Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bishop closes parish because of sacrilege

Parish closings are something not uncommon in this country -- but it is uncommon to hear of a parish being closed because of sacrilege.

But that is just what is happened in New Orleans.

The background for this story is here:

Citing "sacrilege" by demonstrators who disrupted a Mass, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans has ordered the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from historic St. Augustine Church and said it will be closed "for the foreseeable future."

The order came March 27, the day after sign-waving protesters repeatedly interrupted a priest trying to celebrate Mass in the church, causing the liturgy to be terminated.

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Following the recommendations of an archdiocesan pastoral plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Archbishop Hughes had earlier decided to close the small parish, merging it with neighboring St. Peter Claver Parish, but to keep the church building open for one Mass each Sunday.

Under the plan, announced in February, seven parishes in the archdiocese were closed and 23 others have been put on hold until enough people return to warrant their reopening.

It is a sad sight that too often today the Mass is seen as an opportunity to protest. This story is that logic carried to its extreme: that you would protest a bishop's decision at a Mass to the point that the Mass would actually have to be stopped.

It also shows, I think, a gap in the understanding of Catholics that some would not see the difference between a protest outside the chancery and the sacrilege of Mass -- the same principle was on display in St. Louis a few months ago when some Catholics quoted in the media clearly did not understand the difference between disagreeing with a parochial decision made by a bishop and the formation of a schismatic parish outside the Catholic Church.

It's a shame that now this parish in New Orleans will no longer even be open for Mass on Sundays, but the bishop had no choice in the matter.

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