Parish Closings: How Do We Move Forward?

empty pews
Msgr. Charles Pope reflects on the factors behind so many empty pews throughout the Catholic Church. Image Credit.

This post originally appeared on the Archdiocese of Washington’s blog, Community in Mission. Read to the end, where you will see Ralph Martin speaking about The Urgency of the New Evangelization on EWTN’s  Bookmark. This video is a great summary of Renewal Ministries’ mission!

By Msgr. Charles Pope

It was recently announced that a substantial number of Catholic parishes will be closing in Connecticut. This is just the latest in a national trend that is likely to affect the diocese where you live, especially in the north. I’d like to offer some rather quick thoughts and then ponder what I think is the root cause for our decline.

  1. Bishops don’t close parishes, people do. While it may be juridically true that bishops formally certify or give recognition to the opening, closing, and merging of parishes, it is ultimately God’s people who create or withdraw the need for a parish. The hard truth is that Catholics are contracepting and aborting in large numbers, thus depleting our ranks. Further, in most urban areas of the northeast, barely 15% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. In comparison, during the first half of the 20th century, when many of the parishes being closed today were being built, nearly 85% of Catholics attended Mass regularly. It is unrealistic for Catholics to expect that parishes should not be closed in significant numbers when there is so little attendance and concomitant support.

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