You may weep.

A reader sent me a link to a photo-story on HuffPo.

This is so sad.  You may actually weep with sorrow, anger, frustration.

The photo-story is of abandoned churches.

Even in their disheveled ruin they are still more beautiful than the monstrosities from the last few decades, “churches” that make municipal airports look gracious.

Here are a few of the photos. See the rest over there.

In Pennsylvania

In New York

In Pennsylvania

Coming to a neighborhood near you?

Grace and elbow-grease, dear readers.

There are many and various reasons why churches are closed. You can list them on your own.  Yes, people move away and demographics shift.  Yes, there are economic downturns.

That said…

  • When people value something, they pay for it.
  • When Catholics lose their Catholic identity, they stop valuing Catholic things.
  • When the Church’s pastors compromise Catholic identity in their preaching and, above all, liturgical ars celebrandi, people lose their Catholic identity.

Our Lord promised that Hell would not prevail against the Church.

He did NOT promise that Hell would not prevail over the Church where you live.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. “He did NOT promise that Hell would not prevail over the Church where you live.”

    Or the spirit of Vatican II? Whose fruits we see in these sad pictures.

  2. happyCatholic says:

    Yes, it is to weep. Just last week my husband and I visited the old neighborhood we grew up in; the Catholic grade school I attended (wherein we had 40 kids in my class) has been torn down and is a park. The convent is now a run-down looking private home. The parish church is still there, but the grounds need attention. It was such a vibrant parish and neighborhood less than 50 years ago — now, not really. The Catholic culture there was also a victim of government meddling when, in its infinite wisdom, Section 8 housing put in folks who didn’t pay for their homes so they didn’t care for their homes. Sigh. I honestly miss that neighborhood; it was a good community and wonderful parish and beautiful church –nothing as ornate as the ones pictured here, but beautiful nonetheless. What a patrimony we have lost, both as Catholics and, as in my personal history, as citizens. (By the way, I am reading the government wants to replicate that Section 8 housing debacle now in every community in the name of “fairness” and “equality,” but that is to get off topic, so enough said.)

  3. Andrew says:

    As S. Jerome says, more or less: Horret animus temporum nostrorum ruinas persequi. Quotidie Romanus sanguis effunditur. Capti episcopi, interfecti presbyteri, subversae ecclesiae, ad altaria Christi stabulati equi, martyrum effossae reliquiae: “ubique luctus, ubique gemitus, et plurima mortis imago” (Virg. Aeneid.) Romanus orbis ruit, et tamen cervix nostra erecta non flectitur. “Non, mihi si linguae centum sint oraque centum, / ferrea vox … / omnia poenarum percurrere nomina possim.”

    That is: One is horrified to enumerate all the destruction of our day. Roman blood is spilled daily. Captured bishops, murdered priests, churches subverted, altars of Christ turned into stables, the relics of martyrs dug up: “everywhere weeping and crying and images of death”. The Roman empire is collapsing and yet our heads are held high. “If I had a hundred tongues and a steel voice I couldn’t enumerate all this misery”.

    Imagine what S. Jerome must have felt when the entire known civivlization was falling to pieces around him. And yet, out of those ruins a surprising new age came to be. And it is impossible to think of the Christian era and of Christian Europe without S. Jerome. It just coudn’t have been the same without him.

  4. happyCatholic says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I was not familiar with the information you provided. Not sure if it was comforting or not, but it definitely put a perspective on things

  5. TimG says:

    My God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love thee.

    O most Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I adore thee profoundly. I offer thee the most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ—present in all the tabernacles of the world—in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference by which He is offended. By the
    infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

  6. Lin says:

    Ahhhh………………The fruits of the spirit of Vatican II! Our parish is living it RIGHT NOW! The pastor we were blessed almost one year ago now has been emboldened by Pope Francis. He has never hid the fact that he is progressive. I have been going to other masses in the area for over a month and a very good friend said he just introduced a new protestant addition to the mass. If the small things are no longer important, like rubrics, than he can do as he pleases. The diocese (one step below the bishop) is choosing to ignore it. Mass attendance appears to be 50% of what it was one year ago. The school has been empty for a few years. Soon the church will be. IT IS VERY SAD!! We must continue to pray for increased faith and many more vocations to the religious life!

  7. Magash says:

    The saddest point to me is that here are these beautiful abandon churches, while in my own diocese we are burdened with architecturally horrible church buildings which follow the prevailing modernist practices of the Post VII period. The only comfort is that many of these buildings are built to the commercial architectural and building standards of the late twentieth century, which means they will be lucky to stand for 60-70 years. Many whose foundations were laid down in the 60s and 70s are already seeing electrical and plumbing problems. One church building I know of is built on a slab, with electrical wires and plumbing buried underneath.

  8. MarkG says:

    Very sad. One positive thing that people can do is this. If there are old Catholic Churches in your area, see if they are listed as historical. If not, see if you can get them listed as historical. In most places, this places a legal restriction on resale, significantly reducing the value. New owners can’t just tear them down and use the land. Which keeps Bishops from selling them off for quick cash, and increases they will give them for TLM use, or sell them cheaply to the SSPX.
    One local convent was on land valued at $10-12 million but was historical so was sold for $300k as the new owner could only use it for artist loft space, as that was about all it was good for, other than a convent.

  9. Liz says:

    I always think of the people who sacrificed to build these churches. I can’t imagine working hard and donating to help build a beautiful church only to have it not used and in disarray decades later. It’s so very sad.

  10. Fr AJ says:

    Very sad. Unfortunately the older, beautiful churches are being closed because of their age, population shifts, and people just not going to church and the newer built Quaker meeting halls in the suburbs are being kept.

  11. Eric says:

    “Coming to a neighborhood near you?”

    I’m quite certain it is.

    Our archbishop just closed ten parishes in our deanery.

    Maybe all the new people flocking in because of the pope’s comments will turn the tide.

  12. Stumbler but trying says:

    “the relics of martyrs dug up: “everywhere weeping and crying and images of death”

    I have a friend who returned from Afghanistan having just retired from the Military. He told me that Al-Qaeda desecrated whatever was left of any Christian burial sites. He also said same thing is happening in Iraq. We must keep praying.

    As to the pictures…I looked over those beautiful abandoned churches and was confounded as to the why of such beauty being lost. I will not speculate nor assume anything but only pray for the memory of those who helped build such beauty. I do agree though, compared to the ugly Cathedral that is standing in downtown L.A. these beauties are timeless and do lift one’s eyes towards heaven.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    As a woman who had family on both sides pay for multiple stain glass windows, a gold tabernacle and other beautiful artifacts for more than one church, I can say this breaks my heart. My ancestors both from Luxembourg and what became the Czech Republic prided themselves in giving hard-earned money to build churches in northern Iowa and Davenport, Iowa. Their names graced some of the windows in those small prairie communities as well as in the city. My parents were discussing years ago how some of the expensive things had gone missing, in the rush to make churches more modern.

    That heritage was built on Faith, Hope and Love. The local church was the most important building in the hamlet, town, city, county. Those who paid and worked for the beauty of those churches had the virtues in their hearts and their hands. They loved God first of all and pleasure or themselves after their families…

    I think of that gorgeous church in Clinton, Iowa with the hand-carved reredos made by German craftsman, actually axed to pieces by the pastor.

    I think of the vestments and, yes, relics, burnt not that long ago by the Jesuits in Oxford, the very same order which had martyrs who died for the Pope and the Church.

    I think of the bowling alley churches which look like glorified cow barns which get the attention.

    The Protestants under Thomas Cromwell and his visitators under Henry VIII could not have done a better job.

    America has become a nation of barbarians.

  14. Ralph says:

    There are sometimes reasons beyond scandal that cause a church to close. Loss of population due to unemployment is one that comes to mind.

    But lets be truthful. We are losing our catholic culture. We have contracepted and aborted our parish schools away. We have VII’ed our Mass away. We have lavender mafiaed our vocations away. This didn’t happen over night. And I don’t think it is going away.

  15. e.e. says:

    Our little mission parish on the plains is trying to build a beautiful new church on land that was generously gifted to the parish, as we’ve outgrown our old cinder block building.

    The problem? A new church in classic architectural style would cost several million dollars. We’re a parish primarily composed of immigrants and farmers. We’re having lots of bake sales, tamale sales, raffles, festivals, etc., but it’s slow going. We pray every week that God would somehow give us the money to build not only a big enough church, but also a beautiful one.

  16. APX says:

    Yes, the historical thing is good. If you can get something protected as a national historical site in Canada, you will not only keep it from getting torn down, but you can get funding for it’s restoration and upkeep from the federal government. The 100+ year old hand built stone church and it’s rectory (Living conditions weren’t that lush for priests 100 yrs ago) my dad grew up in has been restored and is now protected as a National Historic Site and museum. It can still be used for Mass and special occasions. The Archdiocese still has control over it, so it can’t be used for unbecoming things.

  17. RobertK says:

    Shame we can’t force parishes that have modernist looking churches to tear them completely down and replace them with gothic style churches. There should be strict norms in place for church architecture.

  18. APX says:


    I thought there was.

  19. Palladio says:

    The Spirit of Vatican II explanation goes only so far. Urban blight goes as far, or farther, and then, of course, the scandals, which have bankrupted a number of dioceses and caused closures and mergers.

  20. Mike says:

    The first and the second-to-last photos are especially saddening. Here we have the work of devoted Catholics–work which gave glory to God and His religion–going to waste, while the modernist church buildings of the post-Vatican II period, which glorify neither God nor His religion, remain open and active.

    Ah well. ‘Tis a consequence of the Fall, I suppose. Our Lord will prevail in the end, even if, by all appearances, He is losing here below. We can only carry on, knowing that He always works for the good of those who love Him.

  21. James C says:

    Another heartbreaking fact is that the few old churches that somehow escaped getting wreckovated tend to be the ones that are closed and sold off. Almost the only church in the Archdiocese of Boston to have its sanctuary spared from wanton and obscenely expensive destruction, Holy Trinity German parish, is soon poised to become condos or something similar. I’ve seen other examples elsewhere. It almost feels like those pushing these sales are eager to erase any memory of the “preconciliar” Church.

  22. Long-Skirts says:

    A bumper crop of devastated vineyards and they’re glad…BUT –


    They cancelled all color
    Sanctuaries stripped
    First Communions were duller.

    No crinoline whites
    Pale hues they stressed
    “Only pearled-Pharisees
    Are ever so dressed.”

    Roses, carnations,
    Flowers, all manners
    Left just to wither
    Gainst assertives’ beige banners.

    Pillars of marble
    Corinthian styles
    They decided to paint
    Like pink bathroom tiles.

    Cassocks of red
    Habits blue, white,
    Robes of distinction
    Extinct over night.

    Missals with pages
    Embossed in gloss-gold
    Latin in tint
    English-black often bold.

    Even the ribbons
    To mark scriptural prayers
    Were of green, yellow, silvers
    So to keep us from errors.

    The soft votive flames
    The red opaque glass
    Gave an aura of stillness
    Like time could not pass.

    Yet time it passed,
    Vividness drained
    And populations without color
    Cannot be sustained.

    Pious persecuted,
    Red Blood in blue veins,
    Birthe knowledge, the arts
    Great virtues they’ve gained.

    They did not decay-
    God’s colors kept green
    For the day up above
    Where the Sacrifice’s seen.

    Except for those beige
    Banner-like blind…
    Gray fertility fades
    In their black open minds.

  23. Irene says:

    Is it St. Boniface you referenced? I grew up in Clinton, and mostly remember that each pillar at St. Boniface had statues of four saints. I belonged to St. Mary’s, briefly St. Patrick’s, and also St. Boniface. Of course I also attended Mass occasionally at St. Irenaeus and Sacred Heart. As you no doubt know, all five have merged as Prince of Peace and a new semi-circular church was built.
    Very sad, very disheartening.

  24. “The Protestants under Thomas Cromwell and his visitators under Henry VIII could not have done a better job.”

    They had pretty much the same intentions as the 16th century Protestants who at least forthrightly left the Catholic Church, but the post Vatican II iconoclasts deviously stayed inside the Church to fight the Faith from within rather than from without, most of those directly responsible for the damage bellying meanwhile up to the Church’s trough as priests, religious, and paid functionaries.

  25. Lin says:

    I don’t know how many of you read the whole article in the Huffington Post but the many of the comments are purely satanic!!

    I am not a fan of the new modernist churches. Millions of dollars were spent in Fatima and San Giovanni to build mega churches with no kneelers. That too is very sad!

  26. Lin says:

    San Giovanni Rotondo, home of Padre Pio until his death.

  27. inexcels says:

    Strangely, rather than sadness, these pictures filled me with hope. Indeed, even in ruin, these old churches are beautiful, powerful monuments to divine greatness. Rather like our Catholic faith itself, perhaps?

  28. mburduck says:

    I must admit that I cried as I looked at these pictures. So much for being the tough professor from NYC…. And yet, I could see some beauty still left in these now abandoned houses of Our Lord. Sort of like what Wordsworth felt as he looked at old ruins in the North Country.

  29. amenamen says:

    Thank you, mburduck, for your reference to William Wordsworth’s reflections “Suggested By A Beautiful Ruin Upon One Of The Islands Of Loch Lomond, A Place Chosen For The Retreat Of A Solitary Individual … (Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, 1814).

    I had never seen the poem before, but I can see that it is worth a serious reading, and that it expresses something similar to what we might feel, seeing these “beautiful ruins” in our own times, desolate places that remain, for those who can find them, places of prayer and solitude.

  30. The Cobbler says:

    Anyone else feel like gathering/hiding/organizing the resistance in one of these?

  31. StWinefride says:

    Re San Giovanni Rotondo, I have never, and will never, go into that awful new “church”:

    This new Church is riddled and embedded with Masonic Imagery and Symbolism. Amongst the hundreds of Masonic symbols drawn into the blueprints and also depicted in the artwork within and around the church, here is the essence:
    This “new church” is not a Catholic church but a “Masonic Temple”, or better, a “Satanic Temple” which glorifies Masonry and its “god,” Lucifer. The most horrible impiety, committed in this church, is the replacement of the Most Holy Trinity with the blasphemous, Satanic and Masonic Triple Trinity; the replacement of Christ by Lucifer as man’s Redeemer and the replacement of Christ by Lucifer as King of the Universe!”

    Special edition of Chiesa Viva in 6 languages (Italian, English, German, French, Polish, Spanish) at the end of this page:

  32. StWinefride says:

    I should add that the special editions of Chiesa Viva are available to download free of charge.

    St Michael the Archangel, pray for us!

  33. Where are the people?
    Catholics have exterminated themselves with contraception, far more ‘effective’ than widespread abortion,which gets the most attention. In spite of the myths of overpopulation, we are below population replacement.

    The root of this push for free entrance of any kind of illegal immigrant is to hide the effects of our devastated population. Population growth in any city is only due to the influx of the non-American – just stop and listen to the accents on the street. In spite of this meager growth in some places, churches and schools are closing – even retail and businesses customer bases are shrinking. There is not enough youth to sustain growth in any area.

  34. Alaina says:

    Father Z’s bullet points say it all on this matter. In my archdiocese, there may be protestors or petitions right before the doors close and the wrecking ball hits, but where was everyone before these treasures were placed on the chopping blocks? These churches were not just buildings. They were symbols of faith, devotion, family, and community. I suppose, in their present state, these churches are telling us where we stand on all of those points.

  35. THREEHEARTS says:

    It is not hell that will crush the church militant here in this world, it is us. We can and often do reject the good will of God, the Holy Ghost, the Divine Etyernal Spirit of supernatural love and sanctifying grace. No confession means no indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the “LIVING” stones that support the Church here on earth fall down ruined bysecrecy, cant and hypocrisy. The foundations made and cemented together by porous and contaminated sand is washed away by inclemnt weather and the mixture of cement stiffened by tears of repentance and compunction no longer calls out to God for the resolution to obdurately repel sin. We have become a church of accomodation with a smilng face whose eyes show no charity to our own brothers and sisters. We put up with sinful, behaviour crying out we cannot judge. We can and must see the facts that surround us and sin if we do not follow the rules take a witness tell them and make those responsible to understand their sinful errors and the sacrileges and blasphemies they commit upon the Mystical Body. Then we have no other optrion than to whistleblow . I prefer whistleblowing to the coming trumpet blast. Am I alone??

  36. Pingback: The Inferno Expands -

  37. SonofMonica says:

    “Our Lord promised that Hell would not prevail against the Church.

    He did NOT promise that Hell would not prevail over the Church where you live.”

    Well, unfortunately, the Church where I live most affects me, my mood, disposition, sins and, ultimately, my salvation. So, it’s not that comforting of a promise, then… :-\

  38. As a priest of 25 years (11 of which have been as a pastor of two parishes) I can say that my heart aches and I am nauseated whenever I see or hear of gorgeous Catholic churches rotting away in ruin because of abandonment. I also know why this happens. At the diocesan level, parishes are sometimes seen as branch offices which can be closed or merged when economically difficult to sustain themselves. At a parish level, parishes disintegrate when parishioners no longer consider themselves as BELONGING to the parish, rather, they merely ATTEND it. I call this the gas station spirituality. Some faithful Catholics go to Mass each and every weekend but go to Mass where and when it is convenient even if it is not their registered parish. In other words, people who live in St. Mary’s will often go to St. Rocco’s because their 5:00 pm vigil Mass is more convenient than former’s 6:00 pm. Other St. Mary’s folks may go to St. Anthony’s on Sunday because it is on the way to Nonna’s house. Nothing wrong in that. Sunday obligation is fulfilled at any valid Mass HOWEVER the home parish does not get the donation that weekend. Prior to the 1983 Code of Canon Law (1917 Code preceded it), Catholics were bound to belong either in the territorial parish where they physically lived (domicile) or in the ethnic parish of their heritage. Today, Catholics can go to ANY parish they choose and can register anywhere as well. Territory no longer trumps preference. Problem is that when people go elsewhere, they typically place their weekly donation in the basket at the OTHER church and not at their own parish. A FEW signed up for electronic direct deposit giving but most still throw some bills into the collection plate. Besides the spare change gang that just tosses whatever loose bills are in their pocket, there are some Catholics who give prayerful thought to how much they should be donating every week. Whether it is 10%, 5% or 2%, the important thing is that they do THINK about and PRAY about how money they should donate.

    In olden times, when parishioners had to attend their local parish, they financially supported it week after wee. Now that they can go to Mass anywhere they like, they take their wallet and purse with them, too. Most parishes depend on a regular, steady and reliable amount of donations in the collection basket. That pays the electric bill, the gas bill, the water and sewer bill, the salaries of the clergy, the parish office staff, the office supplies, AND the diocesan assessment (formerly known as the cathedradicum, or cathedra tax to the bishop to run the diocese), not to mention assessments for local parochial schools (elementary and high school level). Gone are the days when volunteers did most of the work around the parish, from snow removal to basic janitorial and custodial care. Now, you must hire or contract people to keep the parish grounds in good order. Nowadays, many Catholics go to Mass in several different parishes but are still registered in one. I doubt that most faithful could viably support ALL of them. ONE of them deserves their financial support even when they go to Mass somewhere else. When you are out of town on vacation, you still get an electric bill, a gas bill and/or a water bill do you not? Utilities must be paid regardless if anyone is home or not that particular month. Some parishes close or are merged because there are not enough people financing the parish to sustain it. If the pastor and parochial vicar are celebrating pedestrian and banal liturgies and/or are preaching heterodox homilies, then often people ‘vote with their pocketbook’ and the collection drops. Problem is that the bishop merely transfers the clergy and closes the parish when the donations dry up. Gone are the days when diocese’s used to subsidize all the poor parishes which could not raise enough to pay all their bills. Those days are GONE. People used to leave something in their will or life insurance policy to their parish. I have seen only one instance in the nearly twelve years I have been pastor.

    It would be nice if the elegant and beautiful churches could stay open even if no longer a parish but just as a ‘worship site’ where Holy Mass is offered and the sacraments celebrated from time to time rather than selling the buildings or worse yet, leaving them to ruin. IF your parish priest is celebrating reverent Masses, SUPPORT the parish even when you are away, out of town, on vacation or merely for convenience going to Mass somewhere else now and then. As Mother Angelica says, put your donation between the gas and the electric bill. PRAY ABOUT how much you should give and how much you can give every week or every month. Don’t just toss spare change in the plate, otherwise, the parish cannot pay its bills, will increase its debt and most likely will get merged or closed if nothing improves soon. If the clergy are not doing what they are supposed to, charitably and politely tell them if they do not provide for your spiritual welfare, you will go and SUPPORT another parish that will. Believe me, when regular, faithful donors and attendees threaten to leave, pastors get nervous (and bishops begin to listen). It is not that money talks or that finances are what parishes live for, but if people truly love their parish, they have to support it either financially (if they can and in a substantial way) or by volunteering wherever and whenever they can. If we treat parishes like gas stations of grace, however, then we will go to those that happen to be open and nearby or are convenient but we will not BELONG to any of them. When I was a kid before going into High School seminary, my family and I belonged to Blessed Sacrament Parish. Msgr. Ennis Connelly was our pastor. We went to the parish spaghetti dinner, to the parish picnic, we worked as volunteers at BINGO, in the parochial school, etc. It was our parish, not that we owned it but that we were a part of it and we supported it anyway we could. Today, parishes are not so much homes for the soul as they are filling stations where souls ger refueled. The perspective has to go back to what it was, parish as a home, otherwise, they will be treated like branch offices.

  39. annieelf says:

    Such beauty. Makes my heart ache.

  40. nykash says:

    In Detroit, there are plenty of beautiful, old churches that stand to be lost, along with several that have already been closed. This situation is influenced by a profound demographic shift decades ago. Most churches have become commuter destinations, drawn by either ethnic history or by the liturgy.

    Such churches not only draw our attention to God, but more importantly, have features that reflect our Catholic identity. Altar rails, the tabernacle in the center of a high altar, and many statues are but a few elements that externalize our beliefs.

    Fr. Trigilio’s comments regarding supporting one’s parish is absolutely critical. I will go one step further and point to the love that parishioners ought to have for their priest. Do you pray for him? Do you share your talents? Are you supporting the parish financially? We are lost without our priests, and to not support them (much less attack them) is like diametrically opposed to our mission as Catholics as well as our own salvation.

    As for loss of churches: it’s terrible, but it’s a reflection of our times. In many places, the pews sit empty, far from the packed masses a half-century ago. Today, we face shortages of both priests and funds. We need to fall back, even if it means giving up hard-earned ground.

    Personally, I hold the mental picture of (Servant of God) Fr. Emil Kapaun saying mass on the hood of a Jeep.

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