Sunday, August 22, 2010


Their church building in Cleveland, Ohio closed by their bishop. How would you feel?

Mass in their temporary gathering space, does this look progressive to you?

Schism in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio! The bishop of that diocese had the monumental and unenviable task of closing and consolidating parishes in his city/diocese. One parish, a rather progressive, liberal one, St. Peter's has gone into schism with the Church. This schism is led by its pastor with support of parishioners who love him and love the parish he created with them. READ ABOUT IT BY PRESSING HERE!

What's fascinating to me is that liberals usually are all over the place and cannot organize in any fashion to create any real or lasting schism. Ultra-conservatives, on the other hand, know how to go into schism and pull it off. Think of Archbishop Marcel Lefebre's schism. He knew what he was doing and had a personality that led millions of others into his schismatic sect. Conservatives know how to unify! This can be both a blessing and a curse. But I digress.

The parish I was assigned to in Augusta in 1991, the Church of the Most Holy Trinity,was amalgamated with two other parishes in 1970, an all black parish, Immaculate Conception and and all white one, Sacred Heart Church. The three downtown parishes were in close proximity to one another and there was no longer a need for three downtown parishes since most of the Catholics has moved to the suburbs and new parishes created there. As one can imagine, the two churches that were closed caused great pain for parishioners involved. Some refused to attend Most Holy Trinity and moved to suburban parishes, other stopped attending Mass altogether and still others left the Catholic Church for other Protestant Churches. However, no priest or parishioners went into schism with the Catholic Church setting up an "independent Catholic parish" such as the priests and his groupies, I mean, parishioners in Cleavland.

Sacred Heart Church in Augusta is a "sister" to St. Joseph in Macon, conceived by the same Jesuit brother who also conceived Sacred Heart Church in Tampa and the destroy Sacred Heart Church in Galveston, Texas. All his churches are simply jewels!

What would you do if your historic, much loved Church were closed by the bishop? How would that affect your Catholic faith and participation. If you had a charismatic priest who was willing to rebel and defy his bishop and the Church, would you follow him blindly. Is the "cult of the priest's personality" that powerful in Catholic lives?

I would like to make a comparison. Clericalism, that is, priests who think they are above the law, either church law or civil law and think they compose a caste in the Church superior to anyone else is a grave sin. It has contributed to Catholics believing that their priests are above reproach, are divinely inspired in all their action and trustworthy in all things. Some rogue, derelict and perverted priests have taken advantage of parishioners naivete in this regard by abusing their authority and status. This has led to children, teenagers and adults being sexually and otherwise abused and the crisis we now experience today in terms of Catholic credibility.

Some lay Catholics place their priests so high on a pedestal and make them icons of their lives that they are devastated when they learn that "their" special priest may have committed heinous crimes and sins in their past by using the status accorded to them to take advantage of the unsuspecting.

I believe that the priest in Cleveland who has led his parish into schism has abused his position, taken advantage of his parishioners and his parishioners, so enamored with that priest's abilities, skills and rebellious attitude, have followed him much like so many others who follow cult leaders. It is a shame!

I would hate seeing any parish closed. If I were a lay person I don't think I would ever follow any priest or lay person out of the Catholic Church, at least I hope I wouldn't. What about you?


Augusta's closed Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart's "sister" St. Joseph Church, Macon. How would you feel if the bishop closed it?

Interior of St. Joseph which is more elegant than closed Sacred Heart, don't you think?

Interior of Augusta's closed Sacred Heart Church, now a cultural center for receptions!


Anonymous said...

While it is difficult for me to imagine the pain caused by the closing of a parish, I am confident that I would remain faithful to Christ's Church, and seek out a new parish.

Gene said...

I would certainly remain a faithful Catholic, but I would have to camp out in the Confessional because of my anger and epic use of profanity...

-Brian said...

I have seen that the Catholic Church exists first and foremost in the hearts of the faithful. Everything that extends out from there is beautiful architecture (Ps. 50:2), good witness (Jas. 1:17), and truthful testimony (Jas. 1:18) heralding the good news of salvation.

Yet, our architecture here, raised so artfully upon the land of liberty, is tossed into the hands of tourists and revelers to keepsake its beauty. This speaks to the condition of the church in the hearts of the faithful. How dynamic, graceful, and elegant those hearts would have had to have been to extend church and produce the “jewels” in these photographs. How is the church formed in our hearts today? Where is that same sacred formation of heart that produced “jewels”? Really, it is is unformed. We have for the worst part chosen to lose much sacredness.

As Catholics we know that no human can lead us to salvation; but, humans instrumented by the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit can and do. Cults of personality are underpinned by idolatry of self and blasphemy toward the Paraclete. Arrogance that averts lives is fed by our loss of conversion to the Paraclete who waits in our heart to lead us in every action we take. But we don’t choose our heart and the grace that’s seeded there.

The very corporality of our heart, our adults & youth, choose to fill their heart with media content. Inarguable empirical evidence from 2010 reveals that 18 year olds submit to 7 ½ hours of media every day 7 days a week. Let’s add workplace time, classroom time, activities of daily living time, sleep time, and we have no time for the Paraclete. Science says, “The TV shows they watch, video games they play, songs they listen to, books they read and websites they visit are an enormous part of their lives, offering a constant stream of messages about families, peers, relationships, gender roles, sex, violence, food, values, clothes, and an abundance of other topics too long to list” (Kaiser Family Foundation 2010).

With no time we seek out others to do for us. With no time we seek the easiest most facilitative way to makeshift everything in our lives from constructing love, practicing childcare, and nurturing our health, to worshiping our God. We have no time for our heart. Worst of all when things go to hell we turn to the brave women and men who receive the gift to heed Gods call and with the same facilitative sloth we demand they fix it. We have no time to stop the hellions.

So, the church plants become like fleeting beauty (Prv. 30:31), and victimized, deformed, and damaged persons become pied pipers of darkness leading us down the garden path to...???

As for me, its not "What would you Do?"

I do rail against the degradation of our hearts extension. I write, I speak out, I work to form hearts, I give of my time, my talent, and my treasure. However, alone with the grace of God I am weak and tossed on the water. I need to stand with others who commit in kind. 10% of the 20% of the whole is evidently not working well. God wants more. U’awll would choose to say enough, how much, or no?

Anonymous said...

The good news is that most of these parishes are very close to each other and finding a place to attend Mass and community to belong is pretty easy.

The bad news is that the parishes are dying, the schools are emptying, and the parishioners are only getting older, no young ones are staying.


Dymphna said...

If my parish closed and was merged with another I'd find another parish.

Templar said...

That's a pretty tough question for me. In one way I have already faced it. The Parish I am "assigned to" is a heterodox mess, so I sought out and found a more Orthodox Parish (St Joseph) 20 miles away. Although it is beautiful to be sure, it is it's Orthodoxy and Reverence for the Sacred that keeps me there. So, if the Bishop closed it what would I do?

My first preference would be to look for another which is also Orthodox.

As for the SSPX, I do not believe them to be in schism. Yes, Archbishop Lefebre committed a Schismatic Act by ordaining 4 Bishops without approval (since lifted I might add) but the Society itself is not Schismatic. In fact I would go so far as to say they are more Orthodox, Parish for Parish, then most Diocesan Parishes. But they lack jurisdiction so they are not an option for me. Were they ever regularized, like the FSSP are, I would not hesitate to enroll in such a Parish. In fact, would love to see the FSSP be given a Parish in this Diocese to put to the test the real potential of a Traditional Rite Parish compared to a New Rite Parish. You see, because while we are right to point of the problems with the SSPX, we are remiss in not pointing out the obvious; it may have been a cult of personality that created the SSPX, but it is not what sustains it. On a per-capita basis, the SSPX ordains clergy at a higher rate than Dioceses, and has better attendance than Diocesan Parishes; etc etc etc. In all ways they exceed the "output" of Diocesan Parishes. While acknowledging they are not regularized, we should at least ask why the Holy Spirit chooses to work in that way?

As for the situation in Ohio, from reading the article I gather the Bishop closed their Parish because they were a bunch of heterodox rebels. Good riddance to them. Now give that Parish Church to the FSSP and see how long the "Community of St. Peter" lasts.

Carl Jonson said...

I work in fundraising and have worked with variuos diocese. Bishops are faced with difficult tasks in keeping parishes open. Not mentioning any diocese or parish names I have seen the financial situation of many churches. Unfortunately, parishioners are not supporting the church enough. Many times it is a situation of generous parishioners are getting older and dying off. Younger parishioners are not coming in or not stepping up their support to make up the difference. It costs a good amount of money to keep a church running and properly maintained. Many pastors are hard pressed to ask their parishioners to give more knowing their financial difficulties. Dioceses depend on parishes for their means of financing their diocesan programs and most diocese are straddled with subsidizing needy parishes. Parishes ask the diocese for money, the diocese asks the parishes for more money. The parish needs more money from the parishioners. It is a vicious cycle. The truth is, neighborhoods change, there is less clergy and too many church buildings to keep open. The parish model may not work any more. Perhaps there should be one central rectory for priests to live in community with a main church. Then there could be missions where the group of priests can share responsibility. I don't know. Merging and closing of churches is the only recourse in many situations. People get upset when churches get closed, but their outrage is too late and they don't offer the means to keep these churches open.

Anonymous said...

This is going to sound off point, but as I live in Ohio and am familiar with the regions and the various dioceses, there is a contributing factor I think should be considered. Many, if not most, of the parishes in Ohio are not wealthy. They are populated by working class people, mostly union members and hourly wage workers. They are very active in social programs and justice issues. For many years now the dioceses support tax referendum illegal immigrant protection, food programs and various issues that aide the poor. We are now afloat in poor that are chronically unemployed yet are organised and funded enough to support massive voter turnouts for tax referenda, we sing half our hymns in Spanish although there are few, if any Spanish speakers attending Mass, and the poor seem more in need of Jenny Craig than St Vincent de Paul.

Attending mass reminds me more and more of visiting a relative in hospice. Spiritless recitations of prayers, depressing homilies cataloguing recent injustices (often graphically), ending in appeals to give more and seek justice. We have committees to work on justice in the Holyland (just around the corner, I guess), ensure fair trade products are consumed (and boycott Wal-Mart and Kroger for unfair labour practices), and support the growing Hispanic community that is conspicuously absent from the pews.

The confusing aspect of this is the parishioners blithely ignore almost all these efforts creating a scene where there are two conversations totally unrelated to each other, the Church in one monologue, the people in another.

The good news is that there is anybody that attends mass at all. It is obvious that they sleep through the homily, but they yearn for the ageless prayers, and although silent due 'Pan De Vita' are alive with the Creed. Tehy yearn for the simple, clear expression of Good News inherited through the ages. If they could get that without the extra baggage they would fill the churches to overflowing.

Anonymous said...

The pastor has a great responsibility here, and unfortunately he seems to have led the congregation astray. He should have encouraged his parishioners to join with other parishes close by and most importantly pray for the Bishop who had to make this incredibly difficult decision. Christ is present in every Church, in every tabernacle. It would have been a great opportunity for him to teach a sense of detachment and obedience.

Gene said...

Ah,yes, "social justice" issues...this is a code word for Left Wing political, anti-Catholic, anti-American activism. The Church has been misled into this nonsense by old hippie priests and a noisy, but largely non-contributing, rabble. Christian theology, after its primary concern for right belief and the salvation of souls, is fundamentally oriented toward service to our fellow man. All that is needed is proper preaching and catechising. There should be no need for tacking on socio-political philosophy (of any persuasion), fadistic social causes, feel good humanism, or tacky emotionalism. This is how Christians and Catholics lose their way. Perhaps the parishioners of such Churches as are mentioned can tell no difference between the political rallies they attend and Mass. No wonder they lose interest (and, it must be asked, is it better for the poor to be fat, happy, and apostate or hungry and saved?).
Theologically, the Church should be apolitical. There are, indeed, times in which the theological and political seem to overlap, but these should be few and seriously scrutinized. Because of this social justice nonsense, the Church finds herself in the position of encouraging the violation of this country's laws; the Catechism says thast is a no-no. So, let us appeal from the Holy Church lesser informed to the Holy Church better informed...and insist that the Catholic Churches and schools ban the words "social justice" from their teaching. Otherwise, we are just raising another generation of loud, obnoxious, poorly catechised, heretical rabble.

Anonymous said...

I would very unhappy if our parish were to close, but I would not follow a priest into schism. The One we all need to follow is in the Eucharist, so I would go to another parish. No matter how beautiful the churches here or how lovable the priests, the Heavenly Church and our One True High Priest awaiting us in Eternity are where our focus needs to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see the website of Catholic Church awash in Orthodoxy, check out this website for St. John Cantius Church in Chicago.
Tridentine Mass EVERY DAY at 6:00am!
Sodality of St. Monica.
Imagine, a parish with an actual Sodality.
I am drooling!
Suddenly, moving to the windy city and dealing with the cold doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all.

anon at 7:44

Templar said...

Precisely Anon @ 7:44

That is what my heart and soul crave, and more to the point, what I believe would "out perform" any NO Parish in a side by side competition.

I hate to belittle the subject matter by addressing it that way, but I know of no other way to express it. Side by side, unfettered by Diocesan interference, I believe a Traditional Parish would perform the mission of the Church better than any non-Traditional Parish. Every where one opens it proves that point.