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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - Faced with declining enrollment and mushrooming maintenance expenses, seven New York Catholic schools are getting the ax.
In a statement issued Monday, the archdiocese announced the closings will take place in June, at the end of the academic year.
"Despite the Archdiocese's best efforts to maintain the operational and financial viability of these schools, continuing to educate students in buildings that are underutilized and/or in need of significant improvements has proven unfeasible," the statement read.
Five schools are located in New York City proper: St. Rose of Lima Elementary and St. Brigid School in Manhattan; St. Nicholas of Tolentine Elementary and St. Joseph Elementary in the Bronx; and Our Lady Help of Christians Elementary on Staten Island. The other two are in rural areas to the city's north: St. Mary's Elementary in Wappingers Falls and St. Peter's Regional in Liberty.
According to Cdl. Timothy Dolan, the decision was prompted by financial concerns.
"While we sincerely regret ever having to close any schools, the goal is to strengthen the remaining institutions and preserve Catholic education in New York for years to come," he said in Monday's statement.
"We understand the impact this will have on families," Dolan added, "and will provide both pastoral support and educational guidance to all those affected in order to ensure all children will be warmly welcomed into a nearby Catholic school where they will continue to learn and thrive."
The decision has shocked and angered affected families.
"We have questions. We don't know what's happening in the school," said St. Brigid parent Christina Funes.
"Where were they four, five months ago to say, 'Can we do something? What can we do to keep this from going under?'" asked grandparent Tony Pupello.
"It's not OK. It's not OK," said parent Amanda Daloisio. "It's painful, and all the more painful in the way in which we were told."
Dolan took to Twitter on Monday to ask his followers to pray for the affected families: "Today we made the painful announcement that seven of our beloved Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York are not going to reopen next fall. I know these are painful and difficult decisions and I ask for your prayers for those especially impacted."
The school closings are happening at an especially difficult time for New York Catholics. They come little more than a year after the archdiocese announced a $40 million payout to compensate nearly 200 predator priest victims. To make matters worse, the settlement came in the middle of the archdiocesan "Renew + Rebuild" fundraiser — a $200 million capital campaign to support parishes, schools, Catholic Charities and other archdiocesan initiatives.
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Letitia James is moving forward with former AG Barbara Underwood's investigation into clerical sex abuse cover-up in the archdiocese. New York faithful are also bracing for a wave of new claims after last month's passage of the Child Victims Act; the measure — which Cdl. Dolan personally lobbied against in Albany — will allow sex abuse victims to seek civil penalties against predators and the institutions that enabled them, regardless of when the abuse happened.
Against this backdrop, many New York Catholics have grown dispirited by the lack of effective moral leadership in the archdiocese. The note that Dolan's conciliatory approach toward leftist Gov. Andrew Cuomo — nicknamed the "prince of darkness" for his ruthlessness — has consistently failed. The cardinal's penchant for compromise has done nothing to halt Cuomo's radical agenda, they point out, noting that same-sex "marriage" and abortion up to the moment of birth have both come under Dolan's watch.
The closing of seven Catholic schools is a further blow to lay morale and episcopal prestige in the archdiocese of New York.