Friday, July 18, 2014

Voice of America: The Closing of Churches, the Shrinking of an Archdiocese, and the Possible End to the Daily Traditional Mass in NYC

Voice of America has an article (and interviews) about the Church of the Holy Innocents in midtown Manhattan where the traditional Mass is offered daily (the only parish in NYC where it is offered daily).

http://www.voanews.com/content/manhattan-catholic-churches-face-consolidation-possible-closures/1959266.html


Manhattan’s Catholic Churches Face Consolidation, Possible Closures
  
Daniela Schrier


video


Some Catholic churches in Manhattan could be closed as the Archdiocese of New York implements a strategic plan to consolidate the churches. Shifting populations, limited resources and fewer priests are among the factors driving the consolidation. At one midtown church facing possible closure, parishioners pray for a miracle.

The Church of the Holy Innocents is the only church in Manhattan offering a high Latin Mass every day of the week. It is such a rarity that many travel across the New York metropolitan region for the daily 6:00 pm service.

Edward Hawkings makes the trek every day despite his disabilities, because the Mass inspires his soul.

“The Mass takes us to a different place. We concentrate at the Mass. It requires a great concentration. It lifts us up. It brings us to a different level, removes us from the world,” said Hawkings.

But this church, and others in Manhattan, are at risk. A program called "Making All Things New" by the Archdiocese of New York is evaluating the membership, ministry and fiscal solvency of the churches under its jurisdiction. Based on the results, some communities might see their churches closed as part of a consolidation.

The potential closure of Holy Innocents signals a larger problem to Thomas Basile, who has been coming to this church since he was a child.

“It seems to me almost like someone is intentionally dismantling the Catholic patrimony of this city. This is basically a Catholic city with a Catholic history," said Basile.

The parishioners in Manhattan once made up 25 percent of the Archdiocese's population, but now they account for only 12 percent. That and the dwindling number of Catholic priests are just two reasons why the Archdiocese has to make hard choices, said communications director Joseph Zwilling.

“Any kind of change is always difficult. We understand that it’s difficult especially for people in their parishes who love their churches, who love the way things are, who don’t want to see any change. And we understand that. But we also realize that if that church is going to effectively meet the needs of the people, it has to meet the needs of the people as they exist today,” said Zwilling.

But some Manhattan Catholics fear that their historic, city churches - built on valuable real estate - are only on the chopping block to improve the Archdiocese’s finances.

“The financial condition of the Archdiocese somehow may be corrupting decisions to make decisions to sell churches,” said Hawkings.

Zwilling denied that claim. He said the Archdiocese spends $30 to $40 million dollars a year to subsidize churches that cannot pay their debts, an amount that is unsustainable. The sale of a church will be the last resort, Zwilling said, and even when that happens the proceeds will be used for the parishioners.

The Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, is currently evaluating the program’s final recommendations and is expected to announce a decision in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the parishioners of Holy Innocents pray for the future of their church. On the Feast of Corpus Christi, an annual celebration of the Eucharist, they took their faith to the streets as proof that the city is still home to a vibrant Catholic community.

6 comments:

Catholic in Brooklyn said...

I said that partnering with the New York Times was a mistake for Holy Innocents. Just a few days after the HI article in the Times appeared, the Times ran a full page ad attacking the Catholic Church. The Times may have been friendly to the Catholic Church at one time, but those days are gone and will not be coming back. It is obvious that the Times used the situation at Holy Innocents to further attack the hierarchy of the Church.

I also don't understand why the people at Holy Innocents are partnering now with VOA. This is a government run paper. According to Wikipeda, the owner is the Federal Government of the United States. Certainly you will agree that the US Government has become a true enemy of the Church. So why would you be cooperating with another enemy of the Church? Why do you think a government sponsored paper would be so willing to publish an article attacking Cardinal Dolan?

There was also some real mistakes in the article, which you may or may not agree are substantial. First, as you well know, HI does not have a High Mass every day of the week. Secondly, Ed comes to HI a couple times a month at most, not every day. And the other parishioner interviewed comes very occasionally to a special High Mass.

This article, like the article in the Times, portrays the Archdiocese as the big bad wolf ready to destroy the hapless sheep of the Church. I really don't think this will help your cause at all. I went to the all night vigil at St. John's Church this past month. St. John's, as you know, is also on the potential hit list. There was no talk there about being protected from the devil, no portraying the archdiocese as the bad guy out to destroy them. The priest made one statement. He said that the final decision has not been made, and we should pray that God's will be done. That seems a much better route to go than trying to make the archdiocese out as evil.

I truly do hope and pray that Holy Innocents stays open. I think it would be tragic if it closes. But I don't think you are serving your cause well by making the Church itself your enemy. I think you would do much better to reach out directly to the Archdiocese and present your case. Going to true enemies of the Church to help you make your case will only hurt you in the end.

latinmass1983 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
latinmass1983 said...

CatholicInBrooklyn,

I would like to point out that

1) You keep putting "Holy Innocents" as a whole group as opposed to some parishioners in some cases. The New York Times and th Church of the Holy Innocents have not cooperated in anything. The Church of the Holy Innocents DID NOT invite the New York Times to write an article. That some parishioners gave an interview to the reporter outside of Holy Innocents does not guarantee that the entire parish agrees with the content of the article on the NYT.

2) The same can be said of Voice of America. The National Catholic Register also wrote a piece about closing churches, which mentioned Holy Innocents. Did you read that article? Do you think that Holy Innocents "partnered" with NCR? I would like to see your comments on that article.

3) Are you asking me if I have personally cooperated with any of these articles? when you say "why would you be cooperating with another enemy of the Church?" You will also see that Mr. Zwilling, an official representative of the Archdiocese of NY, has not had any difficulty in "cooperating" with either the New York Times, Voice of America, National Catholic Register, etc. Why, in your view, would he, an official representative of the Archdiocese of NY, be exempt, while and regular parishioners would not? This seems unjust.

Those "real mistakes" you mention are really not substantial. However, reporters make mistakes like that quite commonly because they tend not to be regular attendess of the places they go to. The NYT, for example, if I remember correctly, said that the traditional Mass was 144 years old. Talk about mistakes!

Mr. Hawkins comes to Holy Innocents quite frequently actually. He is more active than you are and is more involved in other groups that meet at Holy Innocents. The times he does not come is because his health prevents him from doing so. If these mistakes are in great need of correction, you may be able to email Voice of America and ask them to fix them. You could also email the NYT and correct their mistakes.

The NCR article also had a big lie said by Mr. Zwiling. He told the reporter that the Archdiocese has no problem with newly-ordained Priests saying the traditional Mass as their first public Mass. **This is a real lie**. The priest who did that in 2012 got in a lot of trouble! And he has not said the traditional Mass since then. If you would like to confirm that, I can give you his personal email address and you can ask him directly. Additionally, the newly-ordained priests this year were forbidden to say the traditional Mass as their first public Mass. In this, the Archdiocese of NY is going against the universal law of the Church (Summorum Pontificum) released by a higher authority than the Archbishop of NY.

I personally emailed Mr. Zwilling about this particular point he made to the reporter and he has not (and most likely will not) respond to my email. He knows he lied and with the intention to deceive with regards to the actual practices of the Archdiocese of NY when it comes to the traditional Mass.

You are welcome to come to Holy Innocents and discourage the people there from being part of these articles/videos/blogposts, etc. I cannot and will not waste my time in trying to stop people from doing what they will not stop doing.


Whatever the other churches do, that is their problem or prerogative. Have you gone to St. Michael and seen how they are dealing with their situation? Different people respond in different ways to different situations. Just like different gay people who attended the pre-pride parade Mass at St. Francis of Assisi have to be met where they are, I would assume that you would agree that other people in other situations should also be met where they are.

You should pray for them instead discredit them as much as you have tried to do on blogposts. You have used the word schism before for them, but to this day, I have not seen anyone at Holy Innocents become a real schismatic.

Catholic in Brooklyn said...

I feel very badly that you view me as an adversary to Holy Innocents. I attended Holy Innocents several times a week for over three years and went to almost every all night vigil with the exception of 1 or 2 times. I love the Church, the Mass and the people.

But there is no denying the negative spirit and attitude that is now coming from there, and as is evidenced even in your comments to me. It can never be a good thing when Catholics view those who are in legitimate authority as the enemy, and your comments make it very clear that is your view as well.

To answer your points:

You say: 1) You keep putting "Holy Innocents" as a whole group as opposed to some parishioners in some cases. The New York Times and th Church of the Holy Innocents have not cooperated in anything. The Church of the Holy Innocents DID NOT invite the New York Times to write an article. That some parishioners gave an interview to the reporter outside of Holy Innocents does not guarantee that the entire parish agrees with the content of the article on the NYT.

My response: If by “Church of Holy Innocents”, you mean Father Rutler who is the administrator of the Church, then what you are saying is absolutely true. I know he would never invite the secular media.

If the lay leaders (of which you are one) at Holy Innocents did not invite either the Times or VOA into the Church, then you need to do some sort of disclaimer. Why have you not disavowed the comments that were made and the interviews given? I am sure there are individuals at HI who do not agree with everything that has been said, but they are not the ones who have the authority to say anything. It is up to the leaders (meaning you and others) to speak out against these interviews, and caution people not to be so willing to make themselves available to the secular press. Like it or not, the public perception of Holy Innocents is shaped by what is reported in the media.

Your only criticisms of the VOA article were in regard to Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese. You said nothing about the substance and tone of the article, thus implying your agreement with it.

You say: 2) The same can be said of Voice of America. The National Catholic Register also wrote a piece about closing churches, which mentioned Holy Innocents. Did you read that article? Do you think that Holy Innocents "partnered" with NCR? I would like to see your comments on that article.

My response: This is off topic. The National Catholic Register is not an enemy of the Church as is the Times and VOA and therefore they are not looking to demonize. I think the complaints in the NCR article were legitimate and said without making the hierarchy the enemy. My concern is with secular media who have an agenda to destroy the Church.

It is interesting that you are the one with a problem with the NCR article because they did not point the finger at the Archdiocese and make them the enemy.


You say: 3) Are you asking me if I have personally cooperated with any of these articles? when you say "why would you be cooperating with another enemy of the Church?" You will also see that Mr. Zwilling, an official representative of the Archdiocese of NY, has not had any difficulty in "cooperating" with either the New York Times, Voice of America, National Catholic Register, etc. Why, in your view, would he, an official representative of the Archdiocese of NY, be exempt, while and regular parishioners would not? This seems unjust.

My response: I don’t see your name anywhere in these articles, and knowing you, I am sure you are not talking to any media. However, as I have pointed out, you have specifically stated here on your blog that your only problems with the article were the statements made by the Archdiocese. You said nothing about the comments by the parishioners, thus giving tacit support to them.

Catholic in Brooklyn said...

As a leader in the Church, I think you should be telling people not to talk to secular media who have, at best, a questionable agenda concerning the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese must interact with media, and Mr. Zwilling’s job is to be that spokesman. That is what he is trained for and as a professional, he knows how to handle the media. The lay people at Holy Innocents are not wise in the ways that they can be manipulated and exploited.

You are very emotionally invested in Holy Innocents, and I certainly don’t fault you for that. You have given many thousands of hours of your time and I am sure also of your treasure to the HI. Losing Holy Innocents must be like losing a part of yourself. It truly is a time of testing for all involved. But your years at HI have, I hope, also been a time of learning and growing. If the worst does happen and the church is closed, you will hopefully be able to take all that you have learned and spread it to other churches so that even more people will be able to benefit. The life of a Christian is that of an exile. There is no place on this earth we can truly call home. As Christians, we have given our lives to Our Lord and told Him to use us. Let Him use you now. Let Him direct your steps.

latinmass1983 said...

I do not really see you as an adversary to Holy Innocents (the church), but you seem to get the wrong impression or have the wrong expectations of the lay people who attend it or help there.

There is no doubt that someone in legitimate authority can be an "enemy" as you call it. However, I do not see the Archdiocese as "the enemy." Nevertheless, I do think that many people in the Archdiocese do not see a problem with doing things that really help the enemy (whether they realize it or not).

The type of submission you ask of the people in the Catholic Church is more akin to the type of submission expected of muslims in Islam. Being critical of authority is not condemned in the Catholic Church, as long as it is done properly. The degree of propriety with which it is done by lay individuals, that is not for me to decide. Who am I to judge? Or to guide?

So, my view is that the Archdiocese is letting itself be guided by a process is does not have the salvation of souls or the increase of the Catholic Faith as the goal. The Reid Group is not concerned with the salvation of souls. At the end of the day, like any other business, all they want is to get paid. Many people on the Archdiocese already made themselves used to the idea of "a smaller Church" without weighing the lasting consequences that will bring about. Blind obedience in these cases is not demanded of us.

I do not consider myself a leader of any type. I do not become a volunteer with the aim to influence the views of others, or better yet, to be able to tell them what they can or should do or not. People are free to make their own decisions. I have give advice to some of them, I have discouraged some people from being offensive, but I cannot force them to do what I want them to do. If I could do that, my first thing to do would be to go to all those churches where so many things are wrong (morally, liturgically, in matters or faith and theology). However, we all know that, as much as we may want to do this, we cannot.

In fact, you yourself have said before that you tried to talk to some of the people before and they did not listen to you. Why would they listen to me?

I actually did not have a problem with the NCR article. I think that I even posted it on this blog and I even sent it around to people who wanted information about Holy Innocents, the closing of churches, and the Archdiocese of NY. I agreed with most of it. With whatever I do not agree, if I linked to it, I most likely made some comments.

I did not invite anybody for anything. For something I did not do, I do not think a disclaimer is needed. If someone accuses me of something, it will be up to them to prove something, not up to me. I cannot get involved in every "problem" that takes place in a church simply because I go there or help there. Life is more valuable than that!

I agreed with most of VOA. The errors you mentioned I noticed, but I did not think them important enough to correct the reporter.

I will take your word that the NCR is not an enemy of the Church, but, again, if the NYT and VOA are enemies, then the Archdiocese of NY should have nothing to do with them. Cardinal Dolan said that he does not read the NYT and that is the best think he can do. However, the next best thing he can do is prevent his official representative (Mr. Zwilling) from talking to them as well.

I tend to focus more on the comments by the Archdiocese because, they are the ones in authority. Their comments (whether true or false) will have more weight in the Divine Balance. What a regular parishioner of a simple church says will most likely be ignored.

If Mr. Zwilling really knew how to handle the media, the Catholic Church would not be the frequent target of newspapers (as you say it is of the NYT and VOA). The Archdiocese has nothing to answer to public media if it is doing what it should be doing. It should be at peace and ignoring any deviation from its divine mission.