Friday, February 16, 2007


Think about how many times we've been told that since Vatican II. Well, don't take it too seriously when the bishop proposes to close the church, especially if you live in New York, because in New York suddenly the bishop is the church and the "we" have no say at all:

YONKERS - One of the two men arrested Sunday for protesting the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York's decision to close his church said yesterday that he was "done" with organized religion, after a court appearance for him and a fellow parishioner.

Nuno Riberio, 29, of Yonkers was ordered to return to Yonkers City Court on April 23 with his own lawyer because he made too much money last year to qualify for a public defender.

He and Michael Costa, 19, also of Yonkers, refused to leave Our Lady of the Rosary Church on Lamartine Avenue on Sunday after it closed following its last Mass.

"I'm done with the church and I am done with organized religion. It's a lie," said Riberio outside court, where he and Costa are being prosecuted for trespassing.

Our Lady of the Rosary is one of 10 parishes being closed by the archdiocese.

Riberio and Costa were among eight people arrested this week in protests against the closings, including six people arrested Monday after an overnight vigil at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Harlem.

Riberio said that the church broke his will and that he planned to "stay Catholic at home."

I'm not disputing that there may be valid reasons for closing churches. But the emotional impact of that decision, displayed in this article, shouldn't be dismissed by using the police to get things the bishop's way, and particularly not when a scandal has caused the laity to distrust the bishops in general. A whole lot more finesse was called for, and the bishop just comes off looking like a bully.

I wonder how many parishioners took note of the goings on and came to the same conclusion that Riberio expressed. We have 30% attendance on the average now. It can go lower.

Catholics identify with their local church. When something goes wrong, such as a heretical priest being installed or a retreat arranged that calls into question Catholic dogma, or the bishop arbitrarily decides to close the church and sell it, there is an emotional reaction. It feels too much like being abandoned by God when these things happen.

I can empathize with Riberio who says he will be Catholic at home. I've been there myself too many times to count.

But wait till the bishop or one of his pastors wants things to get done that he can't afford to pay for. Then I bet it will take two shakes of the puppy dog tail for him to get out the Catholic guilt to lay on parishioners so they will do his bidding. Suddenly he will expect them to take ownership of their parish church again. For some of us this only works so many times, and then we get jaded and start to think you want it done, go do it yourself.

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