What is the justification for the creation of these "mega" parishes in these Roman dioceses? What are the priorities, finances or attending to the spiritual welfare of the faithful?
That's something I'd like to know--although I suspect it's probably better that I dont!
My impression is that we're witnessing an example of the lingering spirit of clericalism, in which the bishops see themselves as having dictatorial powers and whose judgments are never to be questioned. In the past, this attitude was modeled after kings and princes, now it is modeled after corporate CEOs.
Just as many CEOs have closed factories and stores that were deemed "unprofitable"--even when they might be considered "viable"--so, these bishops feel they need to follow suit. I think in most cases where a parish truly isn't viable, the people know it, and can accept the fact that the parish must close.
I have also heard that when a parish closes, only about half the parishioners actually transfer to the "new" parish, with the others moving on to Protestant churches or no church at all.
I especially like the "sidebar" article, entitled Catholic Parish Breakaways Not Uncommon
Devout Catholics breaking away from diocesan control is not unheard of today, church observers say.
Michele Dillon, an expert on Catholic history and chair of the sociology department at the University of New Hampshire, said it's hard to come up with a number, because so many breakaway groups are quietly organized, not wanting publicity.
She said she was aware of at least 30 across the country. "Most of them can be described as good Catholics, very committed to Catholic traditions -- liturgy, prayer, even the rosary," said Dillon, who has done extensive research on breakaway Catholic groups.
"The irony is most who splinter off are actually more Catholic in their beliefs than main-stream Catholics. But they really challenge the authority of the hierarchy."
Professor William D'Antonio of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said breakaway groups were born out of Vatican II, which was a move in the mid 1960s to democratize the church.
"This movement has continued to expand, mostly in America, but it's spreading world-wide," he said.
Two primary reasons, said D'Antonio, are the church's sex-scandal, which has hurt the credibility of the institution's hierarchy, and a laity that is more educated today than any other time in church history.
"They have moved away from automatically doing what the bishop says," said D'Antonio. "The dangers of education."
-- Michael O'Malley