Canada: A bishop is determined that a church be closed. Parishioners fight back.

Reality is sometimes harsh.

For example, if a parish is not able to pay its bills, it’ll probably have to close or be “merged”.   Either way, a few  hearts will be broken.  I don’t say “lots of hearts” because if there were lots, people would have paid the bills.  I know that in some places demographics shift because of jobs and economy, but if people want it badly enough, they find a way.

HOWEVER, there is the role of the bishop and the local clergy to factor in.  If they have for years given the people no straw for their brick making, scorpions and rocks instead of fish and bread, then the clergy are to blame and it is wrong to punish people for their mistakes.

So, people want a church to stay open and a bishop wants it to close.   There is an example of this I read about at The Pillar in Canada, Archdiocese of St. John.  The bishop, it seems, said that if the people could buy the church they could have it, but there is a priest shortage, etc.   It seems that people came up with the funds but the bishop still wants the place closed.  Period.

Conflict.  It is an interesting read.

Naturally we have to have the usual disclaimer that these situations are complex, etc. etc. etc.  Included in the questioning is whether or not the parish produced priestly vocations over the years, even in the more distant decades.

At this point we are probably saying, “Why not bring in a priest of the FSSP or the ICK or a diocesan priest and try TRADITION?”  What is there to lose?   If the place survives, in a symbiotic rapport between parishioners and chancery, bills being paid, a priest being provided for in a decent manner, what is there to lose?

Of course there are a lot of bishops who would rather see a smoking crater filled with salt and bleach than see a happy parish with our Catholic tradition in action.

It will in interesting to see what happens with this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    “Included in the questioning is whether or not the parish produced priestly vocations over the years, even in the more distant decades.”

    I think this lands in the “Bishop’s fault” box.

    It is my experience that parishes produce candidates, but the diocesan seminary produces the drop-outs. Forcing faithful and well intentioned young men to choose between a life of moral bargaining and conscience crises, of being continually ignored or abandoned by their spiritual father and plotted against by their confreres, and a life of having a loving wife and a warm home, with children who smile and hug you every time you come home… not exactly a way to aquire new vocations.

  2. maternalView says:

    Exactly what is the harm in parishioners trying to revive a parish especially if they’re taking on the financial burdens and not the diocese? If they fail then the diocese is no worse off but if they succeed isn’t that good?

  3. redneckpride4ever says:

    Why you ask?

    My best guess is modernists and liberals would view the installation of amy TLM as a victory for the “enemy”. They can’t admit the experiment was a failure.

    It all boils down to a lack of humility.

  4. Eugene says:

    Father, just one correction.
    The parish is actually in the province of Newfoundland.

  5. Not says:

    How many Church owned properties in Rome are not used? Will these be sold as well?

  6. Prayerful says:

    Diocesan seminaries in many places have a small and substantially homosexual element which can include management. A seminarian who acts in a clearly Catholic way will be asked to leave, and that can include refusing homosexual advances too clearly or any senior priest who whistleblows on same can find his career destroyed, as happened with the appalling Maynooth, Ireland’s last remaining seminary (there is another in the six counties but that was only ever a number of college courses not a full institution and is set to close). Any state of life can seem better than that sordid torment.

  7. Grumpy Beggar says:

    (@Eugene : Hi from Montreal).
    What Eugene means in a little more detail Padre , is that in Canada’s Maritime provinces, we need to differentiate. We have in the province of New Brunswick the city called St. John – and its diocese is of the same name.

    The province of Newfoundland’s capital city is called St. John’s as is its complimentary Archdiocese: Archdiocese of St. John’s. That’s the correct location where the episcopal vocal meandering misguided the parishioners. I have an uncle (RIP) who was from Newfoundland and I met more than a bunch of people in Newfoundland the times I was touring the province playing in bands a few decades ago. Newfoundlanders are good people, and these particular ones you’ve posted about made an exceptional effort, and succeeded – only to discover it may have all been for naught.

    Funny how one little apostrophe can make such a difference: St John’s and St. John.

    Without meaning to cast any aspersion on Archbishop Peter Hundt, according to The Pillar’s article, these people who led with their hearts, appear to have likely been misled. Do you think some of them could possibly be forgiven were they to inadvertently wish that Archbishop Hundt actually was Archbishop of St. John New Brunswick right about now ?

    I’ll be remembering Holy Rosary parish at our pre-Mass Rosary tomorrow morning, and at a few more Rosaries after that. God bless you guys out in Holy Rosary parish !

    God bless you too Padre. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    Prayer for Archbishop Hundt might change the tide.

  8. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    A fun historical fact: St. John’s in Newfoundland is the oldest English speaking Diocese in North America. (If memory serves, it beat Baltimore by about a week) The first bishop was an Irish Fransiscan.

    Another historical fact, that I wish bishops were aware of, is that the alienation of Church property was formally condemned all the way back in the first half of the third century by pope St. Urban I: “Things that have been offered to the Lord by the faithful should not be put to any other use than such as is for the benefit of the Church, the Brethren in the Christian faith, or the poor: because they are the offering of the faithful, the return made for sin, and the patrimony of the poor.” What a slap in the face it is for “men in soft garments” to squander the work of so many devout souls who went before them, sacrificing so that God might have a fit place to be worshipped. But for all the talk to the contrary, the LAST thing the V2-renew-crew seems to want is to return to the spirit of the early Church.

  9. APX says:

    I’m trying to imagine the ICK in Newfoundland. It’s a very different culture there.

    People who lie and mislead good-hearted people are some of the worst kinds. I don’t have a solution, but, going through my own frustrating situation at my own parish, this just really grinds my gears even more. May they take solace in the Final Judgment and God’s justice and wrath.

  10. Hidden One says:

    Grunpy Beggar, there is no such thing as a Diocese of St. John located in St. John. There is, however, a Diocese of Saint John headquartered in Saint John (as well as the Archdiocese of St. John’s headquartered in St. John’s).

  11. Having been involved (to get back on track…) in something similar…with a different outcome (so far)…I hearken back to Ven. Fulton Sheen’s admonition that the truest manifestation of the phrase ‘People of God’ is that WE have to demand (in charity) that our priests be priests and our bishops be bishops. When they aren’t or don’t…then as a duty of our own proper mission as laity, in charity (you CAN NOT do it for less, not for nostalgia, ‘sticking it to them’, or resistance to the demographic shift), pick up the sword and keep marching forward.

    That being said…assuming the responsibility for saving a church is NOT for the faint of heart; establishing it as a lay-managed shrine (in our case), arranging for clergy to lead devotions/novenas/festivals and allowed Masses, re-instituting long-forgotten devotions, repairing structures, reacquiring the accoutrements which somehow disappeared when they officially suppressed the parish, negotiating in good faith with ‘downtown’, writing press releases, asking for money…, and oh, by the way, mopping the floors, laundering the altar linens…the list goes on.

    But, done in love for our Lord…the blessings are manifold.

    We’re lucky in that, after the sidewalk protests were over, the doors locked, and constant meetings were over…the doors reopened under ‘new management’ (albeit with a careful eye cast on our efforts…and grudging admission that we’re filling a real gap in the spiritual life of the diocese…) and with a clear ‘mission’ and daily availability of a quiet space (and permission to reserve the Eucharist in a suitable, front-and-center presence in the Sanctuary after moving it with the ordinary’s permission)…if you build it in Faith…the faithful will come and contribute to both the effort and acceptance on the part of a skeptical hierarchy.

    It can be done. It won’t be finished in my lifetime (what’s left). But, for the greater glory of God, while not a parish anymore, is still a vibrant part of the life of the diocese. More to come…we’ve only just started.

  12. TonyO says:

    One possible pathway would be to try to buy out the church building from the diocese while NOT offering to turn it over to FSSP or other trads. That is, sever the “we are taking up your offer to buy it” from the establishing some trad priests as the ones going to operate it. Indeed, find a retired or mostly-retired priest from another diocese, who says the Novus Ordo most of the time, and is not known for being an overt “Traddie”, to be the one who initially says the masses. I.E. give the diocese a reason to think “this isn’t going to Trads, and isn’t going to require the assignment of a diocesan priest”. The bishop will always have to approve any regular parish masses in any parish in his diocese, but if you initiate the program with a Novus Ordo priest, he won’t say no to the separation of the church from the diocese’s direct ownership and control on that account alone. (After all, the diocese will still exercise some sort of control over the parish even without owning the building.)

    THEN, LATER – maybe after this bishop is dead and the whole buy-out is history – invite the FSSP or ICKSP in to administer the church. Sure, they still have to get the approval of the bishop (maybe a new bishop) and the only issue is whether the new priests are a problem in their own right, and it’s not the “problem” of a church building no longer belonging to the diocese.

    I don’t know how Canada does it, but in the US, most church properties become the legal possessions of the bishop, under a “corporation sole” legal structure. Legally, he can sell any of them he wants. But that’s not historically the only way it has worked in the Church, and there are also some good reasons to separate out ownership of facilities from religious control of them. A local parish “trust fund” could own a church building but still be forbidden to operate it as a parish, if the bishop so directed. At the same time, arguably, a parish’s finances and physical plant shouldn’t be at the mercy (or merciless whim) of the financial, legal, or criminal misdeeds of a bishop 50 miles away.

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  14. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Hi @ Hidden One.
    You posted: “Grunpy Beggar, there is no such thing as a Diocese of St. John located in St. John. There is, however, a Diocese of Saint John headquartered in Saint John (as well as the Archdiocese of St. John’s headquartered in St. John’s).”
    I would have liked to answer, “Fair enough,” but you appear to have misconstrued what I wrote. I do apologize to anyone else who may have equally inferred from or perceived what I wrote as a sloppy reference to an actual territory. Having personally met with at length and corresponded with two bishops (now emeritus) of two of Canada’s largest land area dioceses in the past (one over 1.5 million square km the other well over 2 million square km), I’m quite aware how large dioceses can be in terms of land area.

    To clarify however, my reference was to a geographical “location” of an Archdiocese. I don’t recall saying that any diocese was located in a city. My words were:
    “The province of Newfoundland’s capital city is called St. John’s as is its complimentary Archdiocese: Archdiocese of St. John’s. That’s the correct location where the episcopal vocal meandering misguided the parishioners.” Given that The Pillar’s article does not specify where exactly the “meetings” took place – St. John’s or Portugal Cove, nor precisely when nor where the particular hinge-pin vocal meandering of Archbishop Hundt, “I’m not going to stand in the way of any group of parishioners buying their church,” was purportedly spoken, I’m referring to the location of the Archdiocese of St. John’s – not the city. Mention of the city of St. John’s was more to point out where the names come from and how easily it could be to confuse the names of St. John and St. John’s. So the Archdiocese of St. John’s NL was the only (intended) reference I made to any location (. . . as opposed to the “location” of the diocese of St. John NB).

    One should bear in mind that my post was attempting to reconcile Padre’s words “Archdiocese of St John” with Eugene’s comment that “The parish is actually in the province of Newfoundland.”

    That being said , I’d definitely considered changing the word “complimentary” to “corresponding” to make it a bit clearer, but that consideration came after I had already posted the comment.

    Still, I never said there was a Diocese of St. John located in St. John. That would be your interpretation. I do see/understand how you might infer that from what I wrote though. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
    None of the aforementioned is on my list of things to mention in the confessional this evening ( I have heavier stuff to confess.
    I’m wondering if the statement, “There is, however, a Diocese of Saint John headquartered in Saint John,” might present a potential technical bug or two ? It could depend on how one decides to define “headquartered”, or even on how the particular chain of command is structured . . . given that the Diocese of St. John NB is a suffragan diocese ( corresponding Metropolitan is the Archdiocese of Moncton NB.)

    God bless , all.

  15. JakeMC says:

    I’ve seen this happen myself. The parish I grew up in was one that the diocese refused to grant funds to build in the first place, ‘way back in the early 1900s. What happened? The community – all of them poor Polish and Ukranian immigrants, most of whom had fled the political violence going on in the region at the time – forked up the money out of their own pockets for the materials; the artisans among the community donated their own time and abilities and built that church and school with their own hands. The cornerstone was laid in 1911. The diocese was unhappy about it, but they did provide Franciscan priests and Felician sisters. That parish prospered for sixty years.
    Then came the 197os. In a neighborhood with a minimum of six parishes, all within walking distance, it was the only Polish one. Two of the others were Irish (this was back in the days of national parishes), one was Italian, and the remaining two were Eastern rite parishes. As they had only recently been reunited with Rome, they still were not involved much in the political maneuvering of the diocese). For whatever reasons, the chancery had never wanted that school to be built in the first place, and now they were bound and determined that it absolutely would be shut down. Oddly, they didn’t try to close the church itself; just the school. I suppose they figured that, since the entire complex was one building, the parish wouldn’t be able to maintain the whole thing and would eventually fold.
    First, they tried to say that the education provided wasn’t up to standard. The children in that school scored higher on diocesan tests than any of the others, so that one went out the window. Then they tried to say it wasn’t keeping up with its bills, when it was the only area parish running in the black. After that, they called in building inspectors to try to find deficiencies in the aging building (it was the only one that hadn’t been renovated since it had been built), only to be told that it still far exceeded even the latest requirements of the building code. Tellingly, it was also the only school that was still using textbooks with the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat in ALL subjects, not just religion.
    In the end, the chancery finally did the one thing we couldn’t fight: they pulled the Felician sisters out. The poor people (things hadn’t changed much in that neighborhood since 1911) could not afford the increase in tuition hiring lay teachers would require, so the school finally had to close. The church, fortunately, still remained open, and continued to have Masses said in Polish, despite the fact that it was no longer a national parish (the diocese had struck that designation down just a few years before closing the school), simply because the majority of the parishioners were Polish.
    Fast-forward to just a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what happened, because I had moved to another state in 1980 and have not been back since, but my brother, who still lives there, told me that the school had re-opened. He doesn’t know the details, either. The parish is thriving even more than it did before. Despite the fact that it has remained an NO parish since the late 1960s, it has also remained faithful to traditional Catholic teaching. The Franciscan priests who were still running the church brought in Franciscan sisters
    I find the whole situation rather ironic, since the other parish school in the area, which had gone almost completely secular, had ended up being entirely closed, and the church and school had been torn down and replaced by condos.
    The parish is Our Lady of Consolation in Brooklyn, New York. They have a website, where you can see some of the restoration work they’ve done inside the church. One caveat if you want to take a look: The text on the site is entirely in Polish.

  16. Son of Saint Alphonsus says:

    It’s time to get the civil laws changed so the laity can prevent bishops from selling what doesn’t belong to them. Bishops are, de facto, stealing. Parish property must be in the hands of the parishioners. They paid for it. They pay for it’s maintenance. They should own it. No bishop should ever be able to do what he wants with parish property. It’s not his, no matter what the lawyers say. Further, it should never go to pay for criminal activity especially the heinous sex crimes of clergy and religious. These bishops are unbelievably arrogant. It’s time for the laity to rise up and say “no more.” How? One way is don’t put cash in the collection. Use a check or electronic donation and specify it is for internal parish use only. The only way the bishops will change is when the cash flow decreases or stops. If there’s a special collection and you want to give for that need be sure to specify it so it can’t be stolen and used elsewhere. It might not stop a corrupt hierarch but he will have to answer for fraud in court or before God. Money talks, for good or ill. You work hard for it. Be as generous as you can but be smart. It’s sad we cannot trust our shepherds.

    As far as the canonical aspects go, who cares? The worst they can do is excommunicate someone. So what? Unjust excommunications have no validity before God and don’t jeopardize salvation. However, anyone who imposes an unjust sentence will answer before God and pay to the last penny.

    Yes, I’m very cynical, but with good reason. I’ve seen and experienced too much. The hierarchy is utterly corrupt. (There are very few exceptions.) They don’t care about the salvation of souls. They only care about power and money. Pray for them. They are in danger of eternal damnation.

  17. Christina D says:

    What a sad situation; we’ll keep these parishioners in our prayers.
    Like others who are familiar with the Canadian Catholic landscape, I’m not holding out much hope for the Maritimes. The situation in the Archdiocese of St. John’s, coupled with the poke-mandates from the archbishop of Moncton and the rabid anti-trad tendencies on PEI, seem to spell the end of an era.

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