NRO on Holy Innocents in Manhattan

Those of you who watch the Catholic blogsophere closely may have seen items about the closing of Holy Innocents Church in midtown Manhattan in New York City.

I have written about Holy Innocents, a wonderful place, many times.  HERE  and especially HERE.

From what I can tell, Holy Innocents is a place where the New Evangelization is actually succeeding, and in its unique way!  New Evangelization meets Summorum Pontificum.  It is the perfect combination, and it is working. Over the year Mass attendance has been steadily climbing.  There is constant traffic in and out of this church as a spiritual oasis.  It’s location is ideal. Beautiful things occur at this church.

NB: I understand that the list of churches that has been circulated is a recommendation.   This is not the official, final list.  Again, I understand that it is only recommended that Holy Innocents and St. Michael’s (where Fr. Rutler is now, after his transfer away from Our Savior) be closed.

That said, I saw an article at National Review Online (my emphases):

Save the Tridentine Mass, or, ‘These Little-Town Blues’

By Michael Potemra

Living in a global metropolis such as New York has its drawbacks, to be sure. But one of the key reasons so many of us choose to do it anyway is that we love being in a place where so many cultural riches are so readily available. Everyone knows about the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera, and the plethora of arthouse movie theaters where films from the whole world are on display (I would contend that for cinema lovers — as opposed to people in the movie business — Manhattan is better than Los Angeles).

But what few people from outside of New York realize is that this city also has an amazing diversity when it comes to the religious aspect of culture. For pretty much whatever religion you want to practice, you can find a house of worship here. And when it comes to Christianity specifically, just about every branch of every denomination has an outpost. It will comes as a further surprise to many that, within Protestantism, it is the conservative NYC churches that attract the largest crowds on Sunday. In many ways, the city conforms to its stereotype of Babylon-on-the-Hudson; but that’s far from the whole story of what goes on here.

This, as I said, is an important part of what makes many of us want to live here. So it was with a heavy heart that I learned that the Roman Catholic archdiocese of New York is considering going “small-time” — and closing one of the few parishes in the world that offers the pre-Vatican II Catholic Mass every day. According to this report, the archdiocese is considering closing Holy Innocents Church on West 37th Street.

I am — as NRO comboxers would hasten to point out — the farthest thing imaginable from a “Traditionalist Catholic.” But I have been been enriched by the Tridentine Mass at Holy Innocents — a Mass that, not incidentally, attracts an appreciable number of worshipers for a weekday service. But whether you are a Traditionalist Catholic, or a Catholic of any sort, or just someone who believes in the culturally conservative project of preserving one of mankind’s richest spiritual traditions, I urge you to contact the archdiocese at communications@archny.org. Let them know you oppose this parish closure — and that, at the very least, if the parish closure turns out to be unavoidable, whatever local parish Holy Innocents is folded into should continue offering the daily Tridentine Mass. It’s a beautiful thing, and there’s support for it, and if it doesn’t exist in what St. John Paul II called the Capital of the World, where can it exist?

NB: I did not know, before reading this report, that Eugene O’Neill, probably America’s greatest playwright, was baptized at Holy Innocents. He, too, was far from being a Traditionalist Catholic. One writer described O’Neill’s approach to faith as follows:

In Long Day’s Journey, Tyrone tells Edmund that he has the makings of a poet. “No, I’m afraid I’m like the guy who is always panhandling for a smoke,” the son replies. “He hasn’t even got the makings. He’s only got the habit.” The same could be said about O’Neill’s Catholicism. He turned his back on it as a creed and practice, but its habits of mind and thought stayed with him. His is a Christianity for a post-religious age. The human condition of sinfulness still applies, and man must still pass through the cross if he hopes to reach the resurrection.

In other words, he was a rebellious son of Holy Innocents, but no less a son for that. St. Eugene, help us keep the Iceman away from this priceless Manhattan institution.

 

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Be The Maquis, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, O'Brian Tags, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill, The Olympian Middle and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to NRO on Holy Innocents in Manhattan

  1. Paul says:

    Father Z wrote

    “From what I can tell, Holy Innocents is a place where the New Evangelization is actually succeeding, and in its unique way! New Evangelization meets Summorum Pontificum. It is the perfect combination, and it is working. ”

    The New Evangelization is also working at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton, MA. Mary Immaculate has been threatened with the same fate as Holy Innocents in the Archdiocese of Boston’s Disciples in Mission plan. Seems strange to that both Archdioceses have the one parish that is succeeding in the New Evangelization on the chopping block.

  2. gloriainexcelsis says:

    This is really distressing. My granddaughter is going to be in NYC for six weeks this summer taking some publishing classes at NYU. I had found Holy Innocents and was directing her there for Mass. She is 22, baptized two years ago, and a practicing traditional Catholic. I will be one to contact the archdiocese, believe me. She lives in SoCal, and has had a hard time finding a regular Tridentine Latin Mass to attend as it is. I did find some other NYC churches; but their EF masses are not daily or even every Sunday.

  3. JonPatrick says:

    Email has been sent. This is the only church in a city of 8+ million people that offers a daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form and needs to be kept open.

  4. gloriainexcelsis, the timeline on the Archdiocese’s plan is that any decisions won’t be put into effect until 2015, so your granddaughter is safe for this summer.

  5. monmir says:

    Fr. Z thank you for writing about our church, all hands are on deck here! When you attend Mass at Holy Innocents you not only find a beautiful Mass, but also a family.
    We have been blessed indeed.

  6. wolfeken says:

    It seems this entire situation can be worked out by Cardinal Dolan inviting the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter into the Archdiocese to run Holy Innocents as a personal parish.

    Daily traditional Latin Mass continues; Archdiocese doesn’t need to worry about finances and staffing of the parish.

    Of course, this would mean Cardinal Dolan calling the North American superior or the superior general of the FSSP for a meeting to make it happen.

    http://fssp.com/press/locations/

  7. JacobWall says:

    I have seen parish closures that were considered to be a given, 100% for sure, and several years overdue, be reversed. Let’s pray.

  8. Mike says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for the heads-up. I discovered Holy Innocents on my most recent business trip to NYC and would be profoundly disappointed not to be able to attend daily TLM there. It is an uplifting and sorely needed oasis in a city and world that needs one desperately.

    Shouts and emails going out and prayers ascending.

  9. NYer says:

    Does anyone have a link to the list of proposed church closings? My ancestors were baptized at St. Michael’s, one of the two churches administered by Fr. George Rutler. Thank you.

  10. NoraLee9 says:

    They already closed St. Michael’s High School. The church, although beautiful, is out of the way for the average New Yorker: it’s too far west of the train stations. HI, on the other hand, is even more beautiful. It was the shopper’s church and now has a thriving community. If I hit the lottery tomorrow, I would buy a place in the area and attend Mass there (instead of NJ).
    Damage has already been done to Poor Mr. O’Neill. His parents were married at St. Anne’s (which as also the national shrine). It’s gone now….

  11. Serviam1 says:

    Paul and wolfeken:

    The same could have been said about Holy Trinity (German) Church, in Boston’s (MA) South End from 1990 until 2007. Its appeal with the Vatican remains to this day and sadly, Cardinal O’Malley has never showed any interest in visiting the church when it was open, despite living a ten minute walk from his Cathedral residence. It seems even more remote he would reopen it, despite our best efforts as Laity.

    http://bostoncatholicinsider.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/holy-trinity-relegation-to-profane-use-update/

  12. Serviam1 says:

    With Correction [ ]… Sorry

    Paul and wolfeken:

    The same could have been said about Holy Trinity (German) Church, in Boston’s (MA) South End [, home of Boston's Indult Latin Mass Community] from 1990 until 2007. Its appeal with the Vatican remains to this day and sadly, Cardinal O’Malley has never showed any interest in visiting the church when it was open, despite living a ten minute walk from his Cathedral residence. It seems even more remote he would reopen it, despite our best efforts as Laity.

    http://bostoncatholicinsider.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/holy-trinity-relegation-to-profane-use-update/

  13. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    This is a case of “use it, or lose it.”

    The best way to keep your church open is to make regular use of it for Mass, Confession, etc. and encourage others (especially through evangelization).

    I get the feeling that some Catholics (note the qualification) prefer to go to a Mass with fewer participants, so their “regular” seat in the pews, etc is always available and the collection and the distribution of Holy Communion go faster thus reducing the length of the Mass. If the church allows parking in the school yard (as mine in the Bronx does), going home is easier and not delayed by traffic (although the delay can be only minutes).

    Another issue is that a geographic area may have too many churches that are no longer needed because of demographic changes. Years ago, I worked in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village/Soho. I believe there up to 10 different churches within a relatively short walking distance to one another. One run down church was saved by an anonymous, multi-million dollar donation. Another, Our Lady of Vilnius, was established to minister to Lithuanian immigrants (which no longer seems necessary), did not offer Mass in the main church due to damage and safety issues but in the “lower church.” Even protests of the Lithuanian government could not persuade the Archdiocese to keep it open.

    Should little-used or empty churches stay open, serving as relics of a bygone era (especially for atheists who can point to secularization and how the church’s supposed conservatism drove the faithful away) and costing money (lightning, heat, etc.) that it can no longer raise through collections at Mass?

  14. NYer: Does anyone have a link to the list of proposed church closings?

    There is not yet a public list of the proposed closings, which have been sent to the clusters, but not released publicly.

    NoraLee9: [St. Michael’s], although beautiful, is out of the way for the average New Yorker: it’s too far west of the train stations.

    St. Michael’s is a block away from the major development of the West Side Yards, where thousands of units of housing are being built and many major companies are relocating their offices. As part of this development, the 7 train is being extended out there with a new stop. The land will, as a result, become hugely valuable and the neighborhood will become much more densely inhabited.

    Dimitri_Cavalli: This is a case of “use it, or lose it.”

    This kind of comment is unhelpful and irresponsible. The archdiocese is proposing closing parishes like Holy Innocents that are in heavy and regular use. It’s not a case of use it or lose it at all.

    I get the feeling that some Catholics (note the qualification) prefer to go to a Mass with fewer participants

    That may be the case, but it’s completely irrelevant to this Church.

    Another issue is that a geographic area may have too many churches that are no longer needed because of demographic changes.

    The Vatican has made clear that this is not a sufficient reason for closing a church. The bar is higher.

    The Congregation for the Clergy issued a document on church closings last year that listed a number of reasons that are not sufficient reason to close a church:

    Because churches can remain sacred edifices even though they are
    only occasionally or even rarely used, jurisprudence has established
    that the following reasons in themselves do not constitute
    grave cause:
    i. a general plan of the diocese to reduce the number of
    churches
    ii. the church is no longer needed
    iii. the parish has been suppressed
    iv. the number of parishioners has decreased
    v closure will not harm the good of souls
    vi. a desire to promote the unity of the parish
    vii. some potential future cause that has not actually happened
    yet

    Should little-used or empty churches stay open, serving as relics of a bygone era (especially for atheists who can point to secularization and how the church’s supposed conservatism drove the faithful away) and costing money (lightning, heat, etc.) that it can no longer raise through collections at Mass?

    Another non sequitur, the Archdiocese is proposing closing solvent Churches that do raise the money they need through their collections.

  15. Clinton says:

    Samuel Howard makes an important point above: Holy Innocents parish is an active and
    apparently financially healthy parish. I’ve certainly heard nothing to the contrary. It is
    possible that in a diocese like New York, where real estate commands extraordinary prices,
    the resale value of the property is a large factor in deciding on parish closures.

  16. wolfeken: “Of course, this would mean Cardinal Dolan calling the North American superior or the superior general of the FSSP for a meeting to make it happen.”

    I’d bet the FSSP would accept Cardinal Dolan’s invitation into NYC as fast as the superior could answer His Eminence’s phone call. Talk about a win-win. Wow! What’s stopping whom for getting this done?

  17. Uxixu says:

    I could care less what Non-Catholics, be they atheists, apostates, or heretical or schismatical sects want. I should hope each Bishop should keep as many parishes open as possible. If they’ve solvent, it seems silly to close them down for any reason instead of seeing if Religious can take over the ministry of those faithful. I do think certain historic locations especially the older churches should be kept whenever possible for their heritage, and would far prefer to shut down some of the plain buildings created since the 70s.

  18. acardnal says:

    I hope Cardinal Dolan does not close HI in Manhattan. After all, in his former archdiocese of Milwaukee, he gave a parish to the care of the Institute of Christ the King in 2007; the parish is dedicated to the daily celebration of the usus antiquior (TLM/EF). It is a very old parish, St. Stanislaus Church. In 2016 it will be 150 years old. Please watch in the below link the very beautiful video explaining the restoration of the 19th century church:

    http://www.institute-christ-king.org/milwaukee/

  19. Athelstan says:

    One reason which has not been mooted as much is New York’s shrinking pool of priests.

    And this would also be a poor reason to close *this* particular parish, since Holy Innocents has produced a number of vocations in recent years. It is, in short, batting far above its vocational weight in new York, as is its current Fr. Rutler, who has fostered quite a number of vocations during his previous assignment at Our Saviour.

    If you have a pastor and a parish that are churning out vocations, the very last thing you should do is shut them down. Instead, you should be asking: How can we emulate them?

  20. Sam Schmitt says:

    I am very surprised that Holy Innocents is on the list. According to the parish website, the church is in the middle of a major restoration, the first phase of which was successfully completed in 2011. (I hope it has not been abandoned.) There is a large and historic mural behind the altar by Constantino Brumidi, who did many of the murals in the US Capitol. Hopefully preservation groups will get involved to help keep it open.

    It seems awfully short sighted to close downtown parishes that see heavy use during the weekdays. Plus, as others have mentioned, demographics can shift – and in the case of St. Michael’s, is shifting – and neighborhoods can rebound. If the land in Manhattan is sold after the parishes are closed, it will be very difficult to get it back and re-establish a parish in the neighborhood if one is needed in the future.

  21. Moro says:

    For those affected by this, don’t lose faith. I was a parishioner of Holy Trinity (German) in Boston for years before it was closed. It was terrible for a lot of reasons, but in a certain sense inevitable due to the vocations crisis and the even bigger crisis of faith. The upside is that on every Sunday the TLM is said in three Boston parishes every Sunday with several additional masses offered for first Fridays, Holy days, monthly Sunday masses, etc. One Sunday we had 5 or 6 different masses just in the Archdiocese of Boston. This doesn’t include others in the neighboring dioceses of Providence, Worcester, and Fall River. I have a fond memory of Holy Innocents and I hope this decision is reversed. But even if it does close, don’t loose faith and keep fighting the good fight.

  22. OrthodoxChick says:

    Moro,
    Speaking of Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Providence (since you mentioned it), check out this article in the RI Catholic newspaper featuring a photo of our very own IPadre!
    For anyone in the area, there is going to be a solemn High Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated at the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul in Providence this Sunday (5/4) at 1pm. It will be the first time since the 1960′s that the EF has been offered at the Cathedral. The Most Reverend Salvatore Matano, Bishop of Rochester, NY will be the celebrant.

    I’ll be there with bells on and praying for Holy Innocents to remain open among my intentions while I’m there.

    http://thericatholic.com/news/detail.html?sub_id=6577

  23. ALL: I think some of you might be writing notes to the Archdiocese of New York.

    If you do,

    1) make your note brief
    2) do NOT write anonymously (sign and add contact information)
    3 do some self-editing
    4) don’t be a jerk.

    If you are a jerk, you will hurt the cause of Holy Innocents… and much more than that cause alone.

  24. philothea.distracted says:

    I will be heartbroken. My baby, whom I lost in a miscarriage in 2010, is enrolled in the Book of Life at the Shrine of the Unborn there. It is such a comfort to me. What will happen? Who will pray for all the babies? Where will the Book(s) and Shrine go? I know this is not the main concern, but I can’t help feeling that I am speaking for all who have memorialized their lost children here.

  25. Cordelio says:

    As NoraLee9 alluded to, Saint Ann’s Church (which had been designated a shrine by Rome) was sold to a developer for 15 million pieces of silver in 2005. It was one of three Tridentine mass locations in Manhattan at that time, and had recently completed a significant renovation funded by its dedicated parishioners. It seated over 1600 and even the New York Times called it one of the most beautiful churches in New York City when it was finished in 1871.

    Saint Ann’s was sold and destroyed, nonetheless, and a rather ugly NYU dormitory took its place, inside of which activities of a rather different character now take place. To add insult to injury, they left the facade intact in front of the dormitory. You can see a picture on the Wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Ann's_Church_(Manhattan)

    The SSPX operates a rather small mass center in rented space in Manhattan, which it has considered closing on several occasions because the expense and the difficulty of supplying a priest were hard to justify in view of the relatively small attendance (at least back then around 2005, which is when I had knowledge of it). The decision to keep it open was motivated, in part, by contact from staff in the chancery office who were concerned that if the SSPX left Manhattan then Cardinal Egan would discontinue any remaining Tridentine masses there.

  26. One important point to consider here is that closing a parish does not necessarily mean that its church building will be closed and its property will be sold– though that is obviously a legitimate concern as it has happened many times before and no doubt will happen many times more until we start evangelizing again and start filling these churches. Holy Innocents could be combined juridically with another parish (St. Michael’s is a good bet at this point in the opinion of this armchair observer, for obvious reasons). As for the future of the extraordinary form of Mass in that area, if Holy Innocents were closed another parish in the area could easily host an extraordinary form Mass. St. Michael, if it survives, is again a good bet as Fr. Rutler is well qualified to offer extraordinary form Masses. But St. John the Baptist or Holy Cross also could easily serve. (Forget St. Francis– too far left.) What was done at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary is another possibility: demolish the existing building and build a small chapel underneath something else. It would be a huge shame, but again, it costs money to maintain buildings, empty or full, and old buildings tend to require lots of expensive maintenance.

    Having attended both ordinary and extraordinary form Masses at Holy Innocents, I sometimes wonder how the collection basket could possibly pay for the upkeep, unless a few people are donating far more than a few dollars a day or week, and with significantly fewer daily Masses since last year, I am sure the collection has decreased.

    I was aghast when I passed St. Ann’s a few years after its closure. It was like seeing the well-preserved head of an old friend on someone’s coffee table. I am not sure that preserving the doors in that context was the right thing to do– complete demolition might have been preferable.

    Bottom line– take nothing for granted, as I suggested some time ago, and work tirelessly, and give money too, lots of it.

  27. Gratias says:

    Each one of these old churches we close is an irreversible loss for the Church. I have never been to Holy Innocents, but last Sunday attended EF Mass at Old St. Mary’s in D.C. and it was a thing of beauty. Once closed, a new church will likely be square with low ceilings, small windows and a table at the center with seating surrounding it in the spirit of Vatican 2.

    The old Mass is a treasure and during this period the best we can do is to hold on to what was achieved under Summorum Pontificum. Hope Cardinal Dolan is political enough to see it would be a bad move to close an every-day TLM. Never forget.

    I agree with the poster above : if you like your Latin Mass, contribute to that collection basket until it hurts.

  28. C. says:

    I recently heard an Eastern priest talk about the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches. He pointed out some provisions involving relations between the Eastern and Roman Churches which seemed to be unfairly skewed towards the East. He called it “affirmative action”, and he alluded to years of repeated regrettable incidents which preceded these grants.

    We minorities within Roman Catholicism could sure use some “affirmative action” programs in the administrative functions of deaneries and chanceries.

  29. kkroll says:

    Why does it seem people always add some sort of caveat about NOT being a “Tradional Catholic” when writing about enjoying the beauty of the Latin Liturgy? Is it that Traditionalism is so stinky one must hold the nose? Meh … Maybe it’s just too late in a long day . . .

  30. Andrew Saucci,

    I attend the (Latin) Mass almost everyday there. The attendance and the collections for the Latin Masses at Holy Innocents have increased (during the weekdays and on weekends).

    The church has no debt! It has already finished the restoration of the mural and paid the loans for that renovation in full.

  31. Traductora says:

    I’ve been very disappointed by Cdl Dolan, who simply doesn’t seem to understand New York. He’s very oriented towards the suburban mega-church model, and seems oblivious to the importance of preserving the “Catholicity” of NYC that is reflected in these churches. And he’s not just aiming at places where the traditional rite is celebrated.

    This is part of a big project to reduce the number of parishes in NYC by at least a third if not more.

    Also slated for closing are St James Church, founded in the 1830s by the Ven. Fr. Felix Varela, and even Old St Patrick’s, the original cathedral on Mott St. The building in the first case will be kept as an “historic site,” probably until they find a buyer for it, but the parish is being merged with another and the building will no longer be used for Mass. Old St Patricks will also be merged with another parish, which will be housed in that building, and then renamed.

    These are both parishes with long, rich histories, parishes that have served every Lower East Side immigrant group since the Irish in the early 19th century, parishes that were still paying their own way and have even had renovations or restoration work recently.

    Why throw away our history and hide our presence like this? Knowing that Our Lord was present in the tabernacle on just about every other block in NYC was a wonderful thing and sanctified the city.

    Why not work on converting some of the well-off young people who are buying apartments in the former tenements and changing the character of the neighborhood, not into a slum (the excuse used for closing parishes in other urban areas) but into a prosperous artsy and commercial neighborhood? Why just shrug and decide that it’s time to pack up the show and move on? Because if you no longer see a church on every corner in NYC, before long, I bet you’re going to see a mosque on every corner. Nature abhors a vacuum.

  32. I always like to give the hierarchy the benefit of the doubt, but when I hear that parishes that are debt-free and financially viable are in jeopardy, I start to wonder.

  33. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Thank you, Samuel!

  34. kimberley jean says:

    I lost a baby a few years ago. His name is inscribed at the shrine of the unborn at Holy Innocents. I consider HI the only grave my child has and it disturbs me greatly to think of the shrine being destroyed.