Catholics Work to Keep Parishes Open

In New Orleans, LA, parishioners from St. Henry. Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Francis de Sales parishes began around the clock prayer vigils in early November to forestall closure orders from the Archdiocese.  Two parishes filed appeals with the Vatican. “We had direct conversations with the archbishop early on,” says Larry Schmidt, an urban planner and parish leader at Our Lady of Good Counsel, a church on the National Register of Historic Places. “We were clearly told, if you meet the [archdiocese’s] benchmarks you will not be closed. We exceeded those benchmarks. We are healthier financially than we’ve ever been. That’s the devastating part of this decision — that we were lied to.” (National Catholic Reporter, and Jason Berry article in The Gambit)

In the Toledo diocese, a group of ex-parishioners from a closed Catholic church in Kansas, OH, asked the Ohio 3rd Court of Appeals to remove Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair as trustee of the former church’s property and finances. At an October 7th hearing former parishioners argued that the bishop failed to act in their best interests. Nicholas Pittner, representing the St. James Parish ex-members, and an outside expert both said the case could set precedent if it restricts Catholic bishops’ ability to sell property and transfer funds of parishes - closed or otherwise - in Ohio and possibly nationwide. Mr. Pittner, of the Columbus firm of Bricker & Eckler, told the appellate court that the St. James situation was not the typical court case of a disaffected faction seeking ownership of church property after a schism. “In this case, the church left the plaintiffs; the plaintiffs did not leave the church,” he said. (The Lima News)

An Allentown, Pa organization calling itself the Coalition of Suppressed Parishes is asking the diocese for transparency regarding implementation of diocesan synod recommendations about which parishes should close; financial disclosure about money from the closed parishes, the sale of religious artifacts and the salaries of diocesan employees, including that of Bishop Edward P. Cullen. A spokesman for the diocese denied the reason for the closures was financial, citing a serious priest shortage, and promised financial information will be given to newly formed finance committees at the merged parishes.    Forty-seven churches were recently closed throughout the five-county diocese. Fourteen parishes have appeals pending at the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome. On November 11 about 50 members of the group prayed and marched in front of the bishop’s residence.  One of the group’s leaders, Joseph Fuisz, a graduate of Yale University and the University of Columbia Law School, stated the group may consider legal action. (Allentown Republican Herald)


Focus on FutureChurch

Fall 2008


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