Monday, March 22, 2010

Dissent over Church Closings in the Diocese of Cleveland

 From WCPN:
 "At the end of a typical Sunday mass at St. Cecilia church on Cleveland’s east side, traditional ritual gives way to spontaneity as members of the congregation drift from their pews and begin to embrace each other.  This mix of people of diverse ages and racial backgrounds, seemingly recharged by the past hour of prayer and fellowship, makes Christie Okocha smile.

CHRISTIE OKOCHA: I love it absolutely.  There’s such a sense of community.  It’s so relaxed, people are so loving, so accepting.  And the priest is absolutely the best.

DAN BEGIN: For some of these people, the sign of peace hug is only time they will be touched all week long..."
[You wouldn't know it from looking at the photos, but Dan and Bob are pastors.]
"By contrast, his brother Dan chose not to appeal the Bishop’s decree…but, he’s found a different way to maintain his east side parish community.

BOB BEGIN: He’s keeping it together on the internet, and he’s expanding it.  And they won’t need a building, so they’ll have no overhead.  It’s a great experiment.

Dan Begin’s experiment is called “Scattered Seed” --- based around a social networking site for parishioners --- sort of a spiritual Facebook, that will keep members in touch with each other." 
 And a recent open letter from Fr. Bob to his Bishop, published in the Cleveland Leader:
"Our priests have been publicly silent. Many of our priests know that thousands of good and loyal people are suffering injury, hurt and an ensuing anger not unlike the anger Jesus himself felt when he confronted the misuse of authority by the leaders of his time. Many priests are hurting as well. Many are angry. Morale is not good...
I suggested that in justice, when any central government, for its own perceived benefit, decides that it is necessary to abridge the rights of its member institutions, it is bound in justice to have well-researched and compelling reasons....

In our analogy, you are the central government and the parishes and institutions of the Diocese are the member institutions.....
Last week, I received a letter from you announcing that you now wish to launch a capital campaign, using the priests of the Diocese to solicit more than one hundred million dollars. The stated hope is that by allowing pastors to keep 30% of the money they raise in their own parishes and the promise that some of the money will help shore up their pension fund, they will cooperate in this effort.
You should know that unless and until the injustices and perceived injustices that have occurred in the last year are addressed adequately and publicly, I believe that such a campaign will be perceived by many as adding insult to the injury..." -- more
And a response from the diocese in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said Friday that he read a copy of the letter, sent electronically to him by Begin. However, Tayek said the bishop had not seen it.

"Father Begin's opinion is just that, one man's opinion," said Tayek. "We are not about to engage in a public debate between the bishop and one of his priests. The bishop's door is always open to his priests."

Begin's four-page letter comes one year after Lennon announced the closings of 52 churches in the eight-county diocese, saying the downsizing is due to shortages of priests, collection-basket cash and congregates. The bishop later reversed himself and allowed St. Colman and St. Ignatius of Antioch to remain open...

Tayek disagreed that morale among priests is low.

"I don't believe Father Begin was present when the bishop met just recently with more than 230 priests of the diocese," he said. "Father Begin's observations would be best described as purely speculative." - more

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