Due to other commitments, blogging will be sparse here for the next few days, but I wanted to draw attention to a situation which is unfolding in New York that just tears me up.
The aptly named Holy Innocents parish in Manhattan is under threat of closure from the ecclesiastical powers. As a parish which has painstakingly raised money for restoration and which features not only a daily TLM, but parish growth, this is a huge injustice.
My friend Binks has the details directly from a parishioner:
I’m a guy from Brooklyn who attends the Traditional Mass at Holy Innocents Church in New York City.
I don’t know if you have heard anything about the impending closure of my parish, Holy Innocents. It is the central church for tradition in the archdiocese of New York, with a daily TLM (Traditional Latin Mass).
Oh, we have the standard Mass in English there as well. We have no debt. The congregation is growing. We just went through a tremendous rehabilitation of our mural, which was painted by Constantino Brumidi, the artist who later painted the U.S. Capitol. See here:
All of this was done by the congregation raising money or, in my own case, using my construction skills sometimes literally on my hands and knees for hours, working and sweating to help rehabilitate the church building.
On The Other Hand
The archdiocese is currently rehabilitating St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the tune of $200 million, and it needs money big-time. To save costs, it recently announced that it was looking to close a number of parish churches in Manhattan.
Fair enough. There are too many churches in Manhattan left over from when the Church was strong in New York. However, we are on the top of the list. Interestingly, one of the Manhattan churches that holds LGBT Masses is not on the list:
Father Justin Wylie, who was attached to the United Nations, preached the following sermon at mass a few weeks ago. I was in the front row, and I was so excited I almost jumped up and shouted (but didn’t, not in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass–I AM a Traditionalist Catholic).
Here’s a post by Catholic blogger ‘Father Z’ with the transcript. Please take a moment to read it:
The end result? Not so good.
Then What Happened
It seems that the archdiocese of New York has not only yanked Fr. Wylie’s permission to say Mass in New York, it’s written letters to the UN delegation and father Wylie’s diocese, and he’ll be officially kicked out of New York City shortly:
This is not made up. This is not drama. I know Father Wylie personally. I know that Traditionalists often come off as paranoid. But remember the old joke that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you.
Please, read Father Wylie’s sermon. If there really was anything in there warranting his immediate silencing and expulsion, please point it out to me.
If not — if you see any questionable procedures or outright injustice in this maneuver by the archdiocese — I ask you to publicize it.
Thank you for your time, and interest.
It’s one travesty after another these days, and my sources say this isn’t the only scandalous thing brewing in the viper pit known as the Archdiocese of New York.
When I asked someone recently what we can do about things like this, they said that we need to pray for holy priests. That’s all well and good, but we also need to pray for the safety of the holy priests who are already out there, and for places for them to go where they won’t get railroaded — if they’re lucky enough to make it through seminary and not get booted for being too Catholic.
Tarring, feathering, and running a priest out of town on a rail because he had the audacity to call for Catholics to request pastoral care from their shepherds? Is this the kind of thing which, when said from the pulpit, should see a priest sent packing back to his home country, stripped of all assignments and duties?
I worry about the situation of traditional Catholics in the Archdiocese. Yes, the archdiocese ‘permits’ a traditional mass here or there — but responsibility for the matter continues to rest upon the initiative and resourcefulness of the laity, who with enormous difficulty have to source priests hither and thither as though we were seemingly still living in Reformation England or Cromwellian Ireland. Isn’t it high time for the Church to take pastoral responsibility also for these sheep? Do they not deserve a shepherd? a parish? or at least some sense of juridical security? What happens to you when the parish you are harbouring in closes its doors?
What will become of the priestly vocations aplenty I see in these numerous young men of such quality as we have in abundance serving here at Holy Innocents, St. Agnes and elsewhere – remaining as they do at the mercy (and sometimes, caprice) of ‘landlords’ who, for one reason or another, ‘permit’ their presence in their parishes? Doors everywere seem closing to them. Our Saviour has closed its doors to them. St. Agnes, for its part, guards its doors vigilantly to make sure they don’t enter the building 5 minutes too early or don’t overstay their welcome by 5 minutes more. Now, it seems, the doors of Holy Innocents will be closed to them, too. Taken together, this is, in my view, a clear instance of exclusion: an injustice which you should bring to the attention of your shepherd, I think. You are fully-fledged members of the baptised Faithful, for heaven’s sake: why are you scurrying about like ecclesiastical scavengers, hoping for a scrap or two to fall from the table for your very existence? The precariousness of your community cannot hinge on a church building being available to you as though you were a mere sodality or guild. The days of renting space in hotels and the like must surely be over. You are not schismatics! Are you schismatics?
Apparently, the truth burns. I hope it leaves a mark.
Not entirely coincidentally, I was reading this article in New York Magazine yesterday, which detailed the way Cardinal Egan handled criticism from priests in the archdiocese. When I read about Fr. Wylie’s treatment, well, how could I not see the parallel? If the Mafia were running the Church in New York, you’d hardly have a more draconian response to dissent:
As Egan, 74, prepared to retire from the pulpit that he rarely used to great effect, Egan’s long-standing fears seemed to be coming true, his history repeating itself with uncanny timing. He’d called the meeting of the Presbyteral Council in response to an anonymous letter, containing a series of blistering attacks on the cardinal, that surfaced on a clerical-gossip blog and subsequently made it into the papers.
The disloyalty he read in the priests’ faces this Monday in October reminded Egan of the ugly finale of his own mentor, Chicago’s cardinal John Cody. Cody, who died in 1982 under a cloud of scandal and recrimination, was one of those old-school churchmen whose long tenure was marked by a brittle and autocratic style. But then-father Edward Egan, who in the sixties served as personal secretary to Cody, stood by the cardinal to the end. Egan saw Cody as a role model and regularly championed his legacy, a past that was never as present as it was now for Egan as he approached the twilight of his own career.
The letter, signed by an anonymous “Committee of Concerned Clergy,” said that the relationship between the priests and a New York archbishop—the mortar that binds the hierarchy—had never “been so fractured and seemingly hopeless as it is now.”
The authors, who claimed they had to remain nameless because of “the severely vindictive nature of Cardinal Egan,” collated every criticism ever circulated about him—he was “arrogant and cavalier,” and especially “cruel and ruthless” toward priests, whom he treated with “dishonesty, deception, disinterest and disregard.” Egan had “an unnatural fear of the media” and had abdicated his role as a public figure and leader of the Catholic Church. And it called on the priests to act so that the Vatican would find a better man for the job.
Egan opened the session by reading, in full, an abject apology written to him by Monsignor Howard Calkins, a popular Westchester priest who, the previous day, had given an interview to the Daily News, in which he said that the letter reflected real anger at Egan. That was tantamount to betrayal in Egan’s mind, and Calkins, realizing he’d made a mistake, quickly wrote a personal letter to Egan offering to resign as head of the local vicariate, or region, and apologizing again for his “careless and ill-considered comments.” After reading Calkins’s letter, Egan called over his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, and ordered him to release it to the media.
According to several accounts from those who were present, Egan went on to claim that his enemies were priests accused of sexual abuse who thought that Egan hadn’t adequately defended them. “When I hear stories about what those priests do, I have to do No. 2,” he spat in disgust. Then Egan widened his target to the entire priest corps: Of the 2,000 priests and bishops in the archdiocese, he lamented, not one stood up to defend him. “I was loyal to Cardinal Cody to the end,” he insisted in the stentorian affect he uses to complement his imposing height and girth. “Let me tell you, that is manliness! That is priestliness! That is Edward M. Egan!”
The room went silent. Egan announced that he needed to go upstairs for physical therapy on his knee, which still hurt after joint-replacement surgery in September, and then retired to his private quarters while the priests waited. For their part, they just wanted to get through the meeting and get back to their parishes unscathed, and the way Egan had handled Calkins convinced them that any hint of insurrection would be tantamount to clerical suicide. As the meeting stretched on for two hours, the priests agreed to a statement of support for Egan, saying they were “appalled” by the anonymous letter and “upset and dismayed that our Archbishop has been personally vilified in this manner.”
Is Cardinal Dolan, the guy who says “Bravo” and “Good for him!” when an NFL player comes out as openly gay, also the sort to squash the only substantively traditional community in New York? Has he learned a little something about how to handle the nails who stick up from his predecessor of heavy-handed reputation?
All signs point to yes, as the Magic 8 Ball would say. At the very least, he isn’t doing anything to stop it.
I want like crazy to find a way to starve any diocese treating their most faithful Catholics of every drop of funding. I wish there were more of us, who would be willing to direct our tithing toward those organizations doing some good, and to stuff the envelopes from our respective Bishop’s Annual Appeals with letters of protest instead of juicy checks.
If hashtags could be fashioned into economic weapons, I’d love to start a campaign to #defundtheUSCCB.
I’ll admit it though: it’s tough when activists with deep pockets fund heterodox organizations which seek to tear down the Church from within. When the hierarchy thinks it’s completely unaccountable to Christ, how could we ever believe they’d be accountable to us?
“The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clerics’ who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds.”
– St John Eudes
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.