A Lenten betrayal

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Faith groups don’t often get much media coverage unless they’ve done something wrong — more often it’s clergy committing great wrongs and faith group hierarchies trying to hide them.

Ah, but a rather detailed reminder how media, including this paper, gave considerable coverage to the Catholic Archdiocese of New York’s merger and closing of dozens of Catholic churches, which affected parishioners found to be a very great wrong. And so did surrounding communities, which miss the loss of public gathering places and the support found there, not only, but especially 12-Step programs.

(A timely sidetrack — after Saint Patrick’s Day, calls to Alcoholics Anonymous (212-647-1680) spike sharply, which recalls the late, and greatly missed, Archbishop John O’Connor’s oft stated concern with substance abuse, especially alcohol dependence. But Pope Francis reportedly feels giving money to homeless people on the streets is OK, saying, who doesn’t have a yearning for a little wine.)

Also the shuttered churches were often accessible and I think especially of Saint Stephen of Hungary. Distance to the new churches are also a problem. And, of course, infinitely more is lost and while initially there were “respectful” protests outside St. Patrick’s, mostly there were only countless letters, petitions and legal briefs sent to the Vatican to stop or limit the closures and mergers.

One Manhattan church said in a reverent way they were damn mad — oops ... doggone mad, rather — and not going to take it anymore because theirs was a very financially solvent church with a very healthy and “regular” membership. And thankfully, media, including this paper, gave Our Lady of Peace Church on East 62nd Street considerable coverage because of the rosary said every 6 p.m. by a core group of parishioners, (Maybe many affected churches had gone public like this — indeed faith groups should be more generally visible to the public).

Of course, great numbers of letters, petitions and legal briefs were sent to the Vatican by all affected churches, but only the exceptionally alive and well landmarked Our Lady of Peace took consistent actions. But on March 5, news broke of what one parishioner called a Lenten betrayal — the Archdiocese had leased the church to the local parish of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

But Our Lady of Parishioners vowed to nonetheless continue their outdoor evening rosary service. The address is 239-241 East 62nd Street and, yes, that’s a hint.

To be continued, no doubt, and here’s to a blessed Saint Patrick’s Day to all — to all, I said — and the kind of which Cardinal O’Connor would very much approve.


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