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At a press conference protesting church closings, Julie Sawicki said, "The Catholic churches in the Chicagoland area do not belong to the archdiocese. They belong to humanity. They belong to us."
Faithful Catholics in the archdiocese of Chicago are protesting the closure of their parishes. Parishioners at some 25 parishes have filed appeals to the Vatican to preserve their right to maintain their historical churches. Sawicki continues, "After talking with folks who are undergoing these church closures and church mergers, we realized that we all have to work together."
Clergy in the hierarchy promote the ironically named "Renew My Church." Under this plan, churches are closed and/or merged supposedly to meet current needs. According to Fr. Sergio Romo, "Given all the challenges faced in an increasingly secular society, with the shortage of priests, with dwindling Mass attendance and financial constraints and aging buildings in need of capital improvements."
Parishioners note, however, under canon law, Catholic laity should have the first opportunity to take control and maintain a church slated for sale. Attorney Brody Hale works extensively in this area, saying, "The requirements that a bishop must follow are laid out in canon 1222. So when a layperson looks at that canon they can say, 'My situation falls into one of these categories or it doesn't.'"
The archdiocese's refusal to allow for sacred space to be maintained leads their flocks to conclude the clergy have ulterior motives, with one protester saying, "Healthy and vibrant parishes should not be closed. There is no logical explanation for such a closure. Our only conclusion is that, since land values are increasing in Jefferson Park, [it] can be sold to real estate developers at a premium."
Julie Sawicki is leading the charge to both inform the laity and save local churches, noting, "A parish cannot necessarily be closed or have to be closed because of financial issues. In fact, the guidelines say that parish debt alone isn't a requirement for a parish to be closed."
Laity today see many bishops treating their own dioceses more like corporate enterprises, rather than places of sacred worship. Laymen must know first know their rights, so they can protect their holy sites from the very shepherds selling them off.