Special Treatment in Manhattan: “Where is the charity for this priest?”

Even the New York Times (usually aka Hell’s Bible… but not today!) has taken notice of what is going on in New York City with the parish of Holy Innocents in midtown Manhattan’s Garment District.

My emphases.  I would post many comments, but I fear retribution for my friends.

Manhattan Parish Draws Attention of Conservative Catholics and the Church
Church of the Holy Innocents, Home of the City’s Only Daily Latin Mass, Might Close

As the Rev. Justin Wylie took the pulpit at the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan last month, anger and anxiety emanated from the pews. Parishioners, who rely on the church to offer a daily traditional Latin Mass, were about to meet to discuss an archdiocesan panel’s recommendation to close their church, and some were talking about schism.

“I worry about the situation of traditional Catholics in the archdiocese,” Father Wylie, a visiting priest, said in his sermon, articulating their concerns. “No longer, I say, should you think of yourselves as squatters in the mighty edifice of the Holy Church, nor should you find yourselves turned out like squatters.”

It was an unusual moment of open criticism by a Roman Catholic priest of church policy in New York. And the reaction was swift. Within two weeks, Father Wylie was reprimanded by the New York Archdiocese and in short order dismissed from his job as attaché at the Mission of the Holy See at the United Nations, where he negotiated human rights issues on the Vatican’s behalf.
The actions taken against Father Wylie offer a glimpse of how sensitive the New York Archdiocese is to dissent, particularly from inside the church, as it weighs the closing of potentially dozens of churches in a sweeping consolidation of its parishes. But the episode has also taken on broader significance, because the parish involved is Holy Innocents, the only church in New York City to offer the 444-year-old Tridentine, or Latin, Mass daily, making it a beloved institution among a small but vocal [GROWING] community of traditionalist Catholics across the country.


At Holy Innocents, the Latin Mass helped bring a renaissance, parishioners said. The church, which dates back to 1869 [1866 for the founding of the parish and the church was build, I think in 1870…] and has about 300 registered parishioners, operates at a surplus, driven in part by generous collections and a thriving thrift shop in the basement, according to church documents. Attendance at Sunday Mass has nearly tripled since 2009, and the church recently paid $350,000 to restore a mural behind its high altar that was painted in the 1870s. [The painting is by Brumidi.  The fundraising and restoration was recent.  They did a good job of it, too.]


While [Fr. Wylie] urged [the Holy Innocent’s parishioners] to be obedient to any decree, Father Wylie also told them in his sermon that he believed the archdiocese had a responsibility to provide them a stable place to worship, according to a transcript made by a parishioner from a recording.

Some other dioceses dedicate a priest and a parish for the celebration of the Latin Mass. But in New York the laity have to organize traditional Masses themselves, seeking out volunteer priests “hither and thither as though we were seemingly still living in Reformation England or Cromwellian Ireland,” Father Wylie said, calling it an “injustice.”

“Isn’t it high time for the church to take pastoral responsibility also for these sheep?” he said.

Edward Hawkins, a parishioner, said he felt Father Wylie’s intent had been to encourage traditionalists to stay loyal to the wider church. “He was very specific to say that we have to understand that choices have to be made, but don’t be afraid to ask for care,” he said. “Where is the charity for this priest?”

Posted online, Father Wylie’s words ricocheted through the traditionalist community. Then someone sent the New York Archdiocese a link to an Internet radio program on which the host read the transcript aloud.

On May 30, Bishop-elect John O’Hara of New York, who is overseeing the parish consolidation process, sent Father Wylie a stern reprimand for criticizing the archdiocese, with copies to Father Wylie’s superior at the Vatican Embassy in New York, Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt; Father Wylie’s archbishop in Johannesburg; and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, said a spokesman for the diocese, Joseph Zwilling.

“It reminded the father that he is a visiting priest, that we need priests who don’t criticize or attack the local diocese, that we need priests who work to build up the church rather than try to bring disunity,” Mr. Zwilling said, adding that Father Wylie should have shared his concerns with the archdiocese privately. 

The letter also threatened to revoke Father Wylie’s ability to celebrate Mass in New York, a rare punishment, according to a person who had seen the letter but spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from church officials. But Mr. Zwilling said he did not know whether the letter went that far.

Archbishop Chullikatt dismissed Father Wylie after receiving the letter in early June and told him he should immediately cease all public appearances in New York. Archbishop Buti Tlhagale in Johannesburg is now recalling him back to South Africa.

Regarding the Latin Mass, Mr. Zwilling said that lay groups in the diocese were welcome to organize such Masses but that the diocese did not think a special parish needed to be assigned. He said it was premature to discuss what would happen to the parishioners of Holy Innocents until Cardinal Dolan, who is the archbishop of New York, made the final decisions on church closings in September.

The archdiocesan priest who officiated at the Latin Mass at Holy Innocents on a recent Sunday asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Father Wylie, reached by email, said, “I am confident of having tried faithfully at all times to serve the best interests of the Archdiocese of New York.”

Read the rest over there.

Everyone: Do not be discouraged.  Do not flag.  Do not rest.  Do not relent.

Continue to work, cheerfully and with great respect, so that your “legitimate aspirations” as St. John Paul called them, will be realized with harmony in each and every place you are.

Furthermore, pray diligently for all ecclesial authorities.  They have difficult mandates in troubling times.

Combox moderation is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liberals, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, Priests and Priesthood, Self-absorbed Promethean Neopelagians, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, The Olympian Middle, You must be joking! and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Robbie says:

    Well, I sure hope there’s more to this story than meets the eye because the treatment of Fr. Wylie looks really bad and borders on the vindictive.

  2. Long-Skirts says:


    And he rooted us
    With an honorable people
    Beneath Our Lord’s
    Only steeple –

    Our inheritance
    Assembly filled
    An abode of Saints
    Bones crushed were thrilled –

    When pearls of peace
    Silver-sacraments plundered
    From early bird song
    Then thorn of thorns thundered –

    Sheep struck by lightning
    Bruised by hail
    Submerged in a maelstrom’s
    Violent gale –

    But the thorn owned thunder
    From above to quell –
    Raining down what was given
    And the thorn’s thunder rocked Hell!!

  3. wolfeken says:

    I guess Holy Innocents parishioners could always attend this novus ordo up the street:


    No judging by Cardinal Dolan there — bravo!

  4. robtbrown says:

    Ironic that Cardinal Dolan, whose PR orientation seems more than adequate, is receiving criticism from the NYTimes. And that criticism is not an attack on Catholic moral doctrine.

    In Cardinal Dolan’s defense, this Archdiocesan policy goes back to Cardinal Egan, who, despite his own Latin proficiency, was hostile to TLM celebration. A friend, a priest of Bridgeport, CT, whose bishop once was Egan, filled me in some years ago. The priest, who died unexpectedly a few years ago, was a buddy of William F Buckley.

  5. Giuseppe says:

    I love the short headline for this article (the one on the main page of nytimes.com)

    At Risk: A Parish and a Daily Dose of ‘Dominus Vobiscum’

  6. benedetta says:

    I certainly agree that those who prefer the EF need pastoral care. If the moment is not already here, then surely given the numbers of young Catholics who prefer the EF, in coming years the pastoral need will be greater.

    If we feel we have had a glimpse of heaven through the Mass, we are that much more responsible for our Church and even for those who do not recognize it or do not prefer it who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We owe our shepherds our prayers and our strong support in these times who only want the best for us. We have it in us to be held to a higher standard of service and loyalty to our Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals, and our Pope as we are convinced that these sacraments so celebrated according to the usus antiquior supply us what is needed to make progress in the spiritual life and to be of service to our Church.

    I will say in defense of the hierarchy of NY that there is sort of a moment of opportunity one observes where open criticism, or the perception of it, even though intended to be constructive and to foster communication and resolution, could work to play into the hands of those seeking to draw people away from the communion of the Church and find an EF in another locale.

    I am well aware that there are Pride Masses and gay parishes. There could be worse things than asking someone steeped in hatred of the Church via gay culture (just about any cursory look at this will prove this to be true) to attend a Catholic Mass. Those folks too are beset by forces that only wish to draw them away from the Church, and ultimately away from the salvation that is their baptismal heritage. I don’t appreciate it when militants take over parishes and harm innocent people and children in the name of “politics”, however, I feel better overall about the potential for harm when I know that pastors and shepherds are aware and understand that offering the sacraments, encouraging in the faith to all is not the same as carrying out “political seeming” or other sorts of corruption. I just would not feel safe, or secure, or hopeful, about the future, if I felt that these gay parishes broke off cooperation with their shepherds and went renegade blazing their own, sometimes highly destructive, trails.

    I am praying for Cardinal Dolan and his Bishops who have tremendously difficult responsibilities right now. I don’t know think that there are better men out there who could sort out the situation in New York. I will also be praying for all at Holy Innocents, whose witness the Church sorely needs in our era.

  7. MikeM221 says:

    Reading this story makes me even more appreciative that we have St. John Cantius parish in Chicago, where the Tridentine Latin Mass is offered daily.

  8. philosoph0123 says:

    So let me get this straight…Fr. Wylie is recalled and Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, who teaches at Fordham, continues to be able to spread her falsehoods in the classroom. We see that heresy is seen as less of an evil to the NY Archdiocesan bureaucracy than traditionalism.

    BTW, I was at the homily given by Fr. Wylie and although he did mention the responsibility that the Archdiocese has toward the traditionalist movement (and was not fully supporting), much of his talk was on the need for us to obey our rightful superiors.

    Fr. Wylie is a good priest and a good man. From now on, during the Archdiocesan appeal, I will give my money to other worthy sources. If they have the money and resources to get Fr. Wylie out of New York, they don’t need mine.

  9. yatzer says:

    A disheartening situation. Sad.

  10. Kathleen10 says:

    This is just bizarre, and absurd! For heaven’s sake there cannot be ONE Mass in the extraordinary form in the entire city of New York?? Are the people who run our church so thoroughly intimidated by the EF that they are willing to dismantle an obviously engaged group of Catholics who simply wish to worship in the manner Pope Benedict assured us was perfectly permissible? Why are they so afraid of the EF Mass! What do they fear!

    I do not see “Pride Mass” as anything else than complete capitulation to homosexuality. You cannot have that and maintain you are being true to the teaching of Catholicism. This has just gotten way out of hand and the fact that you have one poor church being closed while that outrage is going on is a sad state of affairs for us, and says plenty about where we are and why we are there. Pride Masses are nothing but cheering homosexuality. If that is where the church is headed it’s good for us to know. I cannot believe any Catholic church would have this. That this is going on and a poor priest who has had to deal with the genuine upset by his flock over the potential closing of that church, and speaks out, then finds himself reprimanded and REMOVED, is nightmarish. Now the people are potentially deprived of the form of Mass they have a right to, and their pastor is taken from them? Way harsh. Too harsh. What is their end game in this, their goal.
    I understand the concept of obedience. I do not understand church matters well at all, so I hesitate to discuss things I don’t understand. But I know a bull**** situation when I see it.

  11. PA mom says:

    If it was my parish, and they really did decide to close it down, I think I would try to gather as many people as possible and find the closest Byzantine Rite parish and ask to be received as a group. Being under the care of a different diocese might give better treatment, maybe they would even offer the EF from time to time.

    The Archdiocese probably just wants the donations of this parish spread around to other preferred parishes which are struggling; well, they don’t just get to do that.

  12. No More Tambourines says:

    I was at that mass, as I am every Sunday. I remember thinking about the homily, “This is going to cause trouble.” Sure enough next week the young priest made a point before the mass and during the beginning of the homily to request that “No social media posts be made about this mass.”

    There is a young priest clearly worried about his future.

    I understand that Cardinal Dolan has some very tough decisions to make and I pray that the holy spirit guides him during the coming months.

  13. MarkG says:

    This Church building sounds like it’s historic. The parishioners should definitely seek out a historical designation (if there is not one already) before the September decision. While I’m not specifically familiar with New York laws, a historic designation would pretty much guarantee that it can’t be torn down or significantly altered. That significantly decreases the value of the property for resale, as it would pretty much have to remain a Church after the sale.

    In some states (like Texas for example) new laws are not in place where the members of a Church “own” the Church regardless if it’s deeded to a Church organization (like a Diocese). So if a Church is closed, the members can go to court and have it re-deeded to them for free (as they have already paid for it essentially). They should probably look into state laws and see if something like this applies.

  14. Bosco says:

    ¡Vaya lío!

    To quote “I, Claudius”:
    “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”
    If Pope Benedict XVI had not resigned, we should never have been able to see these snakes emerge from under the rocks where they had concealed themselves so cunningly.
    I believe Pope Benedict’s resignation was effectively a mystical echo of Jesus’ words to Judas:
    “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27
    And they have been quick about it, haven’t they?

  15. Gratias says:

    Cardinal Dolan, please give to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass the respect it rightly deserves.

    The TLM was persecuted by the Bishops and Archbishops in Fr. Wylie’s suppression. I have seen the similar things happen in Southern California several times. We are few, but the Diocesan EF masses Una Voce types run with so much effort are the future of the Catholic Church.

    The Church is on the wrong track, many think, so why not insure against the Devil? After all, Obama got his photograph with Cardinal Dolan as an insurance that the votes for abortion, abortifacients and euthanasia would be there for him.

    We only ask to worship Christ. Why can’t we all just get along?

    Every time one of us attends a TLM a big difference is made. Money is another powerful way in which we can help direct the Church to the right path. Give to the TLM as if it really mattered. Our Curch is on the wrong track now, as illustrated by the recent post on the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

  16. Juergensen says:

    “Good for him. I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya … So, I would say, ‘Bravo.'”

  17. Kerry says:

    “…we need priests who work to build up the church rather than try to bring disunity,” Was this particular ‘church’ perhaps a bit too built up? As the Gospel is the Truth, is not the Priest’s responsibility to speak the Truth? Does this spokes-person’s Matthew read “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but unity…”?

    And “He said it was premature to discuss what would happen…until Cardinal Dolan…made the final decisions on church closings in September. ” So,in plain English, “Let’s not talk about this until after the decision is made”…?

    We note it is possible to shoot oneself in the foot and yet be unarmed: “…the diocese did not think a special parish needed to be assigned.” Was the parish ‘special’ before or after its renaissance? Are the higher powers afflicted with the engineering curse ‘not made here’ ?

  18. Kerry says:

    Oh, and also. Fearing retribution,whiskey, tango foxtrot?

  19. juventutemDC says:

    We will certainly pray for all parties in NYC here in DC!

  20. sunnyside says:

    The Issue in NYC is that the catholic population has moved, yet parish alignment has not changed. Manhattan has many many churches built at a time when the catholic population lived in Manhattan. Today the catholic population is larger but now centers on the suburbs on NYC. Which creates parishes in manhattan that maybe empty, and parishes in the suburbs that are LITERALLY bursting at the seams. What about pastoral care for suburban NYC? Many churches have to use school gyms for mass….. [That’s not the issue. There are lots of people in Manhattan and Holy Innocents is really easy to reach. It is ideally situated and close to any number of subway and bus stops. Moreover, on Sundays there is parking nearby. I have sat in the church during the week and watched as streams of people came in, said prayers, lit candles, and then went on their ways. The church is a hub of activity.]

  21. GypsyMom says:

    This is not my idea, I read it elsewhere and am just passing it on. Cardinal Dolan can easily get out of the messy political situation he has brought about here by claiming that the New York Diocese cannot afford this parish any longer, so it will be turned over to the FSSP to run. It would solve everything, but would he be willing to let this order into his diocese? Pray about it, but don’t risk any of your money on it.

  22. Knittycat says:

    Make your feelings known to the Pope. There is no more important duty for the Pope than that of the care of his flock.
    Write a letter, write it in latin, italian, or spanish. Send it here

    His Holiness, Pope Francis
    Apostolic Palace
    00120 Vatican City

  23. pmullane says:

    I really can’t believe that in the post sex abuse crisis American church, that a bishop (or a diocese) thinks that a solution to having a problematic priest is to lean on another bishop to move him away, especially in such a case as this. Have they learned nothing?

  24. Rachel K says:

    There is so much good fruit from a city centre parish, even without a local residential Catholic population. It look like many workers attended the convenient 6pm Mass, great to have a Mass that can be accessed before or after the working day!
    The building itself looks beautiful- I second the idea that a listing for it would help the cause.
    I will pray for a good outcome to all this.
    I am especially baffled by the expression that we can’t have priests “criticising” the diocese. This is all very 1984 ish. When does giving a personal opinion become criticism, and when is criticism deemed too damaging to tolerate? It looks like thought control! This poor priest has been sat on from on high, an extremely heavy handed punishment for what should have required a brief, kindly rebuke, maybe some friendly advice even to be careful about wording things in public.
    I do not see that the punishment fits the crime.
    And then there is the Gay friendly parish of St Francis…… sigh

  25. Pingback: The American Catholic

  26. I will say in defense of the hierarchy of NY that there is sort of a moment of opportunity one observes where open criticism, or the perception of it, even though intended to be constructive and to foster communication and resolution, could work to play into the hands of those seeking to draw people away from the communion of the Church and find an EF in another locale.

    It’s really the opposite here in two ways:
    1.) The Archdiocesan dialogue process was used. But the Archdiocese completely ignored the EF community in its initial recommendation to close the parish. Let me say that again: they completely ignored the Latin Mass community in deciding to close the parish. It was clear that discussion “behind the scenes” wasn’t working.

    2.) The availability of these Masses has demonstrably led people back into full unity of the Church. When the archdiocese ignores the community in the ordinary course of pastoral planning that is what feeds into the sense of persecution and abandonment that sends people to the SSPX. The effort to get the Archdiocese to listen about this community is an attempt to persuade them to take the action (that they should in justice take anyways) that will preserve unity in the Church.

  27. RAve says:

    Did Dolan’s column hint at good news about Holy Innocents?

    “Third, the reasons given for approving (or, on occasions, turning down) a recommendation were all pastoral: conserve and better-use our priests; utilize the churches and parish properties that are better maintained and in much better shape; sensitivity to our elders, and our poorer people who depend on walking or public transportation to get to Sunday Mass and parish activities; changing demographics of parishes, with either the flight or influx of Catholic people into the area; and, in many cases, special considerations for unique groups. For instance, one parish suggested to close was also serving the deaf community, another welcoming people who desire the Latin Mass, another the Vietnamese Catholics, all of whom, while not living within the parish neighborhood, were still in need of pastoral care and a spiritual home. The priests wanted to make sure they were not forgotten.”


  28. As far as Cardinal Dolan’s comment about “welcoming people who desire the Latin Mass” goes: First, one can be sure that the archdiocese will consider such people “welcome” if even one parish in Manhattan still offers the extraordinary form (and maybe even if only one parish in the archdiocese offers it). That parish may well be St. Agnes in Manhattan. Second, “Latin Mass” could be the Novus Ordo in Latin, the language of the Roman Rite. I would be thrilled to see that, but I sure don’t feel welcome in that sense almost anywhere. I suppose I could go complain to the archdiocese, but I would be told first that I don’t live there, and second, St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota has such a Mass and I should consider going there on Sundays. Does anyone have some frequent flyer points I could use?

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