Quomodo sedet sola civitas.
To say the very least, the last few days have been particularly difficult ones for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Friday's guilty verdict in the Lynn case came a day after the local Church announced a wave of lay-offs and the elimination of some curial departments as a way of heading off a projected $17 million budget deficit. One result of the cutbacks is that the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard and Times, will cease publication after 117 years. Quantum Theology's Michelle Francl-Donnay offers some reflections on these changes from her inside perspective as a columnist for the Standard and Times; meanwhile, yesterday's New York Times provided a good overview of the challenges that Philly Catholics face as the Archdiocese moves forward with plans for restructuring (which include the closing of parishes and schools) and as local courts prepare to hear further criminal cases involving Catholic clergy and other church workers.
When Archbishop Charles Chaput arrived to shepherd the local Church last September, I sounded a hopeful note. Many months later, I still recognize the Archbishop as a courageous man doing the best he can under difficult circumstances, which include the need for painful cutbacks as well as the challenge of comforting and guiding the faithful during times of turmoil and transition. The Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia will survive the current crisis, and though many Catholics will find their faith shaken and some will leave, I believe that many will persevere with God's help.
Though I remain hopeful in a sober sort of way, I'm also saddened by the awareness that much is being lost. First of all, I'm saddened by the disappearance of those who will decide, for a variety of reasons, that they can no longer support the local Church or consider themselves Catholic. I'm also saddened by the closing of many parish churches and schools built and maintained by the toil and treasure by generations of the Catholic faithful, as well as the loss of archdiocesan programs that have provided spiritual and material support to many thousands of people. Finally, I'm saddened by the broader realization that a particular kind of Catholic culture, a certain unique way of being Catholic, is coming to an end.
Like Michelle, I pray for those who will be affected by the ongoing process of reorganization in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia - those who are losing their jobs and those who have been served by the offices that are being closed, as well as those who must say goodbye to beloved church buildings and schools. I also pray for future generations of Catholics in this area; though I am sad that they will not know Philadelphia Catholicism as it once was and is even now, I pray that their faithful witness will allow the Church to remain a beacon of hope and a force for good in this region. May the city that now seems so desolate again become a place of life. AMDG.