The cover story in the Reminder, Aug. 31, "More churches to close in the diocese," brings out the lack of leadership in the Diocese of Springfield. Bishop McDonnell and Monsignor Bonzagni fault the lack of attendance, the inability to maintain infrastructure and the fact the Diocese has been in decline since 1958 when Berkshire Cotton left the area. The Bishop states that with this closing and other manufacturing firms people left the region.
The Bishop may want to check the U.S. Census data and he would see that the population has not declined in Western Massachusetts. While the manufacturing base has declined there are many service industries, health care and small business firms coupled with the many residents that commute to Connecticut for employment.
What is not addressed by the Diocese of Springfield hierarchy is the denials and cover ups of the clerical abuse which has driven many Catholics from attendance and out of the church entirely. Bonzagni states that closings have nothing to do with the settlements to the victims of the abuse by priests. What plans does the Diocese have for the monies from the future sale of these closed properties?
Concerning the Bishop's statement that they can't maintain the infrastructure, the Diocese funded $12 million to renovate a closed, broken down grammar school in Chicopee for 290 students of Holyoke Catholic High two years ago. Bonzagni states that Holyoke lost its high school. He may want to take a drive to Chicopee and see that in fact Holyoke Catholic High (same name) does exist in Chicopee!
The Diocese would have been better served by investing the $12 million into Cathedral High whose enrollment is down to 600 students and has a better physical plant than Longmeadow High, which is in dire need of renovation or replacement. The Diocese has closed and is selling off all the remaining parochial schools in Springfield and relocating them at Cathedral High in a last ditch effort to maintain a K-8 system.
The continued closing of churches and schools are a direct result of the lack of leadership by these diocesan officials who have no one to blame for Catholics leaving but themselves based on their inactions from the abuse issues to an inability to maintain and build church attendance.