Archdiocese of New York

On June 30, Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York issued decrees ordering 18 churches to be reduced to profane or secular use so that they could be sold. Each is estimated to bring millions of dollars into Archdiocesan coffers.  This was the second of two canonical decrees that the cardinal was required to issue before he could sell Archdiocesan churches. The first decree dissolves the parish as a corporate entity, often requiring it to merge with another parish. This process began on November 2, 2014. The second decree issued on June 30, 2017, relegates the church to secular use, meaning that sacred functions may no longer be conducted there.  Thus, parishioners who disagree with diocesan decisions to close their vibrant, solvent parishes have two opportunities to appeal.

At press time, it appears that two parishes---St. Elizabeth of Hungary and All Saints—have appealed the decrees relegating their churches to profane use. Canon lawyer, Sr. Kate Kuenstler is helping parishioners with their appeals.  Cardinal Dolan has 30 days to respond. St. Elizabeth serves a large, tightly knit deaf community that fears losing the uniquely supportive environment they now cherish. Since both churches are on a new subway line, and new high-rise buildings are planned for the neighborhood, the church lands will bring literally tens of millions of dollars to the Archdiocese.

At least two New York parishes, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Our Lady of Peace have appeals pending at the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court.  These appeals opposed Cardinal Dolan’s first decree of November 2, 2014, to merge their parishes. Our Lady of Peace did not receive a second decree reducing the church to secular use, but surprisingly, Cardinal Dolan did issue a second decree to St. Elizabeth of Hungary despite its pending appeal at the Signatura.If the lower court at the Congregation of the Clergy upholds Dolan’s relegation of St. Elizabeth’s to secular use before the first merger decree is ruled on, the cardinal risks having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes for what is now secular property.

In the meantime, FutureChurch received this heartwarming email from a Staten Island parishioner who was grateful for the help she received in working out a solution despite the merger:

St. Roch’s Church Staten Island, NY and St Adalbert’s also Staten Island, remain open and were merged both with weekly masses to be reviewed in three years. Thanks to you, Sister Kate, our administrator Fr. Jim, divine miraculous intervention and great team of parishioners who did everything you advised.  It was time consuming, draining and uncertain but worth it. Thanks again for your professional instruction and guidance.  You were the only one who cared.  Cardinal Dolan offered nothing, we never heard from him one time. God bless you and Sister Kate for what you do. Keep up the great work.  

Archdiocese of Hartford

On May 7, the Archdiocese of Hartford announced plans to close 40 percent of its 212 parishes so that by June 29, just 127 parishes remain. Twenty-six parishes closed outright and 59 are merging with other parishes.  Approximately five parishes have appealed to Bishop Blair to reverse the decrees to merge their parishes. At press time, they are still awaiting his reply. A poignant letter to the Hartford Registerfrom St. Joan of Arc parishioner, John Tranquilli, blames the failure of the institutional church to address the priest shortage for closing his parish.  Noting that a year ago the Archdiocese removed their priest and reduced weekly Masses from eight to six, Tranquilli writes:

St. Joan of Arc, which has been around for 47 years, was a self-sufficient parish. We had no loans, paid for over $500,000 in renovations to the church, rectory, driveway and parish center over the past seven years — all with donations, no loans or help from the Archdiocese. We were one of the leaders (percentage wise) in donations for the Archbishops Annual Appeal each year, and made all required payments to the Archdiocese. We also had very active ministries — Knights of Columbus, CYO, CCD, etc. The only — only — obligation the Archdiocese had was to give us a priest — and they could not complete their one obligation.

Over the past six months Catholics from thirteen dioceses across the U.S. and four dioceses in England have downloaded the free Save Our Parish Community resources from the FutureChurch website.