Rorate Caeli

Holy Innocents in NYC facing closure?

Holy Innocents, NYC.

As if in response to yesterday's celebration of the "New Pentecost" and the "New Springtime", the online news site Capital New York reported today that the Archdiocese of New York was moving towards its final stages of planning a long-expected wave of parish closures (Archdiocese moves toward large-scale parish closings):

The Archdiocese of New York took a major step last week toward consolidating its dense network of 376 parishes, entering the final stages of planning for what is likely to result in the most significant sweep of parish closings seen here in recent memory. 
Early last week, an advisory board that has been working for months with outside consultants to find ways to streamline the centuries-old archdiocese quietly sent its preliminary recommendations to local working groups—known as clusters—for review. It is the first time a broad consolidation plan such as this has been handled this way.

Among the locations being considered for closure by the committee, which is scheduled to issue its final blueprint to archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan in June, are the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Church of the Holy Innocents in Midtown Manhattan, according to internal documents obtained by Capital New York. Both would be consolidated into nearby St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, which could take a new name.

St. John the Baptist, also on West 31st Street, is directly across from of Pennsylvania Station and a well known parish. It is run by the religious order of the Capuchin Franciscans and is home to the Saint Padre Pio Shrine, which attracts devotees to the 20th century saint. Holy Innocents on West 37th Street, the oldest building in the Fashion Center, was once known as the “actor's church.” Playwright Eugene O'Neill was baptized there in 1888. Some Masses are still celebrated there in Latin. ...


The bulk of the closures are expected to take place in the Bronx and Manhattan, where many parishes were built as little as a block or two from the next as the church flourished in the last century. Some of those parishes may have attracted 800 people for Sunday Masses, but now struggle to fill the pews.

The closures could have significant real-estate implications, ushering onto the market hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coveted land across Manhattan.

While Zwilling said the value of property the churches are built on is not a factor in preparing a plan for the closures, it could become an issue if—hypothetically—the cardinal were left to decide between closing two parishes.

“If you put everything together and it came out exactly equal and you need to choose between the two, would that become a factor in making the decision? Maybe,” he said. “But it's not a motivating factor.”

While the plight of many of New York's parishes call for sympathy, the fate of  the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan is of special concern to Traditional Catholics. Although NYC has six churches and chapels where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated at least every Sunday (three in Manhattan and one in the Bronx under the Archdiocese of New York, and one each in Brooklyn and Queens, under the Diocese of Brooklyn), this parish is the only one of the six where it is also celebrated every day, publicly, according to a regular schedule. It is where the Traditional Catholic community in New York City has its Sacred Triduum every year. 

This news comes only months after the loss of the Traditional Latin Mass in nearby Christ the Saviour Parish after its parish priest, Fr. George Rutler, was transferred to other assignments (including Administrator of the Church of Holy Innocents).