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Catholics Rally Around Nuns Amid Vatican Crackdown

by Michael O'Malley 05-29-2012
Photo   © 2009   L.C. Nøttaasen , Flickr

Photo © 2009 L.C. Nøttaasen , Flickr

Catholics around the U.S. are coming together for prayer vigils as a show of support for America's nuns, whom the Vatican accuses of having "serious doctrinal problems."

The Wednesday (May 30) vigil at St. Colman Catholic Church in Cleveland follows a Vatican move last month to intervene and reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that represents the leaders of most U.S. nuns.

Similar rallies have already been held or are planned from Anchorage, Alaska to Boston, organized by the loose-knit Nun Justice Project, a coalition of lay reform groups.

The Vatican scolded the LCWR for making statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

The crackdown has caused an uproar among some Catholics, sparking dozens of vigils in cities across the country.

Cleveland Catholics ‘Anxious,' 'Edgy’ as Parish Re-openings Drag On

by Michael O'Malley 05-18-2012
RNS photo by Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

Phillis and Phillip Clipps pray during Mass at the Community of St. Peter in Cleveland. RNS photo by Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

 It's been nearly a month since Bishop Richard Lennon announced he would reopen 12 closed churches, but so far no shuttered sanctuaries have been resurrected.

As they wait, parishioners from some of the moribund parishes have begun organizing committees in preparation for the reopenings, which the diocese says are in process, although there's no official timetable.

At St. Mary Catholic Church in suburban Bedford, parishioners have formed a parish council, a finance committee and a music committee. And they have tied blue and white bows and a "Welcome Home" sign on the front of their church.

"We've got our committees organized," said St. Mary parishioner Carol Szczepanik. "We're just waiting for the bishop."

Woman Fights Her Bishop on Church Closures and Wins

by Michael O'Malley 04-25-2012
RNS photo by Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer

Patricia Schulte-Singleton, 53, never gave up the fight to save St. Patrick church. RNS photo by Lisa DeJong/The Plain Dealer

When Bishop Richard Lennon began closing 50 Catholic churches in and around Cleveland three years ago, the bulk of the faithful quietly moved on.

Some drifted to other parishes. Some didn't go to church at all. Others elected to fight for their lost sanctuaries, taking up protest signs, joining prayer vigils, signing petitions and filing appeals to the Vatican.

Many who resisted the closings worked quietly, too timid to publicly confront ecclesiastical authority, which, since childhood, they had been taught to respect.

But Patricia Schulte-Singleton was not intimidated by a Roman collar, a bishop's edict or the raised eyebrows of the obedient.

Bishop to Reopen 12 Closed Parishes

by Michael O'Malley 04-17-2012
RNS photo by Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer

Bishop Richard Lennon implored protesters to vacate a closed Akron church in 2010. RNS photo by Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer

Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Lennon on Tuesday (April 17) announced that he will reopen 12 churches whose closings were reversed by the Vatican last month.

The 12 parishes had filed appeals with the Vatican after Lennon, between 2009 and 2010, closed 50 churches in the eight-county diocese, citing changes in demographics and shortages of priests and cash.

Catholics Eye Cleveland Closures for National Precedent

by Michael O'Malley 03-21-2012
Cleveland church photo, Jennifer Stone,

Cleveland church photo, Jennifer Stone,


Before a recent prayer service in a shuttered Catholic church in Holyoke, Mass., parishioner Victor Anop stood before 120 people and made an urgent announcement:
"The Vatican has ordered the bishop of Cleveland to reopen 13 closed churches."
"Everybody broke into applause," Anop said in a telephone interview. "People are still talking about it. What happened in Cleveland brings us hope."
Catholics fighting church closings across the U.S. are keeping their eyes on the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, where Bishop Richard Lennon was overruled by the Vatican for not properly following church law and procedures on closing churches.
Copies of the decrees are circulating throughout the country and even in Canada. Anop and other parishioners of the closed Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church have been holding around-the-clock vigils inside their century-old sanctuary ever since their bishop ordered it closed last June.
In July, the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, the same panel that ordered the reopening of Cleveland's churches, said Mater Dolorosa should stay closed. But the Holyoke squatters appealed to the Vatican's supreme court and are awaiting a ruling.

Cleveland Bishop Has 60 Days to Appeal Church Closures

by Michael O'Malley 03-16-2012
Cleveland church photo, Jennifer Stone,

Cleveland church photo, Jennifer Stone,

Bishop Richard Lennon on Wednesday (March 14) received the official Vatican decrees that overturn his closings of 13 Catholic parishes, the diocese said, kicking off a 60-day period for him to decide whether to appeal.

"The process to review these rulings will now be undertaken with my advisers," the bishop wrote in a three-sentence statement posted on the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland's website.

The 13 churches -- out of 50 closed between 2009 and 2010 in a diocesewide downsizing -- had appealed to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, arguing they were self-sustaining communities that shouldn't be closed.

Vatican Orders Cleveland Bishop to Reverse Church Closures

by Michael O'Malley 03-08-2012
Cleveland skyline, Kenneth Sponsler,

Cleveland skyline, Kenneth Sponsler,

CLEVELAND--In an extraordinary move, the Vatican has reversed the closure of 13 churches in the Diocese of Cleveland, saying the parishes must be restored and the sanctuaries reopened for worship, according to activists who fought the closings.

The diocese and Bishop Richard Lennon, who ordered the closures as part of a downsizing plan in 2009 and 2010, could appeal the reversals.

The 13 parishes had filed appeals with the Vatican after Lennon closed 50 churches, citing changes in demographics and shortages of priests and cash.

Since the closings, parishioners have been swamping Rome with flurries of letters, arguing that their parishes were vibrant communities wrongfully snuffed out by the diocese.