Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Enemy of My Enemy?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Manhattan Church of Holy Innocents, which is on the potential list of Catholic church closings to be announced in September. In a move to combat the potential closure, some of the parishioners cooperated with the New York Times in an article in which they aired their complaints against the Archdiocese of New York [HERE]. I brought up the fact that the New York Times is notorious in their animosity towards the Catholic Church. Father John Zuholsdorf long ago labeled the Times as "Hell's Bible." As I wrote, I felt that it just wasn't good judgment to be partnering with an enemy of the Church against the hierarchy of the Church.

Several people from Holy Innocents took me to task and said in no uncertain terms in the com box that I was wrong and didn't know what I was talking about.  I found it rather ironic that just a few days later, the Times ran an ad which Father Z wrote about in a post entitled, "Hell’s Bible Full-Page Anti-Catholic Ad" [HERE].  Even Cardinal Dolan commented on it [HERE].  

Anti-Catholic Ad from New York Times
Cardinal Dolan wrote:
Please, please, please…don’t let us down, I daydreamed after Monday’s decision of the Supreme Court defending freedom of religion from government intrusion.
I prayed, I hoped, that the notoriously anti-Catholic firebrands of the nebulous and anonymous “Freedom From Religion Foundation” (FFRF) in Madison, Wisconsin, would once again, as they predictably had in the past, print a full-page, drippingly bigoted blast in the hospitable pages of the New York Times.
So I smiled in relief as a friend called to ask me—ironically, on the day before Independence Day, celebrating what is most noble and freedom-loving in our beloved country—if I had seen the anticipated ad in the New York Times. I had not, since I stopped reading that paper years ago, on the advice of so many New Yorkers who warned me that the Church rarely gets a fair shake in those pages. But, that day, I went to find the issue, and, there it was, on page A13, a whole-page sneer at “dogma,” and an “all male Roman Catholic majority.”
Some of the parishioners at Holy Innocents have now partnered with another enemy of the Catholic Church  - the Federal Government of the United States.  Yes, that same government which has sanctioned abortion, same sex marriage and contraception for all.  Holy Innocents has joined with the Federal Government against the Archdiocese of New York through the Internet arm of Voice of America, the propaganda machine of the Government.

Voice of America
TypeInternational public broadcaster
CountryUnited States (for external consumption only)
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
OwnerFederal government of the United States

The result is an article entitled, "Manhattan's Catholic Churches Face Consolidation, Possible Closure" which can be found on the Voice of America website [HERE].  However, even though the title of the article mentions "churches", only one church is discussed: the Church of Holy Innocents.

I have to ask the same question here that I asked in my previous post concerning the New York Times: why would the Federal Government, which opposes the Catholic Church at almost every turn, be suddenly interested in the fate of a small Catholic church in Manhattan?

The answer is the same as in my previous post: it is a chance to stick it to Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

Here is a quote from one Holy Innocents parishioner: "It seems to me almost like someone is intentionally dismantling the Catholic patrimony of this city." Another quote: "The financial condition of the Archdiocese somehow may be corrupting decisions to make decisions to sell churches."

According to the article: "[S]ome Manhattan Catholics fear that their historic, city churches - built on valuable real estate - are only on the chopping block to improve the Archdiocese’s finances."

Once again, as with the article from the New York Times, the theme is the big bad New York Archdiocese is so big and bad and uncaring that it is actually trampling over its own faithful.

Again I must ask, what good can possibly come from once again attacking the Archdiocese of New York?  How does it help the cause of keeping Holy Innocents open by partnering with an enemy of the Catholic Church in an effort to demonize Cardinal Dolan?  Do the people of Holy Innocents really feel that such a tactic is the work of the Holy Spirit?

Holy Innocents is far from being the only Church in danger of being closed.  The rumor is that there are up to 50 or more churches facing closure and consolidation in the New York Archdiocese, which covers several counties in the State.

Further, Holy Innocents Church is also not the only affected church to take to the media to make their case.

St. John Baptist, Piermont
St. John the Baptist in Piermont, established in 1852 and serving over 700 families, is on the potential list and was the subject of a new story [HERE]. As you will notice in the video accompanying the article, although these people desperately want to save their church, they do not resort to demonizing the hierarchy of the Archdiocese. The reporter finishes the newscast with the statement, "The final say is a few months off. Meantime, St. John's is confident in the power of prayer." This is followed by a parishioner, who says, "You know it's in God's hands. We hope and pray that we stay just as we are."

It is also interesting to note what is said in the official Church bulletin [HERE] from St. John the Baptist Church in Piermont. Here is an exact quote from the church bulletin:
False Rumors
Rumors have been circulating that our church is definitely closing. There is no validity to these rumors. No decision has been made or will be made except by the Cardinal, and only by the Cardinal, in early September.

If you hear these false rumors, please do not repeat them and remind the persons they are 100% wrong.
Another church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Mount Vernon, also took to the airways [HERE]. They too expressed their displeasure and even anger that they may lose their church. But again, nowhere does anyone try to demonize the Archdiocese.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mount Vernon, New York
HERE is a news story about another possible closing, Most Holy Trinity Church in Mamaroneck. Again, there is no demonizing of the Archdiocese.

Holy Trinity Church
HERE is an article from Capital New York about church closings in which St. John the Baptist in Manhattan, just a few blocks from Holy Innocents, is mentioned:
St. John the Baptist's pastor, Rev. Thomas Franks, said last week that he was saddened by the recommendation. The parish was formed in 1840 and its current building constructed in 1871. It has few parishioners but offers a home away from home to commuters, attracting 500 worshipers for Masses each day, he said. Franks said Thursday that he had not had a chance to speak to others about how to respond. He could not be reached on Friday.
I was at St. John the Baptist Church a few weeks ago.  The priest at that time told us that the final decisions have not been made and we should pray for the Will of God.  Again, as you can see, there is no demonizing the Archdiocese.

Also, contrary to the statements of the parishioners from Holy Innocents, the Capital New York article states that the Archdiocese will not financially profit from any church closings.
[Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the archdiocese] said the question of real estate has been considered from a broad perspective. Should the church sell some of the property, the archdiocese would not be able to use the proceeds for operational expenses. The money would need to be given to the parish where that congregation went, or to other parishes nearby.
“Church law states that the money that is realized through the sale of property—of church property—must go, must follow the people, must go to the continue to care for the people,” Zwilling said.
I am sure that anyone from Holy Innocents reading this post will feel that I am just piling on them. But as I stated in my previous post, I am truly concerned about what is happening there. There seems to be a tremendous amount of anger and bitterness and a strong victimhood mentality developing among Holy Innocents parishioners and those supporting them.  They seem ready to resort to whatever they feel is necessary to keep their church open.

Michael Voris interviewed a parishioner of Holy Innocents, Paul McGregor, who seems to be making the rounds in various media.  McGregor read a prayer to St. Michael which is being recited after each Latin Mass at the church, as follows:
O Glorious prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. These crafty enemies of mankind have filled to overflowing with gall and wormwood the Church which is the bride of the spotless lamb. They have laid profane hands upon her most sacred treasures. Make haste, therefore, O most invincible prince, to help the people of God against the lost spirits and grant us victory. Amen.
This is a shortened version of the prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII which is used in the exorcism rite, as shown in an article from a website called, which you can read HERE.

There is certainly nothing wrong with saying the St. Michael's Prayer.  I try to say it at least once a day, and it is certainly needed in our world which is so filled with evil.

But why is Holy Innocents Church using an exorcism prayer to save their church? Who are these "crafty enemies" who are trying to destroy the Church? Is it the secular media? Is it those who openly oppose the Gospel and are forcing God out of society? Is it those who support such abominations as abortion and same sex marriage? No. The "crafty enemies" who have "laid profane hands" upon the "Church's most sacred treasures" and against whom Holy Innocents is defending itself by use of an exorcism prayer is none other than the hierarchy of the Archdiocese of New York.

What is this doing to the hearts and attitudes of the people who recite this prayer every day? How much incalculable spiritual harm is being done to Holy Innocent parishioners as they ingrain into their minds that those who are in authority over them are actually their enemies who want to destroy them? The articles from the New York Times and the Voice of America are, tragically, Exhibits A and B.

The effects of saying the St. Michael exorcism prayer against Church hierarchy every day can also be seen in this excerpt from an interview of the same Paul McGregor by Christine Niles, a rabid Michael Voris supporter and now one of his employees:
Your listeners will have seen on their TV screens how in China, Syria and Nigeria churches are being bulldozed, and we expect that of virulent atheists and Islamists. But we don't expect it from our own Catholic hierarchy.
But on the positive side we have also seen on our TV screens how unaccountable, anonymous elites around the world are being challenged and brought to account for their misdeeds. Recently there was the Cardinal's Annual Appeal, and I had a check for $500 ready to send off, and I must say that I tore that check up when I learned that they wanted to close Holy Innocents.
And if Holy Innocents closes, I won't put another cent in the collection box of any church in the New York Archdiocese. And if they do make the decision to close Holy Innocents, may it weigh on their consciences with the weight of a demolition ball.
McGregor says that he will stop financially supporting the Archdiocese if Holy Innocents is closed. The reason for closing all of these churches is because of the lack of financial support. McGregor's tactics will only cause the closing of even more churches. Is his ultimate goal to shut down the entire Archdiocese so that there are no Catholic churches in this area? Again I ask, is this the work of the Holy Spirit?

The articles in the New York Times and Voice Of America represent two of the secular media that Holy Innocents has used in their attempts to defeat their supposed enemy, the Archdiocese of New York. In addition, there are probably hundreds of Internet posts on Traditional Catholic websites which demonize the actions of the Archdiocese in regard to Holy Innocents. As shown here, Michael Voris and his cohorts, aided by Holy Innocents parishioners such as Paul McGregor, wasted no time getting into this fight. Voris never lets a chance slip by to take a slap at Cardinal Dolan, and he certainly wasn't going to let a golden opportunity like this one get away from him.

In my previous post on this subject, I urged those at Holy Innocents to look at figures from the Bible and Catholic saints down through the centuries who have suffered persecution and to follow their examples. Now I am saying, look to the other churches in the archdiocese. Take note that none of them are running to such anti-Catholic media as the New York Times or the Federal Government to help their cause. Certainly none of them are going to blowhards such as Michael Voris and Christine Niles.

Our Lord warned us in Matthew 12:15, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." Our world has become virulently anti-Christian. We do face an enemy whose sole goal is to destroy the Catholic Church. But contrary to the statements we have seen coming from the parishioners at Holy Innocents, that enemy is NOT the Catholic hierarchy. The real enemy is the evil one who wants to separate brethren and turn them against each other. Instead of fighting against the evil we see in the world, he wants us to be fighting with and destroying one another.

I know that the good people from Holy Innocents are very sincere in what they are saying, but they must realize that such negativity against and condemnation of the hierarchy of the Church could never come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Dolan is not lying when he says that the realities of our world are forcing him to make these terrible decisions. The sad truth is the majority of Catholics no longer attend or support the Church.

The reality of the state of the Catholic Church in New York is laid out in this article from the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Archdiocese Moves to Close Parishes" from November 2013 [HERE]. According to the article,
Attendance has shrunk in many parishes, making them no longer financially viable, with the archdiocese spending about $40 million a year to help parishes that can't pay bills, an archdiocese spokesman said. Cardinal Dolan has vowed to reduce those subsidies.
. . .
The changes are taking place in an archdiocese often called the spiritual heart of American Catholicism. The archdiocese has between 2.5 million and 3 million self-identifying members and between 750,000 and a million parishioners attend Mass on a given Sunday. 
Demographic shifts in that population are partially driving the move. Parishes built generations ago were often designed to serve large immigrant communities, with pastors speaking the language of the parishioners. Now, people travel widely to attend church, and communities largely mix inside the church, leaving "no need" for ethnic parishes, a church spokesman said. 
Some areas of New York are oversaturated with parishes, officials said. About 25% of the archdiocese's parishes are in Manhattan, with a glut below 14th Street. Only about 12% of the diocese's population now lives in the borough. The church says the Bronx and Lower Westchester could also stand fewer parishes.
Those at Holy Innocents Church who are publicly fighting against the Church hierarchy are convinced that they are being targeted for one reason only: they support the Latin Mass. However, I think it might be helpful to look at other possible factors. Only 200 to 300 people at most visit Holy Innocents Church each day, with maybe about 100 more on Sunday (this includes the Ordinary Form of the Mass which is also offered). Low Masses at Holy Innocents rarely attract more than about 50 people.

Holy Innocents is in the middle of New York's garment district, which is all businesses with little to no residential buildings. I doubt if there is one person attending Holy Innocents who actually lives in that area. I know of only one who lives a few blocks away, just across the street from St. Michael's Church, which is also listed for potential closure.

This means that no one can actually call Holy Innocents their "home" parish, at least not in a physical sense.  Look at the situation for St. John the Baptist in Piermont.  The closing of this church will affect 700 families who actually live within the parish district.  That is several times the number of people who attend Holy Innocents on a regular basis. 

As reported above, about 500 people attend Mass every day at St. John the Baptist Church in Manhattan, only a few blocks from Holy Innocents.   St. John's offers five Masses every day compared to three for Holy Innocents.  St. John the Baptist Church is also in much better shape physically than Holy Innocents. Despite these facts, St. John the Baptist Church is also on the potential hit list.  

The Archdiocese of New York is strapped for cash because a lot of Catholics refuse to support them, as we heard from Paul McGregor who has added himself to that list.  The plain and simple truth is that the Archdiocese can no longer afford to have so many churches not because there are no Catholics but because there are so few faithful Catholics.  It is a tragic, tragic situation.  Instead of condemning Church hierarchy and trying to "exorcise" them, we should be praying very hard that they will be able to save churches.  Those affected should be praying not only for that last minute miracle which will save their own church but other churches as well.  

But if the worse does come about and dozens of churches are closed, including Holy Innocents, then it is vitally important that people do not allow themselves to become bitter and angry but instead look to the Holy Spirit to see where He wishes us to go next.  Our goal in this life is not to find a nice comfortable situation in life and just settle in until we die.  We have been given the great commission by Jesus Christ Himself to go into all the world and preach the good news of salvation.  It is quite obvious here in New York that those around us are in dire need of this message.  Maybe closing the churches is the only way Our Lord can get us out of our comfortable ruts and into the world which needs what we have been given.  

The story of Job in the Old Testament has many lessons for us. Job was a very righteous man and also very wealthy. Satan asked to tempt Job to see if Job would still love the Lord even after losing all of his physical blessings. The Lord agreed and Satan destroyed everything Job had including his family and even his health. When Job found out that his ten children had been killed,
Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. [Job 1:20-22]
Satan was proven wrong. Job still loved and worshiped God even in the midst of calamity. He did not blame anyone for what had happened. He accepted it as the Will of God.

Job, who had been the wealthiest of men, was literally reduced to sitting on a pile of ashes and scrapping the sores and boils with which he had been afflicted. His wife told him to curse God and die. Job's response was:
You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. [Job 2:10]
However, Job, understandably, did start feeling sorry for himself and at one point wished he had never been born. He had three friends who basically told him he must have done something really terrible to deserve such punishment. But then God appeared to them and without answering any of their questions, showed them, through His Words, His brilliance and omnipotence. Job realized what was really important and his final answer to God was,
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. [You asked,] 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. ["You said,] 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42:1-6]
This is the point we all must reach in our lives: we must see the greatness of God and realize that we are nothing. After Job came to this realization, we are told "The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first" [Job 42:12]

This is a time of great trial and testing in the Archdiocese of New York. Do we trust the Lord to bring us through it?

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