For the first time, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has responded in public about concerns that the only parish in New York City that offers a daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form may be closed. In his blog on the website of the Archdiocese of New York, the cardinal described a meeting yesterday of the committee overseeing a major parish reallignment in the 365-parish archdiocese and said that there were concerns expressed about "unique groups" that meet at particular parishes being considered for closure or consolidation.
One of those groups is the "Latin Mass community" that meets at historic Holy Innocents Church in Manhattan.
"The reasons given for approving (or, on occasions, turning down) a recommendation were all pastoral: conserve and better-use our priests; utilize the churches and parish properties that are better maintained and in much better shape; sensitivity to our elders, and our poorer people who depend on walking or public transportation to get to Sunday Mass and parish activities; changing demographics of parishes, with either the flight or influx of Catholic people into the area; and, in many cases, special considerations for unique groups," the cardinal wrote. "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."
Cardinal Dolan said it was the first time he had seen the list of parishes being considered for closure and that no final decision has yet been made.
He did not mention Holy Innocents by name, but since a preliminary list of parishes being considered for closure was leaked earlier this year, people who attend the Extraordinary Form Mass at Holy Innocents have been vocal about the need to preserve the church and for the archdiocese to provide a space for worship in the pre-Vatican II rite.
In his blog post, Cardinal Dolan explained that the recent meetings included priest council members, vicars, and the working group for "Making All Things New," a lengthy strategic pastoral planning process the archdiocese has undertaken. "The only steps left after this would be, as required by Church law, the views of the [archdiocesan] College of Consultors, and then my decision," he wrote.
He said he must make that decision by the end of September, at which time the final list of closures and consolidations will be made public.
He wrote that the agenda for the recent meetings was to vote on the list of recommendations about the future of the archdiocese’s parishes.
"The data gathered was most comprehensive, the pastoral needs of God’s People was convincingly presented, and the participants in the meeting were seen frequently to be nodding in assent as the recommendations were reviewed," the cardinal said. "The priests on the council, and the vicars, were wonderfully invested in the conversation, asking insightful questions about where the people would go if their parishwere closed, or if a merging were logical and do-able. 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."
New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling could not comment on what recommendations were rejected by the "clusters and advisory committee."
"I cannot tell you that, not even tell you what the recommendations were," he said. "The Priest Council met, reviewed the recommendations that came from the advisory group (based on the recommendations that came from the parish clusters), and gave their support or expressed their non-support as the case may be. But, the cardinal will still take all of that into consideration over the summer as he considers what will be his final decisions. Nothing is final until the cardinal makes his announcement in September."