Shadows and Obfuscation in New York

st patrick cathedral nyLiam sent this link in another thread, but I thought the story of parish closings in a prominent archdiocese deserved its own thread for your commentary.

On Tuesday night, for example, Charles Shaw, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s parish in Poughkeepsie, attended an archdiocesan meeting in Kingston with people from about a dozen other churches to discuss how the mergers would take place.

Mr. Shaw, whose church will be effectively closed by Aug. 1, announced to church officials at the meeting that he would refuse to comply with any plans until he got a copy of the decree. He informed the other churches that parishioners could demand to see their own decrees, and that they also had a right to appeal.

“None of them even knew,” Mr. Shaw said.

The meeting soon disintegrated in anger, he and another attendee said, and afterward, he was swamped with people from other churches asking about how to fight their mergers.

The failure to release the decrees seems to have particularly affected churches in which English is not the primary language. At St. Joseph’s parish in Manhattan’s Chinatown, which has also been ordered effectively shut by Aug. 1, few if any of the hundreds of Chinese speaking parishioners knew about the ability to appeal, said Natashia Ju, a bilingual parishioner who went to archdiocesan headquarters on Jan. 23 with the director of the parish’s Chinese community to view her parish’s decree.

“To me, it looks discriminatory,” she said.

It looks a lot worse than just discriminatory, which would be bad enough. According to the NYT, decrees went up on the archdiocesan website the next day. But this whole misadventure raises many, many questions.

It may well be that parishes will need to merge. Catholics fled to the suburbs two generations ago. A parish peopled by New York’s service industry will not fare as well as a parish of Wall Street bankers and folks with window views of Central Park. It seems that parishes themselves are best placed to decide to continue or merge or close. A bishop can tell his flock: I can supply a pastor to any parish with N. for more parishioners. Parishes that meet other guidelines can share a pastor. Parishes with major costs of building upkeep, the same. Maybe no loan is forthcoming. Then the impetus is on the parishioners. The culture of entitlement is not a healthy way to run things. But surely, a small parish can feel free to double, triple, or otherwise enhance its numbers before the building starts falling apart.

Speaking of which, St Patrick’s Cathedral, imaged above, is in the midst of a nine-figure restoration. How does it sit that the archbishop’s church gets oodles of support, while Chinese Catholics get the stonewall?

Meetings disintegrating into anger: what ninnymuggins at the chancery thought this would be avoided? Cleveland’s bishop got slapped down by the Vatican a few years ago, but not before one parish went into schism. Just imagine if these non-Roman, but Catholic breakaway parishes got into a serious evangelization kick instead of licking their wounds on self-determination. Or worse, a cardinal getting shouted down at liturgy instead of applauded.

And speaking of the cardinal, this reflects very badly on him. If he delegated, he has chosen his staff very badly indeed. And if his personal fingerprint is on this plan, it’s can’t be understated: this is pastoral and moral negligence.

Transparency: Pope Francis is not wrong for emphasizing this. Will his own advisors listen?

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Shadows and Obfuscation in New York

  1. John McGrath says:

    It hard to avoid thinking that bishops are a creepy lot. BTW 1, that parish in Cleveland that went into schism is an example in its worship and community service of how a parish should operate, with a kind hearted, humble, very spiritual pastor. The church itself is beautiful, and I think it was originally a black parish but is now mixed. BTW 2, The restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC is supported by wealthy Catholics outside the NYC diocese. Cardinal Dolan bent over backwards to accommodate their extreme conservative views on the economy, views opposed to what this pope is saying. As they say in DC, “lean to the green,” heed your big donors and give them what they want. Gone are the days when a cathedral could be built with a combination of donations from a few local wealthy people and many many poor people, “Irish washer women,” as the legend of St. Patrick’s cathedral goes.

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