How often do you read here of a pat on the back to a newspaper for their coverage of a complicated and controversial subject concerning the Catholic Church?
This is one of those days however. Hats off to the Plain Dealer Editor who wrote about the church closings this past Sunday. Facts were carefully laid out and a broad array of consequences – no hyperbole – no telling the Church what it needs to do (usually from non-Catholics or those who are barely practicing) – and no taking sides and emotional, not always well thought out, please. That is what I was taught in grade school a newspaper article should be.
The editor hit the nail on the head – the bishop is in for a rough time no matter what he decides. He might spend the time and resources to appeal the decision. Of course this will further the hurt of those who are currently rejoicing that their parishes are reopened. It also places the congregation from Historic Saint Peter in a more precarious position concerning their membership in the Catholic Church. And the local Church will be out some examples of mighty fine architecture.
It seems Rome is moving toward a view of preserving parishes – not necessarily congregations but parishes. This is, of course, much easier to do in Europe where the buildings are maintained by the state and if one needs to mothball a building, the five foot thick walls can stand abandoned for some time and when the need for the building returns, slap some new plaster on it, fix the roof, and there you go. Who ever heard of HVAC in a 500 year old building?
Obviously the state does not support church buildings in the United States, not even those of a historic nature. In fact, when we stop having Masses in these buildings they go on the tax rolls. They become a significant burden on the diocese. And to be quite frank, we cannot mothball our buildings for long. They are not built to withstand it. Try letting one of our buildings sit fallow for ten years and see if there is anything left worth saving.
On the other hand, what if the bishop decides not to challenge the decision – or if the decision is held up, there are many other repercussions. One lady who was interviewed about the reopening of her parish (in another article) said that as far as she knew the building would need a little dusting and then they could start right up. I wish it were so. In actuality it would be like starting a whole new parish but with significant expenditures coming upon it immediately. Many of the parishes no longer have a significant Catholic population within its boundaries. Those who attend will have to sacrifice mightily and quickly to get things up and running.
That also means people at other parishes will have to lose priests. The appointment of the pastors of the new merged entities is up for questions. Many times they were placed there to be a neutral person of the combined parishes. What of them? Will the congregations (and the priests!) have to go through changes again? What of the surrounding parishes? We have already discussed the possibility of taking a significant slash in next year’s budget because some new parishioners will be leaving to go back to their former parishes. Sacramental records will be a mess. Where were you baptized? At St. Combinedparishes which may never have canonically existed or where your parents originally belonged or at the parish Church in which it took place but has returned to its former name?
These are just some of the issues that have popped up recently. I am sure there are far more involved than I realize at this moment just as the well intentioned lady thought that nothing much more needed to be done than dust. Just be aware that whatever happens: it’s complicated.