerina, DW, Susan of Corning and Dr. K, and others earlier on this thread, it has all been said. God bless! And I’m glad that Anonymous (whoever that is) has some aged, personal priest-heroes to respect and emulate. I think it can be an important first step in discerning the essence of the priesthood.

  35. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    Irondequoit Mom, amen. My grandparents were off the boat from Italy too. They and their neighbors gave money from their need, not “extra” money, as many of us do today. I would be ashamed to meet them in heaven and say, sorry, preserving that church you built – just too hard, too time-consuming, not worth it, just a building.

  36. avatar Gretchen says:

    What if the Archbishop of Paris decided to close Notre Dame and turn it into condos or the Bishop of Venice decided to close St. Marks and make it low-income senior housing? Would we say, “Well it took them 182 years to build Notre Dame, but, hey, it’s just a building. You shouldn’t get too attached to real estate…”

  37. avatar Louis E. says:

    Catholic pastors over a dozen years older than Bishop Clark include Anthony Majchrowski of All Saints in Flint,Michigan (b. 1918),Peter Lentine of St. Philomena’s in Detroit(b. 1919),and William Blacet of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Kansas City,Missouri(b. 1921).
    Msgr. Lentine has served his parish for 44 years,and as for Fr. Majchrowski…it’s his childhood parish,he became assistant pastor in 1945,administrator in 1955,and has been pastor since 1958.
    Msgr. Blacet has held a variety of assignments,from being the last Vice-Chancellor of the old Diocese of St. Joseph in the 1950s to being cathedral rector of the merged Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph before his current post.He has said “I wasn’t ordained to retire” and the other gentlemen of the cloth I mention clearly agree.

  38. avatar JLo says:

    Irondequoit Mom and Susan of Corning, here here! I, too, am the proud product of four grandparents who came to this blessed country from Italy and built our churches and prayed Holy Mass and novenas in them and proudly walked in processions back in the day. Bless them all! And Lord have mercy on such as we today.

    Lastly from me (honest :-)), I would still like to bring everyone back to Scripture and what it teaches us, lessons that NEVER change for the times. In Genesis we are told (and Holy Mother Church teaches) that work makes us holy. This concept of “retirement” as we discuss it in our world today is a pagan belief. As Naji Mouawad from Qorbono teaches, “the Christian will labor in the vineyard of the Lord until the day he dies.”

    No, I don’t say we should all be using our time in the jobs we employed during the days of our careers, but we who “retire” need to find and do work for the Lord, i.e., for all his other children, until the day we die. Priests?! Their employment papers put them in an even more stringent employment category, so pray for mercy on those of them who seek and find “retirement” as the world teaches it, for their last job evaluation gets done by Jesus!

    For everyone, may God be praised and we blessed in all we do (DO, not say and muse over and argue, but DO!). +JMJ

  39. avatar Faithful says:

    Gretchen,

    Get over yourself. There is BIG difference between HISTORICAL churches that took 182 years to build and some church in your diocese or even my diocese. If you can’t see that what can I say?

    However in the end, yes Notre Dame while historical, and while it took 182 years to build is in the end just a building. Buildings can be destroyed, the Faith we profess cannot. THAT is what I wish you would remember. The Eucharist is what we worship, not the building we celebrate the Eucharist in. The building we celebrate the Eucahrist in is for the purpose of aiding our worship of the Eucharist.

    Becasue of modern needs what has tended to happen in many places is that the focus of Catholicism has shifted from the Eucharist to real estate. What I am suggesting is that we need to get our priorities in order. Our priorities should not be keeping open unnecessary buildings at all cost all for the sake of nastalgia and good feeling.

  40. Faithful said: …the focus of Catholicism has shifted from the Eucharist to real estate.

    Truer words were never spoken. Now if only Faithful could convince some of the bishops to shift back to the Eucharist and leave the real estate alone! 🙂

  41. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Sorry. I wasn’t planning to answer further, but the latest post from “Faithful” just can’t be allowed to stand unchallenged. Beginning with the words to Gretchen “Get over yourself,” that ad hominem attack continues downhill.

    The words repeated by Faithful over and over again ignore all empathy to the people. As a matter of fact, it looks much more like it is coming from the “other side” (of the altar rail, that is, if we still had altar rails), or from a priestess wannabee, or from someone who has sold out in the pastoral planning process and is now trying to justify what (s)he did, or did not do. There is not a trace of the human understanding of what losing their church means to the people. If it were merely a building, there would not be the level of grief that is experienced. But Faithful keeps demonstrating a lack of understanding the hearts of the flock who KNOW it is NOT merely a building. Treating a church as only a building is just an opinion, lacking eyes to see and ears to hear. That opinion has done so much damage, and will (and should) severely limit future donations and bequests to churches. If they are merely “buildings,” why give?

    But if we assume for a moment that Faithful is right (stick with me here) and that a church is “only a building,” then please explain for me how (s)he can POSSIBLY justify Bishop Clark’s investments in the Cathedral instead of in the people? It is meaningless, isn’t it? No, worse than meaningless; it would have been a misappropriation of financial resources (good taste arguments aside, for now.) WOW. “Only a building,” so flippantly echoed by planning teams throughout the diocese to get their way in parishes, must echo too for the cathedral if it is “only a building,” and must raise many questions about the appropriateness of investing in that “building” instead of in religious education, evangelization, charity. But the issue isn’t so simple, is it? What can be called into account with the cathedral are questions of prioritization (it already was a beautiful worship space that did not need anywhere near the extent of renovation that was inflicted), adding a butt baptism font, and placing an expensive organ against the back sanctuary wall which prevents returning to ad orientem Masses. (The same is happening at St. Januarius, as Fr. Ring plays the mini-Bishop role with plans for a font in the aisle, moving the tabernacle, and using a ramp to prevent future ad orientem Masses. No wonder the Bishop approved it…..more in a future Zeal post, coming soon.)

    Now, let’s further address Faithful’s repeated comments that a church is “only a building.” Quite frankly, such a position indicates a seriously deficient understanding of Scripture, and I hope (s)he has no role in preaching or in teaching with such a lack. The real question is not what I think, or Faithful thinks, or what any number of commenters think. The real question is “What does God think about His House?” Both Old and New Testaments are full of testimony on the subject.

    Does God care about that which has been dedicated to Him? A good place to begin to answer that question is in Exodus where God dictates how the Wilderness Tabernacle is to be constructed during the 40 years that the Jews wandered in the desert, down to its specific dimensions, architecture, and even the colors of the fabric. [Example: Read Exodus 25-40 and notice God’s favorite colors when He tells Moses: “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of scarlet stuff; fine twined linen and blue and purple and with skillfully worked cherubim shall you make them….] The liturgy matters too as is prescribed in detail in the entire book of Leviticus. We learn that God does care very much about both the building and how worship is conducted. And, later, He will also give specific instructions for Solomon’s building of the Temple at Jerusalem.

    In Exodus 28:42, God chooses the priests’ apparel as well, even down to, well, ahem, their underwear! It matters to God! And the liturgy matters too. Consider Leviticus 10: 1-2 where He strikes the sons of Aaron dead for using the wrong incense (creating “an unholy fire”) before the Lord. And sacred objects matter to the Lord. Consider God’s rules for how the ARK of the Covenant was to be handled, and not touched directly. Perhaps Uzzah meant no harm (as many involved in church closings may mean no harm either), but that which is consecrated to the Lord is holy to Him. (2 Samuel 6:2-7), and Uzzah’s possibly well-meaning touch caused him to be struck dead.

    Fast forward to the New Testament, where Christ seems more gentle. He has come to save, not to judge. But He exhibits His most angry, forceful and zealous moment, not on behalf of Himself, but on behalf of God’s House. All four evangelists recount the incident of Christ’s overturning the money-changers’ tables and proclaiming, as quoted in Matthew 21:12-13: “And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” And in John 2:17 His disciples remember: “Zeal for Thy House shall consume Me.”

    Christ taught in the Temple, He attended the Synagogue, and taught in the open when neither was available. He wept over Jerusalem and its destruction, and that the Temple would be destroyed because the people failed to accept their Savior. Destruction of the Temple and the prior Temple came when the Presence of God departed, because of the sin of the people. We should hope that the present day destruction through “pastoral planning” is not a sign of God’s departure; surely He is with the universal Church as He promised, to the end of the world, but what about in dioceses where what has been consecrated to Him is snatched out of His Hands, and exchanged for money? Where leadership has not spoken out adequately about the secular sins of the day? Logic must not be taught much anymore in colleges and seminaries. It is illogical to come to a conclusion that just because valid Masses can be said outside of a church, that a church building is no longer necessary, or can be wantonly destroyed.

    Somewhere post Vatican II (and this is not a criticism of Vatican II, lest someone go off on that tangent), some leaders in the Catholic Church seem to have decided that God somehow doesn’t mean His biblical words anymore. But the laity know better. They are like the little boy saying “Hey, the Emperor has no clothes on!” as hierarchical sshhhh’s pour forth. So the little boy shouted all the louder. Quite frankly, most of us are not interested in some prelate’s private revelation on church buildings, if that be the case, but only to stay faithful to the Word of God.

  42. avatar Dr. K says:

    Good point about the Cathedral, Diane.

    If only Bishop Clark had given the $11+ million to the poor instead of wasting it on tearing down the high altar… right?

  43. avatar Anonymous says:

    To all the posters who laud their ancestors for building beautiful churches way back when I say bravo! I also ask each of you a question to answer here – do each of you belong to the same parish today? Or did you belong to it and support it up to it’s closing? I’m curious to know if you and you children live in the same neighborhoods as your grandparents did and near the churches they built? If not, and you and/or your children moved, were you in the minority and would you say that most of the families who built those churches still live in those neighborhoods and attend those parishes and still support the infrastructure, still sending the next generations to Catholic schools, and do you encourage your children to enter the priesthood or religious life regularly?

  44. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Hi Dr. K,
    Your question about giving the $ 11M to the poor is difficult to answer. I am not opposed to spending money to make a Catholic Church, vestments, liturgical vessels, etc. beautiful for the Lord, and to honor Him with quality. But to use that as an excuse to make changes for a pastor or bishop’s ego reasons, or to deliberately make changes to prevent a Latin Mass from being said, or to drive people away with arrogance and not considering their wishes seems wrong to me. I’m also not opposed to building new churches where there is need.

    However, there are many needs, and some might put the poor at the top of the list. I personally put Catholic education way up that list. I’d also rather keep churches open than have some people no longer able to attend Mass. I’d also rather use volunteers as much as feasible, rather than multiplying salaried employees. I’m sure the need must vary by parish.

    What I think is important is that pastors and a bishop be good stewards of the people’s money, and if they don’t use it well and transparently, that the people be good stewards of their own funds, and hold onto those resources until they can ensure it will be used well.

    Hope this clarifies a bit.

  45. avatar Dr. K says:

    It was just a sarcastic parody of the oft-heard progressive commentary about giving money to the poor instead of a traditional priest/bishop spending money on X.

  46. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I thought it might have been, but also for those who would take it seriously (just in case) I thought it deserved an answer…..no harm/no foul.

  47. avatar Adsum says:

    Doesn’t the government of France technically own all the church buildings in that country now? So I am not sure the Archbishop could close Notre Dame if he wanted to anyway, although he could stop Masses from being offered…

  48. avatar Irondequoit Mom says:

    I celebrated all of my five sacraments in the church built by my grandparents, aunts and uncles. It is in another Diocese, but I get back to it when I can to attend functions, including Mass. But in that it is an hour away, I dont bring my family to Mass there on a regular basis. However, if I may jump ahead, I think what you may be getting at Anon. is that since the Church lacks support, it should close. Maybe so- but only the parishioners bearing that burden (as well as the pastor) make that decision. That is why the parishioners of a church are more like Trustees than anything else. The people giving to build and the parishioners of THAT parish have a deal- you build it, and we will endeavor to maintain and support it.

    Why I am so very angry about all of these closings- is that it breaks that bond of trusteeship (I think the DOR stylizes it as “stewardship”) and how to you get it back? As Diane stated previously, if it is just a building, then why give? And if you are the people backing the Pastor’s plan to enlarge the sanctuary, rip out the altar rail and make improvments, what the closings do is tell everyone that – while we will plead and beg for you to give now, in 20 years you may be hearing the same ol same ol. That gets old, and people get peeved (and leave).

    I agree with you Diane that the woman responding to Gretchen has to be a wannabee priest or is/was one of the HORRENDOUS administrators this DOR has had. Thankfully, ladies like her are not replacing themselves. I guess the analogy with the wedding band didnt suit her…why does that not surprise me…

  49. avatar Irondequoit Mom says:

    Sorry to clarify: My first para. was to answer the question of a previous poster.

    The second para is about why these guidelines are so necessary- will they fix it entirely, no. But maybe these Bishops will think twice, and maybe the people giving will have some kind of surety that the money they give to build now wont be wasted when it comes time for a “re-do” a la Sacred Heart, Bishop Clark-style.

    And while the last para was not nice, its still true!

  50. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    Anonymous-136102, yes, I am part of the parish that my ancestors built. Actually, the parish has been merged, and the church is threatened but still standing. Many others are descendants of the founders too, but not all. We have a number of converts and newcomers to the area as Corning is a company town. It’s a good mix of people.

  51. avatar Faithful says:

    Irondequit:

    If it is just a building why give? For the same reason you pay to maintain your house—even though you know one day you might not live there anymore for many reasons.

    The fact that you gave to a building that is closing does not make the time spent in that building any less meaningful or make your contributions any less meaningful. Your contributions simply will not go to maintain another Church home.

    Don’t you get that?

  52. Faithful, why maintain property that is just going to be torn down? That is not good financial sense. Even those in my parish who are itching to tear down our second and third churches know that…they’ve deferred maintenance for years so they can build up the lay staff (now way out of proportion to the work needed). They aren’t going to spend money on keeping things maintained when it’s all going to be torn down anyway.

    You imply that these churches are going to be handed down or sold for the same purpose they were built. Ha. Down here in Corning, the site of St. Pat’s is now going to be a private school; Immaculate Heart of Mary is rumored to be the future site of a donut shop or a pharmacy. St. Vincent’s was slated for senior housing until PHDC pulled out. God only knows what the leadership has in store for it now.

    Any way you cut it, it is a scandal.

  53. avatar Faithful says:

    Gretchen,

    No–what is scandalous is that Catholics are turning the mission of the Church into maintaining unnecessary real estate rather then evangelization. What is scandalous is that it is more important for you to keep your building then to let an old priest retire. What is scandalous is that you refuse to come together as one community for the sake of best utilizing God’s resources all becasue you prefer 1950’s nastalgia to dealing with the needs of 2011. Consider: less church buildings means more priests avaliable for pastor, (and frees up priests for other wider needs such as schools and hospitals) and less lay administrators. Ever consider that? What is scandalous is the lengths you people will go for your buidlings–but what about the actual FAITH? What is more important? The Eucharist or the building? What should be our priorities?

    I don’t buy Diane’s conspiracy theories either. Truth be told I think the conspiracy theories are an easy out. Better to keep living in denial and scapegoat the Bishop then deal with reality as it is.

    If this problem (that is to say lack of priests, and closing parishes) were unique to Rochester—that would be different. But when this is going on in dioceses all accross the county and the people are making much the same nonsensical charges you all are—what am I supposed to think? That the bishops are truly evil boogeymen out to get people? No, I think it is more along the lines of the bishops have ignored the problem long enough (to placate the people) but can no longer ignore it and have to act. Much of this should have been started 15 years ago! Bishops were loath to do it becasue they knew the reaction they would get from the people. You act like bishops like doing this—as if bishops LOVE the fact that they have to close parishes and schools! THEY DON’T! NO ONE DOES! In fact no one hates the closings of the parishes and schools MORE then the bishops. But there is a difference: Bishops are doing what is NEEDED, not what is WANTED. I grant the people don’t WANT this, (nor do I) but wants do not equal needs. Sometimes we have to forgo what we WANT for the sake of what is NEEDED.

    I am NOT defending the rampant liberalism that goes on in your diocese, nor am I defending the fact that your bishop permits it and encourages it. Most of the time I am in full agreement with much of the postings here—but not when it comes to parishes. When it comes to the parishes, the people are simply being unrealistic. (Period.) The days are gone when every town is going to have a Church. Even if there was a Catholic population in that town, there is something called an automobile which people can drive the two miles over to the next Church. Much of the town parishes were built in an era when cars were not as ubiquitious. Why is it people don’t mind driving to the Mall, or Walmart, or to dinner, but they think they ought to be able to walk to Church?

  54. Faithful you said: The days are gone when every town is going to have a Church.

    What world are you living in? In my town, we have a little (or big) Protestant church on every neighborhood corner. Isn’t it amazing that these little congregations of sometimes 100 or less families are able to keep their churches as a visible representation in the community? How do they do it? What miraculous favors does heaven bestow on them that they are able to continue on through the good and bad times?

    Go ahead and look in the Yellow Pages…check out the number of Protestant churches versus Catholic churches in most cities and then come back here and try to make your arguments.

    This boils down to stewardship. You say the bishops should’ve started closing churches 15 years ago, huh? Wow, if they’ve known this long that they were looking at the bogeyman of population shifts (I’m shocked, shocked I tell you that the DOR has seen an increase in population while the Catholics have been oddly decreasing), priest shortages (we’ve already taken care of that on another thread), and so on, why didn’t they begin aggressive evangelization and exhorting the faithful to be fruitful and multiply, actively supporting vocations and, and any number of other things rather than tearing down the holy places of God?

    It truly is a scandal and it’s ugly.

    I’d be interested in hearing your understanding of the mission of the Catholic Church. Like Christ, it should be the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yep, even in the 1950s the mission was to save souls, to proclaim the Gospel. So, when new churches were built in the 1950s, the mission was still the same as 1900, right? And in 2011, the mission is still the same, and people still need to attend church and still need to receive sacraments? And Christians are supposed to keep assembling together like St. Paul tells us, right? God gave the people resources to build those churches for generations to come. But according to you they are better utilized by being torn down. That’s what the enemies of the Jews always did–they tore down their holy places.

    You keep making the same tired excuses over and over again. It does not help your cause.

  55. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Faithful–“There you go again.”

    Let’s just take your point about driving 2 miles. You wrote: “…there is something called an automobile which people can drive the two miles over to the next Church.” Where do you get such absurd data? In OLOL we are out in the country. It is 28 miles round trip on average to go from the average home location to the next closest church. One of the planning proposals (and the one which is half accomplished at this point) was to keep the two largest churches open and close the 4 smallest. Based on attendance, we made a simplistic calculation of 30 cars per church driving 7.5 miles extra each way, every Sunday. It worked out to driving an additional 93,600 miles for the laity each year.

    When we did the calculations, gas was $2.50. So, when gas is $4/gallon and we assume 20 miles per gallon, the extra driving results in out-of-pocket costs to the pool of traveling parishioners of over $18,000 per year total just for fuel, and that does not include tire and mechanical wear, insurance costs or increased chance of an accident and those deductibles. With most organizations recognizing such extras, and reimbursing about 50 cents/mile, the extra 93,600 miles driven equates to an estimated real cost of $46,800/year for the parishioners of the closed churches.

    We also considered that the extra driving uses at least 15 minutes more, round-trip or 13 hours per year for each person driving in the car, or over 3000 more hours of parishioner time wasted in driving. But–the wonderful news is that the priest is saved some extra driving time and wear and tear on his car, which may or may not (Fr. Ring says ‘not’) be reimbursable to him (and if not, is probably income tax deductible, which of course it is not to the families, thus increasing still further the comparable economic impact for families. Do you think pastoral planning teams even had the thought, let alone did the calculations? I doubt it. The church I belonged to was founded over 140 years ago, when priests came on horeseback in all kinds of weather to say Masses in homes. So please don’t insult our intelligence and damage your own credibility further by asserting that people think they should be able to walk to Church.

  56. avatar Faithful says:

    Diane,

    28 miles? Oh the humanities!

    If you live in the country you have to drive anyway just to get food!

    I don’t think 28 miles is unreasonable when I know of a Protestant Mega Church not far from me where people are willing to drive 45 (yes 45) minutes to go to service. I also know of friends of mine who had children that drove 45 minutes to go to a prep-school. Funny–none of those people complained about gas, etc–why? Becasue they understood this is the way it works.

    Not far from me is a mall that is probably about 20 minutes away–no one complains about driving there to get stuff.

    My point: I love the double standards! When it comes to Mass, church is supposed to be within walking distance or maybe a two minute drive, but when it comes to everything else which is FAR LESS IMPORTANT people will drive and not complain.

  57. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I’m not personally complaining about 28 miles, Faithful. I am complaining about you and the complete lack of empathy you have exhibited toward the flock, the people, the souls. Personally, I have gone 100 miles to be able to get a Latin Mass, and a similar distance just to hear a (really) faithful preacher. But you obviously have no real contact with the people who are affected by 28 miles; the elderly parishioner who can get by with 5 miles but not with 28, the homebound who rely on neighbors to bring them, and I could go on and on. Double standard? The flock is to be served by men who take vows to serve God and his people. So the pastor gets to avoid some travel and to whom does he push off the burden of travel? THAT isn’t even “double standard;” that is reverse standard. Just like the pastor on Holy Thursday who let the people wash his feet. Back to Logic 101.

    And you continue to miss that this was an answer to the inanity which you wrote, not a “justification” against driving 28 miles. You hijack this blog to write such things and keep directing people’s attention away from the real issue of not caring for souls, and you avoid questions like where is the money going, only to restate the 1950’s arguments and to belittle answers people give you. What is your real agenda here? and just who are you serving? I truly have to wonder.

  58. Diane is right on.

    Faithful brought up the Protestant mega-church. Yeah. Used to attend one of those back in the day. Drove 30 minutes to get there. After awhile we realized that there was no true community there. Waaaayy too crowded for one thing. Never did meet the pastor face-to-face, though we did meet an associate pastor once when we made an appointment to talk about a problem we were having with one of our sons. The associate pastor told us all about the same problem he was having with his son and how he didn’t know how to handle it, either.

    Don’t get me wrong, these were all very nice and good people who were following God and trying to lead the flock as well as they could.

    Funny though how they kept trying to foster community by organizing all kinds of small group interactions–you know, like a neighborhood parish community. Like what the Catholic Church has done–building churches in neighborhoods, a visible presence of the Lord in our midst, where everyone has a place and a stake in community life. Where most everyone knows everyone else and they take care of each other and help the poor and educate their kids and live out their calling, all with the Lord Jesus Christ present Body and Blood.

    But now we are told it is selfish to be able to walk to mass. Really? Does Faithful really want to keep making that argument? He/she compares driving to a store to attending mass. Do he/she really want to posit that because there isn’t a mall on every corner we should therefore not have a church in every neighborhood?

    A neighborhood church’s proximity to the people is just one positive aspect.

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