For Immediate Release: April 17, 2012
Christine Schenk CSJ
216-228-0869, ext. 4 (work)
FutureChurch Statement on Bishop Richard Lennon’s decision
to reopen Cleveland parishes
FutureChurch welcomes the decision by Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon to bring peace to the diocese by reopening 12 parishes whose appeals were upheld by the Vatican. This prudent decision is a final ratification of the courage of Cleveland Catholics whose love for their parish communities led them to appeal. They are now richly rewarded for their faith in the judicial systems of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Lennon is to be praised for consulting widely with the diocesan Priests’ Council and other diocesan bodies before making this decision. The diocese is blessed with outstanding, dedicated personnel at the Parish Life and Pastoral Planning offices who have abundant pastoral skills for restoring appealing parishioners to their parish homes. It is our hope and expectation that these same parishioners will accept the Bishop’s call for peace and work closely with the diocese to reestablish a viable and vibrant parish.
FutureChurch is proud to have played an important role in the landmark Vatican decision upholding the rights of Catholics to have an appropriate voice in determining the future of their parish.
Most recently we asked canon lawyer Sr., Kate Kuenstler to prepare a canonical commentary on the Vatican’s Cleveland decrees. This proved very useful to diocesan priests, laity and pastoral leaders in discerning how to move forward. The 28-page commentary pointed out that over the past 18 months, the Vatican has begun a new policy of not permitting bishops to reduce the churches to secular use and sell them. The following are no longer considered legitimate reasons for closing a church:
For the past five years FutureChurch’s Save Our Parish Community initiative has been educating Catholics all over the US and worldwide about their right to appeal, as scores of dioceses closed hundreds of parishes, many because of the priest shortage. Beginning in 2007, FutureChurch sent canonical information on the rights of parishes and best practices for preserving vibrant parishes to priests, pastoral ministers and lay leaders in every Cleveland parish. In March 2009, FutureChurch offered canonical guidance and contact with canon lawyers to Cleveland parishioners in 20 parishes in who downloaded special canonical, prayer, and organizing materials from our website. Over the last three years FutureChurch provided regular updates and consultation about progress with appeals around the US, as well as Cleveland appeals.
Last February the initiative experienced its first resounding success when the Vatican supported parishioner appeals from thirteen parish churches from three dioceses [Allentown, PA (9) Springfield MA (3), and Buffalo (1)] and ruled that though the bishop’s decision to suppress the parish was upheld, the churches could not be sold or closed. FutureChurch supplied canonical and other resources to parishioners in all three of these dioceses.
About FutureChurch Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, FutureChurch is a national coalition of 3,500 parish centered Catholics striving to educate fellow Catholics about the seriousness of the priest shortage, the centrality of the Eucharist (the Mass), and the systemic inequality of women in the Catholic Church. FutureChurch is a nonprofit organization that makes presentations throughout the country, distributes education, advocacy and prayer resources and recruits activists who work for changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life and leadership.
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