Sunday, June 15, 2008

whose property is this, anyway?

Why close financially healthy St. Peter's - letter to the editor- -- I have another idea about these Roman Catholic parishes--give them to whoever feels they can keep them rolling. That's right--give them, not sell them, give them, give them back to the people who come together to form them and sustain them in the first place. They came from the assets of the local community, and they ought to be returned, if the community feels they can support them without the help of the diocese.

As I've said before, just because you can't hold up your end of the bargain--providing adequate staffing and attracting new membership--doesn't mean you get to keep the real estate. As an urban dweller since the 1960s--in Boston, in Atlanta, and right here--I've seen first-hand various approaches to maintaining organized religion in the cities. I do know that the best thing to do is to, first of all, ASK the affected community what the most appropriate solution would be. They live with the day-to-day problems and practicalities, and probably have the best and most creative ideas, be they for continuance as a religious property or for deconsecration and adaptive reuse.

In our neighborhood, Archwood-Denison/Brooklyn Centre, we have had some church properties closed and then resold as church properties, to other, different congregations, congregations that come in from outside the community and visit there only infrequently, usually just on Sunday. The properties I'm talking about are no longer active community centers, they're no longer open during the week, they're not centers of community activity, and they're not involved in the day-to-day problems that go with being a functioning entity in the neighborhood. One of these is on Denison, and one is on Pearl, and we have a similar problem going on with what used to be the local YMCA--they have been sold to outsiders, and they have neutral to negative impact on those of us who live there. All these decisions were made by headquarters staff without consulting with the local residents, the real stakeholders.

In the case of Saint Peter's, it seems that, even if the diocese doesn't want to support the parish in the traditional ways it has, the parish themselves should be permitted to assume responsibility for their own destiny. I think the diocese should give them back the property and let them run it as they see fit. They can contract for the services of clergy and pay their own utilities and maintenance. They can make the parish the center of vibrant Christian life; we have to face up to the fact that there just aren't enough vocations to the priesthood right now to fulfill the same staffing commitments they did 50 and 100 years ago. Parishioners are going to have to carry the ball more than ever before.

Another thing--there seems to be an interest on the part of many real-estate people in brokering and in acquiring prime properties, like Saint Malachi's, Saint Barbara's, and so on. If the process in downsizing the number of diocesan parishes has, as it's first step, giving the option to each parish to run itself and then giving the parish its property back if it takes the option, it will eliminate a lot of the potential for self-dealing and politicking at the diocesan level.

So far as the partition of real assets, perhaps it should be treated something like a divorce, or the dissolution of a marriage. The parish keeps the property with its fixtures and the parishioners (the house and the kids), and the diocese gets the gold, emeralds, diamonds, rubies, and the chalices and vestments (the clothes on its back and part of the shared portable wealth). After all, it was the diocese that broke the agreement to support, or walked out on, the parish in the first place; the parish shouldn't be the one to bear the brunt of the disruption. Perhaps it was truly supposed to be "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part," or words to that effect.

Anyway, decisions like this are best made from the bottom up, not from the top down and with the assistance of a conflicted advisory committee at the diocesan level. Who are these people, anyway?

The sermon at The Cathedral today, predicated on the liturgy, was about giving.

I need to get a new missal, for use in the off-hours. The one I used today is back in the pew.

I'll just have to resort to online resources until that new missal shows up. The 11th Sunday in ordinary time has readings that wrap with this:

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus,
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”


  1. Ask the community what they want? Of course that concept seems to have gone by the way side decades ago.

    If we implement your (and the ebooks) theory about more autonomy for the wards, the community will have more say so I guess I am liking the idea more now.

    I agree about one thing; the ppty should belong to the communities in which they reside, not the church. St. Malachi's is on the list to close? That makes no sense they are an integral part of that community.