Yet another northeastern diocese is planning to close and consolidate a large number of Catholic churches. This time, it's Albany which for the past 32 years has been withering under the inept rule of Bishop Howard Hubbard. According to an article in the Times Union
, roughly 20% of the parishes in Hubbard's diocese would be closing. Fortunately, the good Bishop has assured everyone that the abandoned churches would be sold and put to good use:
First preference, Hubbard said, would go to religious uses. Second would be nonprofits, and third would be the commercial sector.
"Religious uses"? Like what? I'm sure there are some folks who get a nice warm fuzzy feeling when they think of a lovely old Catholic church serving as a mosque or a Mormon temple, or a church of Scientology--but I'm not one of them.
Who's to blame for this disaster? Well, the Times Union seems to be blaming demographics:
Albany, like other dioceses across the Northeast, is grappling with urban flight and a shortage of priests. Since 1960, the city of Troy has lost 34 percent of its population, Albany declined 27 percent, and Schenectady dropped 25 percent.
There are many reasons for urban flight--high taxes, crime, bad economy, etc. I don't know Bishop Hubbard's record on these issues but there's little he can practically do about them. But I do know for a fact that Hubbard has done an exceptional job driving devout Catholics out of his diocese. And let's face it--if a bishop has been in control of a diocese for over 30 years, he has no one to blame but himself if 1.) vocations are almost nonexistent and 2.) Catholics are leaving the Faith in droves.
In short, Bishop Hubbard's excruciatingly long tenure has been an abject failure by any appreciable measure. And this round of closings is the logical conclusion of his failure to uphold and teach the Catholic Faith.
It's long past time for Catholics to start demanding accountability from their bishops. In my opinion, if a bishop has reigned for 10 years and his diocese is still a mess in terms of the faithful leaving the Church and shortage of vocations, he should be forced to resign
Bishop Hubbard's efforts have been like those of the servant who buried his talent in the ground, to whom our Lord would say:
Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed...Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Hubbard should resign immediately before he does any further damage, and his diocese should be given to a prelate who knows how to increase the harvest of souls.
Labels: American bishops, Catholic Church