Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vatican "removes" safety net from parish survival

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Lost amid the hubbub over the Vatican's new rules on dealing with sex abuse that were released 10 days ago was another pronouncement that could have a profound local impact.

The ruling, so overlooked that it wasn't even translated into English until early this week, said that a bishop can close any parish, regardless of its financial stability or the size of its membership, if he believes that the decision is best for the diocese as a whole.

The announcement could cause some Twin Cities Roman Catholics to lose sleep. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is in the process of preparing a new strategic plan -- basically, a downsizing -- that Archbishop John Nienstedt has made clear will involve closing some churches and merging others.

From the outset of the process in February 2009, it has been assumed that the closings would involve churches with sagging memberships and declining revenues. While it's still likely that those parishes will make up most of the closings, it's no longer a given that healthy ones will be spared.

The Vatican ruling was in response to a strategic plan implemented by the Archdiocese of Boston that included closing 10 parishes that were economically viable. The 10 appealed the order to the Vatican, which upheld the decision.

The strategic plan for Twin Cities parishes will be announced Oct. 16-17. Star Tribune


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