Holy Anger: New York Catholics Fight to Keep their Parish Open

New York Post Print Edition
New York Post paper edition

One of the most painful aspects of this priest shortage pickle is watching living, breathing parish communities close their doors.

It is death and nothing less.

But is it necessary?

“Go with God?  They’ll Stay!” captures the spirit of Catholics at Our Lady of Peace (OLP) Parish who are refusing to give up on their beloved parish community.  They are standing against the sting of death.  Their parish, founded in 1918 by Italian immigrants,  has been slated for merger by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  It is one of more than 70 that have been merged or closed under the program “Making All Things New”, reducing the total number of parishes in the archdiocese from 368 to 296.

In those numbers are countless hurting, grieving and angry Catholics.

This past Saturday, OLP parishioners held mass outside of their locked church as a sign and symbol of their dedication to keep the community they love open. They also have created a petition that cites the many reasons for keeping the parish open including its financial health, the property’s landmarked status and their outreach programs.  They want to get 3,000 signatures by Aug. 31 and are nearly there with over 2800.

The Vatican is now reviewing their appeal and they will learn that decision by September 1, 2015.

There is a holy anger that Jesus exhibits when he starts knocking over the tables of the money changers and sellers in the Temple.  He is fed up with the hard hearts of the leaders there and the resulting corruption that allows a holy place to be denigrated.

Many who have seen their vibrant parishes close have felt that sense of holy anger.  One parishioner at Our Lady of Peace Church articulated it perfectly.  “I’m staying here . . . I’m not going anywhere,” said Agnes Colina, 67. “I’m angry, I’m bitter because they shouldn’t close it.”




If Pope Francis had his druthers, the Church would open wide its doors to those who divorce and remarry

AP photo
AP photo

If Pope Francis had his druthers, the Church would change its treatment of those who are divorced and remarried.  On August 5, 2015 he shot a warning to pastors — don’t treat them like they are excommunicated. Do just the opposite.

The church, must be one of ‘’open doors,” he said during a general audience with newlyweds present.  It seems like an unlikely place for a pastor talk about the plight of those divorced and remarried, yet, Pope Francis saw it as the perfect opportunity to raise the issue by asking,  “How do we take care of those who, following the irreversible failing of their family bond made a new union?”

Reminding pastors and people alike, “People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated.” And he urged, “they absolutely must not be treated that way.”

As the Pope who leads in the way of compassion, he exhorted, “They always belong to the church.”

According to Francis, even the sacraments are meant to serve, inspire and invite rather than exclude.

“The church knows well that such a situation (divorce and remarriage) contradicts the Christian sacrament,”  but Francis maintained that the church must always “seek the well-being and salvation of persons.”

When it comes to children, the illogic of trying to bring them up in the faith that excludes their parents does not escape him.

He asked how the church can insist that the children of failed marriage be raised by their parents “with an example of convinced and practiced faith, if we keep them (the parents) far from the community life as if they were excommunicated?”

Like a parent or grandparent, he exhorted pastors “not to add additional weight beyond what the children in this situation have to bear. Unfortunately the numbers of these children and young people are truly great.”

With his usual wisdom, he reminded all to look through the eyes of those who are affected saying, “If we look at these new ties with the eyes of young children … we see ever more the urgency to develop in our community true welcome toward people living in these situations.”

How far can the Church go in engendering a new pastoral spirit of compassion, love and openness?  There is real hope for change as we head toward the October meeting.  Pope Francis is not just waiting for the Holy Spirit to act alone, nor is he taking lightly the actions of those like Augustinian Father Robert Dodaro who are highly motivated to maintain the status quo.   He is setting the stage for change with his words and his chess-like actions.