NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archdiocese of New York has abruptly closed almost two dozen Catholic schools.
The archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, has decided to close 20 schools, citing financial reasons, mainly due to fallout from the Wuhan virus outbreak. Dolan tweeted his decision on July 9.
"I write to share the sad news that 20 of our beloved Catholic schools will not be reopening this September due to a substantial decline in enrollment in many of our schools brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic," he wrote. The cardinal also mentioned that three more schools will merge into one campus in September.
The announcement came suddenly. Some parents wondered why communities weren't given the opportunity to save their schools. Joe Gargiulo, a parent of two Catholic school students affected by the decision, lamented the circumstances.
"[There was] no communication from the diocese, no creative thinking as far we're concerned. We are absolutely devastated by this decision," he remarked.
Brian Currid and his wife, parents of two Catholic school students, said they were blindsided by the news. "We feel like we're being undermined, and this is being taken from us ... overnight, and it's not right," he reflected. Currid said he and his family are considering "leaving New York. It's a shame."
The archdiocese pointed to massive layoffs due to the pandemic, which left people without jobs for weeks. As a result, many parents have been unable to pay for school tuition. The archdiocese also observed the loss of parish contributions from months of canceled Masses resulting in a lack of support for the schools, as well as fundraising for scholarships.
In a news release, the archdiocese expressed its sorrow for the closures. "Children are always the most innocent victims of any crisis, and this COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Too many have lost parents and grandparents to this insidious virus, and now thousands will not see their beloved school again."
Dolan offered a silver lining, adding, "Given the devastation of this pandemic, I'm grateful more schools didn't meet this fate and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids."
Closure of New York's Catholic schools is not new. In February 2019, Dolan announced seven schools would close owing to declining enrollment and mushrooming maintenance expenses. At that point a statement was released: "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."
These closings happened at an especially difficult time for New York Catholics. The archdiocese has paid out tens of millions of dollars in compensation to hundreds of predator priest victims — much of it in the middle of the archdiocesan "Renew + Rebuild" fundraiser, a $200 million capital campaign to support parishes, schools, Catholic Charities and other archdiocesan initiatives.
In 2016, Church Militant reported that the archdiocese had been in communication with the governor's office to work out a deal about tax credits, which benefits parents in private and parochial schools. Sources close to the archdiocese at the time told Church Militant the crusade for tax credits came with a cost.
In exchange for the passing of the legislation, it was reported, Cdl. Dolan allegedly agreed to keep relatively quiet on the passing of so-called same-sex marriage in New York in 2011. The silence of the chancery was so conspicuous it led the New York Times to describe the cardinal's efforts as "low-key."
Following its passage, the cardinal remained largely silent on the issue, apart from a blog post published nearly two weeks afterward, stating he was sorry if the Church "hurt anybody in [Her] defense of marriage" and he is "honored that so many [homosexuals] are at home within [the] Catholic family."
Michael J. Deegan, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, acknowledged that the recent school closings was a painful decision. He said studies of the financial status of each one left administrators no option but to close them down.
"I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools," Deegan said in a statement.
Approximately 2,500 students and 350 staff members will be affected by the closings.