Restructuring comes to the Archdiocese of Hartford. Actually, closings of parishes and schools have been proceeding there for years now – look what happened to the New Haven parish which originally hosted the St Gregory Society. Now, however, the number of parishes are to be reduced from around 212 to 100 and, in ten years, even 85. In addition to the usual woes of the Catholic Church in America, the Archdiocese of Hartford, like Pittsburgh, continues to enjoy the long-term legacy of Catholic progressive rule; in Hartford’s case, that of Archbishop John Francis Whealon (1969-91)
The statistics for post-conciliar developments are shattering:
And detailed statisics from 2010-2015 show, if anything, greatly accelerating problems:
Tragically, but as is usual in such cases, parishes that have hosted the Traditional mass are among the most endangered. Regardless of Archdiocesan assurances that “nothing has been decided,” it is reported that the closing and sale of the church of St Margaret of Scotland in Waterbury is imminent. St. Peter in Hartford has low chances for survival. We read that parishes such as St Martha in Enfield, St Stanislaus in New Haven and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury require “additional study” as to their fate. These are all churches which have, as we have reported on this site, at one time or other celebrated the Latin Mass.
In the materials the explanations given for the decline sound familiar from other restructuring plans. They should, because the same consultanting firms (in this case, Partners Edge in Minnesota)manage the process. The analysis of whether a parish lives or dies is relentlessly materialistic: parish revenues, number of sacraments administered, size of congregations, number of available clergy etc. – all in an essentially static environment. There is no idea of changing the paradigm, of growing through evangelization, or recruiting more seminarians, of bringing the non-practicing majority of Catholic back into the Church. Despite verbiage to the contrary all that is offered is a reactive downsizing strategy.
For the most obvious cause of the crisis can of course never be acknowledged – namely, the management of the Archdiocese by the Catholic clergy over the decades since 1965 under the new “constitution” of the Church, Vatican II. Quite the contrary, the new program is accompanied by an aggressive recommitment to the policies that brought about the collapse in the first place. The Archdiocese does try to devise explanations, for the benefit of benighted parishioners, why what once was sacred and important is no longer so:
Old church buildings, with their soaring sanctuaries and thin stained glass windows, are extraordinarily expensive to heat and maintain, Shanley said. Money spent on utilities drains resources from programs for the poor and other central elements of the church’s mission, he said.
“It is sad,” Shanley said. “There is great emotional attachment. But as people think about it, they realize that small numbers of people cannot possibly sustain these grand, gothic buildings. Nor do they want all their money going to paying for oil and electricity.” (Rev James Shanley, leader of the restructuring process in the Hartford Courant of 12/23/2016)
So now, in the estimation of the Archdiocese, maintaining beautiful parish churches contradicts the “central elements of the church’s mission.” Pope Francis of course is cited in pseudo-theological support:
Manship ( a parish priest in New Haven – SC) said the changes present the opportunity for Catholics to answer Pope Francis’ call to be “a missionary church, to be a church of the poor and for the poor.”
“We as Christians, we understand that the dying and transformation are a way for us to come to a deeper life with Christ and, hopefully, with the poor and with one another,” Manship said. “This is a call to embrace the cross and it’s difficult for all of us. We have to do it in faith and hope and love.” (Id.)
So presumably those opposing the closing of their schools and parishes, the potential destruction of their historic neighborhoods, are missing an opportunity to answer Pope Francis’ call, to “come to a deeper life with Christ and the poor” and are avoiding “embracing the cross.” Rarely has the clerical disdain for the laity been so brazenly displayed as in these patronizing remarks.
More recently we find the suggestion that all of the combined parishes (“pastorates”) may receive new names ( we have seen this idea raised here and there in the New York archdiocese):
It is being considered that each pastorate will be given a new name, one that does not repeat the name of another parish within the archdiocese. If there is a school within the pastorate, that school will take on the name of the pastorate.
On paper, the Archdiocese of Hartford thus remains fully committed to the so-called “hermeneutic of rupture,” the destruction of the past: the elimination of the buildings of the old parishes and even their names creates the opportunity for a glorious new beginning. Whether anyone actually believes this, after years of experience of similar restructuring plans in the United States and places like Germany, is another question.