Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Since news broke in April that Holy Innocents parish in midtown Manhattan, the site of the only daily traditional Latin mass in the NYC, was on the list of recommended church closures, concerns among Traditional Latin Mass community and Catholic traditionalists in general have grown.
These concerns reached a peak a few weeks ago when Father Justin Wylie, a priest from South Africa who works at the United Nations and helps serve the Traditional Catholic community at Holy Innocents, was removed from his job and ordered to return to South Africa after a homily in which he exhorted the traditional community to charitably demand pastoral care and to stop “scurrying about like ecclesiastical scavengers, hoping for a scrap or two to fall from the table for your very existence.”
The situation has been topic of great interest to traditionalists and non-traditionalists alike for months culminating in coverage even in The New York Times. The Register last week also addressed the situation of Holy Innocents, which I recommend you read if you are unfamiliar with the background.
On July 1, for the first time Cardinal Dolan publicly addressed the situation on his blog.
In his post (which can be read here) Cardinal Dolan states that contrary to rumor, the first time he has seen the recommended parish closure and consolidation plan was this week in meetings to discuss it.
He also stated that he dreaded these meeting to discuss the closures in part for fear of controversy saying, “The second and more ominous reason I had heartburn anticipating these meetings was fear of fierce controversy. I could envision arguing, lobbying, and protests.” But in the end, he said he fear was abated because “the process worked.”
Cardinal Dolan then stated that not all of the closure and consolidation recommendations were accepted without specifically stating which ones will be spared. Cardinal Dolan said, “In a few cases, the recommendations of the clusters and the advisory committee about parish mergers were not accepted. However, 90% of them made eminent sense, and got the council’s support.”
Of course, there is no way to know whether Holy Innocents will be among those parishes spared and Cardinal Dolan gives no indication one way or another. But the Cardinal does indicate that the reasoning behind the decisions, for closure and non-closure, were pastoral.
Cardinal Dolan then specifically mentioned the “Latin Mass” community as a unique group in need of special consideration.
For instance, one parish suggested to close was also serving the deaf community, another welcoming people who desire the Latin Mass, another the Vietnamese Catholics, all of whom, while not living within the parish neighborhood, were still in need of pastoral care and a spiritual home. The priests wanted to make sure they were not forgotten.
While not specifically saying that Holy Innocents will be spared, by mentioning in succession the need to avoid some closures and specifically mentioning the TLM community, some traditionalists see this as ray of hope.
Other traditionalists are still wary and cite the vagueness of phrases such as “not forgotten” and “pastoral care” that could mean anything from sparing Holy Innocents to a once a month TLM at neighboring St. Francis of Assisi parish. Others have expressed concerns that this “vague” wording might serve only to placate the community until the decision is finalized.
What are we to make of Cardinal Dolan’s statement? Well, it is hard to know for sure and we will not know for sure until the final list is released in September. Further, it seems obvious to me that Cardinal Dolan would not make a specific statement about any parish being spared the axe before the list in final, as doing so would be inappropriate and likely invite more controversy from parishes not specifically mentioned.
But is seems fair to intuit that Cardinal Dolan is trying to send a message. By specifically mentioning that some parishes on the list will be spared and by specifically mentioning the TLM community, one could reasonably intuit that His Eminence is trying to send a message to a community and a parish that has probably been the largest source of controversy thus far. I mean, not many parishes have been the subject of New York Times articles and an Internet frenzy.
So, if His Eminence wanted to send a message without being explicit, this is likely as close as he could come to doing it. So those traditionalists looking for a ray of hope may have found one. For those not so inclined, only time will tell.