Sunday, March 15, 2009

RIP Cleveland Catholic Diocese – An Editorial

Yesterday, the parishoners of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese learned if their churches were staying open or closing. It is a very sad day for Cleveland Catholics, and even non-Catholics who benefited from the support of local church support programs, such as caring for the homeless, feeding the hungry, helping those with chemical dependencies, etc. Many of the poor and the inner city people will be greatly affected by this reorganization, but it will also affect thousands of other parishioners who have supported their local churches for decades, especially the elderly.

Let me say right up front that I am a lapsed Catholic. I only attend church when I absolutely have to – weddings and funerals. The church ceased to be relevant to me years ago, especially in the 1970s going forward when it seemed clear to me that the Catholic Church completely devalues women and refuses to allow them to have key roles in the Church, such as allowing them to become priests. I have always felt that the Church could still uphold its main tenets and that the same time loosen their tight collars and bring some of the practices into the modern area, continuing the work that Pope John XXIII began in the 1960s.

But it saddens me to see that the church in which all my grandparent attended, my parents were married in, and I was baptized in, located in Cleveland, is closing, and the church my husband and I were married in, located in Bedford, is also closing. The church that all my husband’s grandparents attended, his parents were married in, and he was baptized in, also located in Cleveland, is closing. It is as if someone has just taken a giant eraser and wiped away the complete history of two families.

There is also a huge concern about maintaining the structures, especially those historic buildings within the city of Cleveland. Many of these churches have become stabilizing factors in neighborhoods that are in serious decline. Without the people and supporting social programs - and the structures - the look of a city in decay could be even more devastating to neighborhoods already on the bubble.

In a press release from the Cleveland Catholic Diocese,the reasons for the closings and consolidations were listed as follows:

The reconfiguration plan reflects a proactive strategy to address three major challenges the Diocese and its parishes face as they work to create a more vibrant Church:

• Population shifts in the region. With movement away from urban areas, approximately two-thirds of Catholics are currently served by one-third of its parishes.

• Financial hardship for many parishes. Forty-two percent of parishes are currently operating in the red, with operating expenses greater than revenues.

• Fewer priests available for ministry throughout the United States and other parts of the world. The Diocese has less than half as many priests as it did in 1970.

I do understand that the Church – like any business - needs to close those facilities that are a drain on their finances. But, the truth is that there are several churches being closed that were not losing money and were not having financial hardship. As far as not having enough priests, the Church may have itself to blame for not allowing women to join the clergy, or even by not allowing priests to marry. I can understand the church not bending on the latter because of the celibacy issue, but not allowing women to become priests has cut off a huge number of potential priests.

There has also been much dispute of the creation of the “clusters” from which decisions had to be made to close a certain number of churches within each cluster. When the clusters were first established, there were complaints that some of the groupings made no sense, and some seemed to be assigned with the purpose to force the closure of specific churches.

One may say that the fact that I have not attended church in many years gives me no right to gripe. I disagree. While I do not attend church, that does not mean that I have not donated money to my church in order to keep them running or supported them in other ways. I also think that if the church were to listen a little more to dissenters, and also make changes that show that it truly lives up to its teachings by having more respect for women, maybe it wouldn’t be in such dire straights. There is also the simmering outrage of some current and lapsed Catholics (not to mention non-Catholics) regarding the large sums of money that have been paid out to settle lawsuits for claims of abuse at the hands of its clergy. Maybe if the Church had been more diligent in its management of its clergy, it wouldn’t be losing a large amount of its money to these kinds of lawsuits.

I truly feel badly for all the members of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese that learned that their Churches are closing. These people will feel even worse if some churches that are not currently protected by historic status are lost to the wrecking ball. I understand to some degree why the diocese had to do this, but I found the methods by which they decided who stays and who goes to be flawed. And unless the Catholic Church makes some changes to bring itself to show respect to all of its members, and to remain relevant to the changing times and advances of science and technology, I fear that they will continue to lose membership at a rapid pace.
This is the status of the Catholic Churches in Cuyahoga County, as of Saturday night March 14, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

1. Annunciation, 4697 W. 130th St.: Merging with Ascension and St. Patrick on Rocky River Drive.

2. Ascension, 14040 Puritas Ave.: Merging with Anunciation and St. Patrick on Rocky River Drive.

3. Blessed Sacrament, 3381 Fulton Road: Closing.

4. Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, East Ninth Street and Superior: Remaining open.

5. Corpus Christi, 4850 Pearl Road: Closing and merging with Our Lady of Good Counsel.

6. Holy Cross, 19951 Lake Shore Blvd., Euclid: Merging with St. Christine at Holy Cross.

7. Holy Name, 8329 Broadway SE: Remaining open.

8. Holy Redeemer, 15172 Kipling Ave., SE: Remaining open.

9. Holy Rosary, 12021 Mayfield Road: Remaining open.

10. Holy Trinity, 24821 Columbus Road., Bedford Heights: Closing and merging with St. Pius X.

11. Immaculate Conception, 4129 Superior Ave.: Remaining open.

12. Immaculate Heart of Mary, 6700 Lansing Ave.: Remaining open.

13. La Sagrada Familia, 7719 Detroit Ave.: Remaining open.

14. Our Lady of Angels, 3644 Rocky River Drive: Remaining open.

15. Our Lady of Good Counsel, 4423 Pearl Road: Merging with Corpus Christi.

16. Our Lady of Mercy, 2425 West 11th St.: Closing.

17. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel West, 6928 Detroit Ave.: Remaining open.

18. Our Lady of Peace, Shaker Boulevard and East 126th Street: Remaining open.

19. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 18022 Neff Road: Merging with St. George at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

20. Sacred Heart of Jesus, 6916 Krakow Ave.: Closing.

21. Saints Cyril and Methodius, 12608 Madison Ave.: Remaining open and merging with St. Rose of Lima at Saints Cyril and Methodius.

22. Saints Philip and James, 3727 Bosworth Road: Closing.

23. St. Ann, 2175 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights: Merging with St. Philomena, Christ the King and St. Louis.

24. St. Augustine, 2486 West 14th St.: Remaining open.

25. St. Barbara, 1505 Denison Ave.: Closing.

26. St. Boniface, 3545 West 54th St.: Remaining open.

27. St. Casimir, 8223 Sowinski Ave.: Closing.

28. St. Cecilia, Kinsman Road and East 152nd Street: Closing, as will Epiphany.

29. St. Charles Borromeo, 5891 Ridge Road, Parma: Remaining open.

30. St. Christine, 840 East 222nd St.: Closing and merging with Holy Cross.

31. St. Clement, 14401 Madison Ave., Lakewood: Remaining open.

32. St. Colman, 2027 West 65th St.: Closing.

33. St. Emeric, 1890 West 22nd St.: Closing.

34. St. Felicitas, 140 Richmond Road, Euclid: Merging with St. Paul in Euclid.

35. St. George, 6527 Superior Ave.: Merging with Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

36. St. Gregory the Great, 1545 S. Green Road, South Euclid: Merging with St. Margaret Mary. Worship site to be determined.

37. St. Hedwig, 12905 Madison Ave., Lakewood: Closing.

38. St. Hyacinth, 6114 Francis Ave.: Closing.

39. St. Ignatius of Antioch, 10205 Lorain Ave.: Closing, but school remaining open.

40. St. James, 17514 Detroit Ave., Lakewood: Closing.

41. St. Jerome, 1500 Lake Shore Blvd.: Remaining open.

42. St. John Cantius, 906 College Ave.: Remaining open.

43. St. John Nepomucene, Fleet Avenue and East 50th St.: Remaining open.

44. St. Leo the Great, 4940 Broadview Road: Remaining open.

45. St. Louis, 2463 N. Taylor Road: Closing and merging with St. Philomena, St. Ann and Christ the King.

46. St. Luke, Clifton Boulevard and Bunts Road, Lakewood: Remaining open.

47. St. Malachi, West 25th St.: Remaining open.

48. St. Margaret Mary, 4217 Bluestone Road, South Euclid: merging with St. Gregory the Great. Worship site to be determined.

49. St. Margaret of Hungary, 4680 Lander Road, Orange: Closing.

50. St. Mark, 15800 Montrose Ave.: Remaining open.

51. St. Mary, 15519 Holmes Ave.: Remaining open.

52. St. Mary, 340 Union St., Bedford: Closing and merging with St. Pius X.

53. St. Mel, 14436 Triskett Road: Remaining open, but school is closing.

54. St. Michael the Archangel, 3114 Scranton: Remaining open.

55. St. Patrick, 4427 Rocky River Drive: Merging with Anunciation and Ascension.

56. St. Patrick, 3602 Bridge Ave.: Remaining open.

57. St. Paul, 1360 East 40th St.: Remaining open.

58. St. Paul, 1231 Chardon Road, Euclid: Closing and merging with St. Felicitas.

59. St. Philomena, 13824 Euclid Ave., East Cleveland: Merging with St. Ann's, Christ the King and St. Louis. Worship sites at St. Philomena and St. Ann's.

60. St. Pius X, 400 Center Road, Bedford: Remaining open but merging with Holy Trinity in Bedford Heights and St. Mary in Bedford.

61. St. Procop, 3181 West 41st St.: Closing.

62. St. Robert Bellarmine, 23802 Lake Shore Blvd., Euclid: Merging with St. William at St. William.

63. St. Rocco, 3205 Fulton Road: Remaining open.

64. St. Rose of Lima, 11401 Detroit Ave.: Closing and merging with Saints Cyril and Methodius at Saints Cyril and Methodius.

65. St. Stanislaus, 3649 East 65th St.: Remaining open.

66. St. Stephen, 1930 West 54th St.: Remaining open.

67. St. Thomas More, 4170 N. Amber Drive, Brooklyn: Remaining open.

68. St. Vincent de Paul, 13400 Lorain Ave.: Remaining open.

69. St. Vitus, 6019 Lausche Ave.: Remaining open.

70. St. Wendelin, 2281 Columbus Road: Closing.

71. St. William, 367 East 260th St., Euclid: Merging with St. Robert at St. William

A complete, updated list of all Cleveland Catholic Diocese Church closings can be found here.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, All Things Cleveland, here.


Mike Golch said...

for some reason I thought tha Blessed Sacrament has closed a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Rob from I agree with your sentiments about the church situation and like you, I am a 'resigned Catholic" but does not mean that I do not see the value in having these establishments in the neighborhoods.

What is most concerning to me as far as the structures themselves go, is the threat of more and more of our rather short 230 plus year history in this country (architectural heritage) going down the drain. It is essential to protect any historic buildings and perhaps use them for other creative venues in the future, if in fact a church does not re-organize. We have already lost so many gorgeous churches in Cleveland and North East Ohio.

I am not religious, but love the historical aspect behind the buildings---and do realize in older neighborhoods we need the churches; the kind that you could walk to...the kind that have great curb appeal and represent a time when we actually had more of a community and walkable feel in the city---before we decided to live our lives in the car.

We had many personal connections then, and these churches are a testament to that era---as well as part of neighborhoods re-emerging to bring back what was good about the past in such neighborhoods, and that is, the walkability of them and the connections we nitted living in such places by getting to know everyone on our daily ventures.

Timothy said...

>"But it saddens me to see that the church in which all my grandparent attended, my parents were married in, and I was baptized in, located in Cleveland, is closing,"

Lapsing, or retiring, has consequences.

>"...not allowing women to become priests has cut off a huge number of potential priests."

The Biblical authority for ordaining women is found where?

There an awful lot mof people clamoring for women priests, but none have offered the theology needed to prove the Church's authority to ordain women. Want women priests? Prove the Church has authority to ordain women.

God bless... +Timothy

Anonymous said...

ATC – let me answer for you.

The bible was written at the hand of man – and translated by man - and therefore often reflects the social mores and the bigotry of its time of writing. As men have controlled the church for many years, this bigotry has only continued over the centuries. When Bishop Lennon cites that the fact that there are “fewer priests available for ministry throughout the United States and other parts of the world”, then one can argue that the bigotry of the church may be a major factor for the shortage and therefore a contributor to the downfall of the church. If the church had more priests, the churches could have been much more stable as someone would be there possibly full time to help in fundraising and bring in more people to the congregation.

There are a lot of things in the Bible that if taken literally would make no sense in this day and age. I am not going to get into a discussion of the Bible line by line and cite all these cases but I assure you they are there. Here are two examples:

Exodus 35:2 says:
"On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be sacred to you as the Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on that day shall be put to death." If complete rest is required or you will be put to death, does that mean the church can legally kill you if you cut your lawn, shovel your driveway, or wash the dishes on Sunday? Of course not.

Leviticus 11: and the pig, which does indeed have hoofs and is cloven-footed, but does not chew the cud and is therefore unclean for you….Their flesh you shall not eat, and their dead bodies you shall not touch; they are unclean for you." Does this mean that no Catholic can eat pork, bacon, ham, etc.? Of course not.

You can’t hide behind the Bible any more to rationalize bigotry. That is not Catholic – it’s not even Christian – to look upon women as being lesser than men. If this is the kind of church you want, then you will find it continuing to get smaller and smaller until it fades away altogether. Bigotry also has consequences!

Magdalena said...

The Catholic church does not look down on women, even though it does not ordain them and will NEVER ordain them - people need to accept that. I am a woman and I would not belong to a Church that did not respect me. Read John Paul II's encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem for a wonderful explanation of the Church's view of women. Did you know John Paul II was a feminist?

Please, please stop using Leviticus as an argument for ANYTHING. It's like the standard procedure for people debating gay marriage, too. You can't do that if you want to show that you know what you're talking about. There are several different "types" of law in the Old Testament. For instance there is ritual law, laws intended for the Levite priests, and moral laws such as the 10 commandments. Ritual laws are the ones that were done away with. Other types of law, such as moral law, are binding forever. So we can all eat bacon but we can't go have sex with whoever we want! Because the food laws regulated ritual purity, but the laws against adultery regulated morality and are as valid today as ever. Anyway, dietary laws are specifically addressed in the New Testament, see Acts.

The vocations crisis has affected all denominations, including those that ordain women and allow their clergy to marry. Ask an Epsicopal priest how recruiting is going - and they have ordained women for thirty years or more!

The key for the Church is that she needs to be true to who she is. I am a 24 year old woman and that is what attracted me to the Church after being a lapsed Catholic all through high school. I have heard all your arguments and I used to believe them myself! You admit yourself that you are not actively involved with the faith community - and let's be honest, would you be involved very much if the Church DID ordain women? Probably not.

When family, faith, or any other group is really important to people they stay engaged with it regardless of disagreements. Faith is not all that important to you and that's not horrible, it's your personal choice, but it's not like if Catholicism morphed into Epsicopalianism, you would be back. The pews aren't filled for the Episcopalians (and I know that by personal expereince). The people who are staying away and who give "no women priests" or "no gay marriage" or "bigotry" as reasons aren't being honest with themselves. They simply have found other things that are more important to them - whether it is material belongings or friendships or secular activities.

Timothy is right - lapsing HAS consequences! But what ultimately is closing these churches is not lapsed Catholics but population changes. There aren't a whole lot of lapsed Catholics in a lot of these neighborhoods. There are mostly people who were never Catholic at all.

The Emperor Has No Clothes said...

Magdelana, the point is that if Timothy can pick and chose which sections fo the Bible he wants to base his beliefs on, others can do the same to discredit him.

Funny you use the name of a woman that was a friend of Jesus that the Catholic church said was a prostitute, and had to admit in recent years that this was not true. This shows that the church does not respect women at all. If you are fine with belonging to the church that is your business, but others can chose to not accept intolerance and bigotry in any form. The church is losing people because it has lost touch.

Magdalena said...

The Catholic Church has never "taught" that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. This was an educated speculation based on the reputation of Magdala where she was from - it wasn't just a wild guess or something made up to damage women. It was a popular belief (and still is among many Christians of all sects) but NEVER part of doctrine (similar to Limbo, another popular conception which is not actually an official part of Catholic teaching).

I don't know all of Timothy's beliefs, but I can say that the Catholic Church does not "pick and choose" what parts of the Gospel to believe and what to pretend don't exist. Now Catholic theology is complex and defies easy, black and white categorization, so it's understandable that misunderstandings and myths arise. I apologize if I sort of lost my temper in my comment above. The point I am trying to make is that when engaging with Scripture or theology we can't use the Cliff Notes version and think that's going to be effective.

We have to move past the place where we call the people we disagree with bigots. That's too easy and it shuts down dialogue. There are many times when talking with people who seem to be anti-Catholic (fundamentalists etc) that I want to call THEM bigots, but the truth is they just lack education.

Again with regard to women, read Mulieris Dignitatem. It might have a Latin title but it's in English lol! Here is the link. Read it with an open mind and see if it challenges your thought process! It did mine and I was one of those know-it-alls who had it all figured out. And of course I have to mention Our Lady. No corporation or government or family, however progressive, gives a woman more honor and power than the Catholic Church gives the Mother of God :)