Thursday, August 14, 2008

Church Closings and Archdiocesan Myopia

I live fairly close to the main administrative buildings of the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans; and as I was walking home from work today (which is something I don't normally do) I passed by these buildings (which are on a route that I don't normally take) and noticed that the local TV news stations (three of them, to be exact) were out in front of these buildings with cameras and reporters talking about the latest happenings in the controversial Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan calling for the closure of certain churches throughout the City.

I stopped just long enough to get the gist of what these TV news reports were about, and what I gathered through the snippets that I heard was that there might have been some planned protests earlier today in front of these administrative buildings against the closures of some of these churches by some upset parishoners. [If I can find links to these reports on the TV news websites, I'll try to link to them.]

This little moment reminded me of a posting I made on the subject a while back when I argued basically that the anxieties of a post-Katrina world here in New Orleans would seem to propel the Archdiocese to want to build more churches as places of refuge and solace for hurting souls. I still believe this makes sense.

But I also wanted to add another thought to the argument. It has to do with the reasons the Archdiocese is providing in justification for the closures. This reason is simply that there is a shortage of priests to pastor all the parishes in New Orleans and that the demands of staffing require some contraction and merging of parishes. But I think this is a defeatist attitude and one that, in a way, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would like to propose the notion that if the Archdiocese goes aggressively in the other direction, that is, if it says that it's not only keeping existing parishes open, but will plan to build 10 more churches throughout the city, then this demonstration of faith and renewal will actually be a magnet for priests. I bet if the Archdiocese had gone down this path, and put out a call for priests to come to New Orleans to head up one of the Archdiocese's existing parishes as well as new ones, the response would be overwhelming. In fact, it might even be a clarion call for new vocations in the diocese! Why wouldn't the Archdiocese give this plan a shot? I mean, really, if it flops, then it could always retrench in a few years and make the cuts it says it now needs. The post-Katrina reality here is certainly an opportunity for the Archdiocese -- just not the the opportunity to shrink, cut, and close Churches it has embraced. It is rather, as I see it, an opportunity for growth, expansion, and faith revitalization among a community starving for it.

UPDATE: Friday, August 15, 2008: 10:20AM: Here's a story from this morning's Times-Picayune that reports on the events that informed what I saw going on.

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