Tuesday, October 28, 2008

4 And the Lord said unto Moses, "This is the land I promised you, but you shall not enter. Psych."
5 And Moses died.*

Gee, you'd think, after all the earthly demands the Archbishop of New Orleans made on the churches he's closing anyhow, the Lord God above would surely intervene. But you know, there are times when God helps those who help themselves, and living in a country founded on Deist principles (that God has essentially set the world in motion and we mere mortals took it from there) as well as a strong separation of church and state is encouraging parishioners of the closing churches to take matters into their own hands...with some ingenuity and encouragement:

Parishioners occupying two Catholic churches in defiance of closure orders from the Archdiocese of New Orleans began laying plans Monday to live there in shifts -- in one case after parishioners apparently played cat and mouse with archdiocesan officials who thought they had locked them out.

At the end of the day, parishioners at St. Henry and Our Lady of Good Counsel were inside their churches and organizing to remain.

In addition, parishioners from both communities met Monday night with Peter Borre, a Boston energy consultant who has been involved in Boston parishes' resistance to a wave of parish closings Cardinal Sean O'Malley ordered in 2004.

Five parishes there have been occupied around the clock -- or under "vigil" -- for four years.

I especially like the slip given to archdiocesan officials changing the locks on Our Lady of Good Counsel - they were so focused on the removal of holy objects that they apparently neglected to check if any of the parishioners who helped keep the church a holy place were still there. Shows what really matters to the higher-ups in the administration of Catholicism in this city.

And, according to Peter Borre's group, the Council of Parishes, this isn't a problem unique to New Orleans. A petition on the website asks:

Petitions send messages. Our message is that we are Catholics who care about our Church, its future, and the countless priests who have worked their lives serving God and us. We seek responsible - and informed -stewardship of our donations, neither of which has occurred in the Archdiocese of Boston for many years. We seek accountability so the problems facing our church can be constructively addressed, trust can be restored, healing can begin, and the church can grow again. Join us and be heard.

Good question.

And it's not simply a question to be reserved for the American Catholic organizations...where has the money gone, all these years, at all levels of our government? Where's the dough for rebuilding and upkeep of our infrastructure? For our public schools?

Where is the "Council of Governments" organization so that I can keep vigil inside a City Hall that keeps changing virtual locks on the people it is supposed to serve? Inside Baton Rouge's State House? Inside Congress?


And Abraham arose...and he went forth. According to many, thus was Abraham's defining moment: the moment he looked around, saw what the world around him had become, and behold, he did leave, saying, --F--k this. For this he is considered by the followers of the world's major religions to be their father, followers who laud his courage and strength of spirit in one breath, and threaten, in the next, any of their flock who might be foolish enough to consider going forth themselves.**

I wish the parishioners of St Henry's and OLGC all the luck in the world. And I condemn the Archdiocese of New Orleans for failing to see what a dedicated gift they have in these people who still want to be practicing Catholics, these people who have been busting their asses to keep their houses of worship open - because eventually, if this relationship erodes any further, these folks will need to ask themselves some tough questions about their religious beliefs:

...I wondered if this leaving, this searching for something new, this disillusionment with the choices available is, for some of us, the essential f--ked-up condition of our lives...And if Abraham were alive today - in Monsey (NY), or Mecca, or Vatican City - I wondered if he wouldn't arise in the morning, pack up his camel, and say, --F--k this, all over again.**

Something will give, indeed. But what, and who, will it be?

*a translation of Deuteronomy from **
**Shalom Auslander's Foreskin's Lament


Mark Folse said...

Based on the experience of cleaning up (or failing to do so) Cabrini Church after Katrina, the Archdiocese could give a rats ass about their venerable objects. That's just a cover story for going to change the locks when they told the Picayune they would not.

The Catholic Church is inherently an undemocratic institution with a strong reliace on obedience (all religious vows involve obedience). It's one of the reasons I am only Catholic in a secular, deeply imprinted sense.

I'm glad to see they're moving forward with their occupations. From all the stories, these parishes had sufficient members to sustain themselves financially. The Archdiocese is just looking to cash in on selling that real estate and reducing overhead costs. I think they must spend more time reading the Wall Street Journal than any religious works.

Leigh C. said...

Our Lady of Good Counsel definitely kept up its end of the financial obligations the Archdiocese held it to in order for the church to remain open...yet it is still being closed.

It's times such as these that I'm glad there isn't a Jewish pope or an administrative hierarchy in my denomination of Judaism that demands this type of submission...