Archbishop Sean O’Malley sent a letter to archdiocesan Catholics on parish closings. The letter itself, which is available online, gives some of the reasons that the archbishop gave to priests last December: declining population, fewer priests, parish debt, the poor physical condition of many buildings. (Seems to me that the issue of smaller families, fewer children would be a great opportunity to talk about the contraceptive mentality.) The archbishop does mention that the clergy shortage’s solution is found in inviting young men to consider whether they are called to the priesthood. And he recognizes that the health and holiness of the Church is begun through fostering environments in our homes that encourage all of us to respond faithfully and generously to the Lord.
No more concrete details were given, although he said that Bishop Lennon will provide a timeline for the nexty phase by the end of the month. He did say that no decisions have been made yet, that the fact of debt does not mean a parish is definitely going to be closed, that everyone—lay and clergy—would have a say, and that he recognizes that it will be a painful process.
I will disagree slightly with my neighbor Tom Fitzpatrick He said that closing parishes is related to the liberal idea that you have to raise taxes or increase government spending during a recession. Actually, I think it’s the exact opposite. The conservative move is to reduce government spending, to shut down programs and agencies when they are ineffective, unnecessary, or unsustainable. In the same way, shutting parishes is like cutting government spending. Decrease your expenditures and consolidate your resources to make them more effective.
For instance, Salem would be better off with one or two parishes instead of six, because it would create a real sense of community. People would be more inclined to think of their parish as a family, rather than to treat it like a fast-food joint: you pick the one you want based on convenience or mood. And by creating larger congregations, you’ll avoid creating the impression that the Church is fading away because the pews are emptier. And if the contraction is effective, and the Church begins expanding again someday (I should say, when it does) then I would be happy for us to go out and buy back some of these properties and open new parishes again. That would be the best money ever spent.