The Local Church Community


bishop,lennon.jpgGus Chan, The Plain DealerBishop Richard Lennon faces protesters in October 2009 when he was closing St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Akron.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Vatican is investigating Bishop Richard Lennon’s closings of churches in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, according to a report in an Italian newspaper.

A spokesman for the diocese said Tuesday he would look into the account, but had no immediate comment.

The report Friday in the Italian newspaper La Stampa by veteran Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, said the Vatican has decided to send “an apostolic visit, or rather, an investigation” to look into Lennon’s decisions on the closings.

Lennon, citing changes in Catholic demographics, a shortage of priests and dwindling Sunday cash collections, ordered the shuttering of 50 parishes, beginning in August 2009 and ending in June 2010.

Going from church to church each Sunday to say final Masses, Lennon, escorted by armed body guards, became a target for protestors and the subject of angry letters to Rome.

More than a dozen Cleveland-area churches appealed their closings to the Holy See and are still waiting for decisions from a Vatican panel called the Congregation for the Clergy


Previous Plain Dealer coverage


The report published in La Stampa’s “Vatican Insider” said, “… “The reasons that prompted the decision to close parishes in Cleveland have been the flow of population to outlying areas, the financial difficulties that have seen 42 percent of parish budgets finish in the red and the shortage of priests.

” . . . The apostolic visit will serve to ascertain the facts.”

Tosatti did not immediately respond to an email from The Plain Dealer, seeking more details.

The Italian paper said the Congregation for the Clergy is preparing guidelines on how “each individual diocese must act to rebuild its presence in their area.” The guidelines could be ready by October, the newspaper said.

“The protests of the faithful . . . have been numerous and loud and have reached the Vatican,” the paper continued.

The protests also reached Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio — the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador — in Washington, D.C., according to author Jason Berry in his new book “Render Unto Rome,” released this month.

Berry says that Sambi, who had gotten angry letters about Lennon from Cleveland, told Boston Catholic activist Peter Borre last year that “he would authorize an apostolic visitation, an investigation of Lennon by another prelate.”

Meanwhile, local Catholics opposed to the church closings will gather for a prayer service Thursday on Cleveland’s near West Side at St. Emeric Hungarian Catholic Church. The service comes on the one-year anniversary of closing St. Emeric’s, the last church shuttered under Lennon’s downsizing.

The vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. St. Emeric is on West 22nd Street, adjacent to a parking lot of the West Side Market.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4893


2 Responses to The Local Church Community

  1. Robert Stewart says:

    Nick, my two cents.

    First of all: The problem cannot be avoided. Why? The current crop of bishops in the USA–and probably all the others appointed by JP II and Benedict other than perhaps a few in Australia like Bishop Bill Morris–are sucking all the Spirit out of the Church, and having been doing so since JP II started appointing bishops. (They are the incarnation of clericalism.) However, the priests and laity in Austria also seem to have found the Spirit without any help from their bishops or Rome. When will the priests in the USA manifest a similar militancy? As my eldest son, a seminarian for 4 years of college, a faithful, practicing Catholic, now a Marine Corps officer and military attorney in Afghanistan, has frequently told me: Dad, things will not get better for the institutional church until all these guys are gone. When they speak, all I hear is “Blah, Blah, Blah.” He has a good understanding of what leadership requires, in my opinion. These bishops have to go, and we need much more militancy in telling them that “WE ain’t gonna to take it any more.”

    These guys, the bishops (other than the few like Tom Gumbleton and other auxiliary bishops who were never appointed ordinaries of dioceses), have no interest in communicating in a “productive manner.” You see how they handled the case of Sister Elizabeth Johnson, regarding her book: Quest for the Living God. This was another stellar example of their communication skills–I know it was Wuerl, my bishop, doing the communicating (or failing to communicate), but have you heard any criticism of his modus operandi from other bishops?

    Second: The problem will perhaps begin to get resolution when and if bishops start trying to communicate with the people in the pews like Bishop Bill Morris (now persona non grata) did in Australia about the possible solutions to the pastoral problems–of course his offense was so great that Benedict had to remove him for suggesting married clergy, etc. ; but then Rigali and Law and those of their ilk remain persona grata. If all this does not provide moments of clarity to the laity then all is hopeless. There is really no serious interest in making provisions for assuring that Catholics are not being deprived of the Eucharist and other sacraments. All their statement to date have been the usual “Blah, Blah, Blah.” Their theology is deplorable, uninspired, and none of them have any real pastoral instincts that would empower them to face the issue. If there any pastoral bishops out there, they are auxiliary bishop. However, I thought Gerald Kicanas, formerly of Chicago but now ordinary of Tucson and recently rejected as president of USCCB, had possibilities.

    Third: You say that “our opinions are very important.” Important for whom? Pope Benedict? American bishops? I do not think so. Know of any listening sessions by bishops regarding the concerns of the laity?

    You seem to keep holding out hope that some day the bishops will start listening. I do not. I trust that God will write the last chapter of this story with a resurrection ending, but I do not expect to see that (I personally will likely never see it) until there is a death (death must come before there is a resurrection) of what we have now, including the episcopal leadership that is currently mismanaging most everything in the Church.



    Robert Stewart
    13576 Melville Lane
    Chantilly, VA 20151-2492

  2. survivor's wife says:

    I think the look on his face, his posture, stance, folded arms, and glance down his nose at those talking shows exactly how he feels. Did he even need to open his mouth for people to know what was going on in his head and heart?

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