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Community Catholics Are Furious!!!

By Jose B. Rivera

Photo of two signs posted on the church doorsEast Harlem - February 13, 2007.  After a night which featured the arrest of 6 parishioners, East Harlem Catholics are furious at Cardinal Egan.  The arrest were made after parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish refused to leave the church.  They had vowed to stay in an attempt to keep the church from being permanently closed. The Cardinal has decided to close the church due to its “shrinking enrollment”.  But many disagree with the closings and with his methods.  One resident who asked not to be identified fumed “Why doesn’t he come and move us out himself?, He has to have the police do his dirty work. He is Cardinal enough to close the church, but not man enough to come and do it himself.”  It is true that the Cardinal has been accuse of being distant/detached from parishioners during the closing process.

It was an ugly scene when parishioners were physically removed from the church.  It is not what one ever expects to see at a catholic church.  Political prisoners and illegal immigrants have sanctuary within the church, but current parishioners have “no where to lay their heads”. There is something truly sad about parishioners being denied the opportunity to worship where they have worshiped all their lives.  All because of money.  Parishioners felt sad that economics is the real driving issue behind the closing of an institution dedicated to serving the poor. 

These same parishioners were outraged that new churches will be created for those of higher means who have moved just outside the city.  Bonifacio Rivera, a local community resident, asked “Is this not the reverse of the church’s mission?  Is the church now no different than developers who provide no housing for the poor and middle class, but create abundant housing for those with the most options in life? And what about all that parishioners have done and contributed over the decades to keep and maintain their parishes?  Don’t they in some measure own some part of their parishes too? Will the Cardinal compensate them for their efforts?”

Other East Harlem Catholics are left asking, “What has the Cardinal sacrificed?  Has he fired his driver and cook and left his fine residence so that others will not loose their community churches?  Jesus would not have lived in such a palatial manner, and He would not have abandoned a parish, his flock.”

Parishioners and community residents are baffled at the Cardinals unchristian tactics, hiring private security to physically remove residents from Our Lady Queen of Angels Church.  “Why didn’t he come himself and speak to us, or help to celebrate the last mass at the church?  Why hide behind the security firm and the local police? They ask. They felt hurt and abandoned.

The Cardinal may have had to close the current batch of parishes on his hit list, but many are surprised by the coldness of it all.  Definitely not the Christian response many were expecting.  Seems more worldly than anything else.  It is exactly what one would expect from a non-caring CEO throwing workers out of a closed factory, but not a son of the church dealing with his flock.

Recommendations For New York City Catholics
Since the Archdiocese can not be trusted to not close your parish and since that same entity does own and control all local churches/parishes (you could be next), then Catholics should do the following:

1) Cut your strings to the Archdiocese. Continue to meet as a parish, the Archdiocese has no right to tell a group of Catholics when and where to meet and what they are to call themselves.  Abandon the Cardinal.  He has already abandoned you.

2) Stop contributing to the Cardinal’s Appeal and raise money for your group instead.  Sooner or later you will need it. If the Cardinal needs money, let him sell his residence.

3) Find, rent, own your own building.  The the Cardinal can close what he controls, but he won’t be able to close you down.  Remember you are the church, not the building. He is the Cardinal of nothing without you.

4) And if possible show your displeasure at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during a mass given by the Cardinal.  If nothing else, he should be made to think twice for betraying the people, the church and treating them with such disdain. Remember, he could have handles this a lot better, in a different way.  He could have reached out to a hurting parish.  Instead, he hides downtown.

5) At the very least, ask the Cardinal to change his lifestyle.  What is he giving up?  He is asking you to give up your parish, while he still lives very well.  Not a very biblical situation.

6) If you are really upset, join another church, there are plenty of Christian and Catholic but non-Roman Catholic churches where you will be most welcomed and will never have to fear being kicked out after decades of dedication and service.

7) Pray for guidance.

It may seem extreme, but the Cardinal’s action were too.  He will find that he is NO LONGER WELCOMED in East Harlem.  If he never comes here again, it will be too soon. 

Note: Our Lady Queen of Angels parishioners will attempt to attend mass at the church February 18, 2007.  They will hold services outside if forced too.  The Mass is scheduled to begin at 9:45 AM. Be there to support the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels. They are not about to let this go away nicely. Join them.


Update: February 27, 2007. Yesterday, St. Vilnius was closed in a most sneaky and under handed way.  Mr. Egan called St. Vilnius ‘s pastor to a meeting with him.  All the while, he had his gestapo henchmen, change the locks at St. Vilnius Church.  It is quite evident that this Cardinal does not care to engage his flock.  Instead he has decided they could not be trusted with his judgments and has plowed through all human concern to get his way. 

He has left a trail of carnage, hurt and hate in his wake. The Cardinal has decided not to follow in The Way and deal with issues like any other secular CEO.  Though even a secular CEO, would have dealt with the church closings with more sensitivity. But the Cardinal has chosen to be more asinine than Christ like.  So be it, so he will be judged.  Not a tear will be shed for him upon his death by most Catholics.  And he will be judged by the perfect Judge who will treat him as he has treated others.  Cardinal Egan is not worthy of his title. We all look forward to his retirement.  And if he is never seen again it would be too soon.  No wonder more and more Catholics are becoming former Catholics and becoming Born Again Christians.

Stop Begging and Pleading
Catholics have to stop “begging” this man to keep him from closing the churches. They must extract a public political price to keep the Cardinal (it’s a shame to use such a good title on him) from closing other churches and to make him think twice in the future.  Appeals will not work with this man with a heart of stone. So stop begging. It is beneath your own human dignity.  Cardinal Egan only mocks your pleas with complaints of your being too “emotional”.  He does not get it.  This is about doing things his way and not His Way.

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