Recently, Archbishop Dolan has presented the plan that will close 31 parishes in a process that will leave NYC with only 55 Catholic Churches, compared to an original 112. He has stressed this is necessary for the Church’s future. I disagree. This action has resulted only because the Church remains firmly entrenched in the past.
The archbishop referred to churches that were once filled on Sunday morning being now almost empty as one reason. Usually the challenges of modern life are blamed for the absences. I wonder if he’s ever thought that people may not want to attend a church where….
• men and their designated leaders make key decisions with only token consultation of those most affected.
• love, if not shared within specific contexts, may be a source of sin, or even worse, the reason to label someone as being “disordered.”
• its most treasured possession - Eucharist - is withheld not from people who cheat the poor or libel the stranger. Rather the Eucharist is denied those who commit their lives to others in the wrong ways or who use birth control even to protect women’s health.
• a person who seeks only to give her fullest self in ordained ministry to God and creation is not only refused the opportunity, but kicked out of the Church itself if she dares to speak or act.
I suspect that many have left the Church with such reasons in mind, and now those who have remained will feel ever more acutely what happens as this Church refuses to budge from the past.
Rather than accepting with gratitude the gifts of all willing to offer their lives to ordained ministry, the Church prefers to make parishes not only larger but more impersonal as handfuls of men seek to meet the sacramental needs of hundreds of parishioners. Furthermore, priests who do show support for women’s ordination are deemed to be so dangerous that they are severely punished or even kicked out, regardless of their age or years of service.
How tragic this all is! In having seen such closures before in Louisville, KY, I ache, knowing that as these parishes close, some of our most vulnerable people, especially in neighborhoods such as East Harlem, will become incapable of attending weekly Mass. Within merged parishes, another problem arises. Many people, especially our children today, will never know what it is to celebrate a sacrament with a priest who is also a beloved friend. With so many people to serve, at best these priests may know their parishioners’ names. At worst, they’ll be walking into baptisms, weddings, even funerals, having never even talked to those they will serve.
Fortunately, another part of the Catholic Church is moving forward, embracing the ordinations not only of women, but married men as well. Still small, but ever so vibrant and growing, it comprises several communities scattered about the world, welcoming all to our Eucharistic table, knowing God would never deny love in any expression, any offering.
Already ordained as a deacon into one branch of this Church, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, I will be soon ordained a priest here in NYC. I would love to serve this Archdiocese even now as deacon; but, alas, having been created in God’s image, I am woman. I am here… trusting that as the Holy Spirit moves, we who seek to embrace the future will find each other.
Denise Menard Davis, ARCWP