Has The Catholic Church Failed Its Flock?

Holy Rosary 1945
The church has served as the center of life for so many families. In 1945 Mario Santillo, center bottom row, organized a mass at Holy Rosary Church on the city's East Side to celebrate the return of Bridgeport soldiers and honor those who who did not return. Holy Rosary, a sanctuary for thousands of families, is slated for closure. Photo courtesy Frank Gerratana.

Holy Rosary. St. Ambrose. St. Raphael. All three are institutional houses of worship for Catholics that Bishop William Lori has slated for closure. Parishioners are protesting Lori’s decision. Lori claims low attendance has forced his hand. But how much of the low attendance, if what Lori claims is true, is a direct reaction to revelations involving sexual abuses by priests of the Diocese of Bridgeport in particular and national events involving Catholic priests in general? Have parishioners been turned off by the coverup and church leaders’ failure to heal the collective pain? The latest from MariAn Gail Brown, CT Post:

As candlelight vigils go, the one outside St. Raphael Roman Catholic Church Saturday night had a muted feel.

Parishioners were angry with Bishop William Lori’s decision to close their beloved house of worship, one of three longtime churches, along with St. Ambrose and Holy Rosary, that are set to close. Surrounded by posters protesting the planned closure and carrying candles, they gathered on the steps of St. Raphael, hoping that their numbers (50 in all) might sway the bishop to reconsider his decision.

“For me, this church is what gives me hope,” said Yerri Alfaro, a Guatemalan immigrant. “I’m sad about this decision. I don’t understand it. If you come for the Spanish Mass, it’s crowded all the time. So, I think this is about money.”

St. Raphael, which is named after a archangel by that name, is the patron saint of hope, medical care and matchmaking. In a sense, the saint’s name is associated with transformation. And parishioners suggest that by their mere presence outside their church, with Spanish gospel background music, candles held high — and not a megaphone in sight — they can persuade Lori to cancel shuttering their church.

Behind Alfaro a couple of other parishioners tie a long spray-painted sign “Si ayudo a una sola persona a tener esperanza, no habre vividi en vano,” which translates into “If I help give hope to only one person, I will have not lived in vain.”

Catholics number 68.3 million in this country, or 22 percent of the American population, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In and around big cities, hundreds of Catholic parishes are closing or consolidating, leaving their flock with fewer churches to attend.

“I just think it’s wrong to close this church,” parishioner Lizbeth Vazquez said. “It’s wrong because there are so many, many people who depend on this church in this neighborhood. All their hope, whatever they have, is built on what goes on inside this church.”

St. Raphael parishioners want Lori to reconsider his decision and to share more information about how their church became a target for closure. They don’t buy the argument that their church might have been singled out because of low attendance.

There are more Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport today than there were in 1976 — 410,091 now, as compared to 331,734 then. At the same time, however, the number of priests has declined from 373 to 271.

FutureChurch, a nonprofit organization in Ohio, says this means that priests in the diocese are spread thinner, and must serve more parishioners today than they did 35 years ago. The ratio of parishioners to priests now is 1,376 to 1, according to FutureChurch. By comparison, in 1976, the ratio of congregants to priests was 889 to 1.



  1. It is sad, the current state of affairs with the Catholic Church. 2 thousand or so years ago the Church was built on the principle of politics. The original followers of Christ were all Jews. As they began spreading Catholicism, the Jewish element disappeared, antisemitism became part of the doctrine. The Church has always been riddled with controversy. The darkest period in history, the crusades, where millions of people perished in the name of Christ. So here we are, 2000 years later the church keeps on coming with new controversial issues regarding child abuse and theft. One of the biggest problems with the church was the celibacy of priests. A very unnatural state of being. Then let’s say becoming a priest was always a safe haven for homosexuals who always found refuge in the church which of course is so ironic since the church has spent millions in depriving gays of the rights of other citizens. Life is not a dress rehearsal. The church can take the blame for millions of suicides of the years for people who were ostracized for their sexuality. Today, the church continues to spend the money of their poor congregants to fight gay marriage and gay rights, all the while they are being exposed for child abuse almost daily in every city in every state in every country. Gay people have friends and family who have been active members of the church and little by little they are losing their attachment to an ancient text they believe does not speak the way Jesus would. So here we are 2000 years later. The church is alienating themselves from humanity much like their attempts to have priests celibate. Jesus was born and died a Jew. He did not come to start a new religion but to fulfill one. His words not mine. In full disclosure, I am a Jew who has studied Catholicism my whole life. Belief in Jesus and my salvation is not part of my life. I respect him as the Rabbi he was. The fall of the Catholic Church was inevitable. The closings of the local parishes are sad for the thousands of faithful who have held fast to their faith. I think of 13-year-old boys and girls who listen to the doctrines of the church who are wrestling with their sexuality and contemplate suicide and their ignorant parents who believe their children are going to hell and abandon them. The inability of the church to become progressive and compassionate in the end will cause its own demise. G-d does not make mistakes even with all of his creations … Asking priests to become celibate is unnatural. Since the gay rights movement fewer gay men have run away to find refuge in the church. Catholics have been discovering other Christian-based religions, leaving the church, bringing in less money. The economy is so bad parents cannot afford to send their children to Catholic schools again bringing in less money. I think all religions are experiencing the same type of rejection by their patrons. More couples are mixed religions and are looking for a religious environment that embraces them. The Jewish faith has been experiencing this for years. They have also had their fair share of scandals. In the end it is all politics. If you have faith then you must believe G-d knows everything in your heart and you do your best to contribute to charity and do the right thing. Treat everyone with respect and do not judge anyone–G-d will do that. Everything else is just commentary. I hope the congregants who feel left out in the cold will find a new home for worship. I hope my take on life was not offensive to anyone as it was not my intention.

  2. *** Unfortunately the time of giving to your local place of worship has come & gone, no? It’s all about the benjamins & the ever-present 7 deadly sins that will destroy life as we once knew it! Three Hail Marys & four Lord’s prayers just is not cutting the mustard anymore. *** AMEN ***

  3. The Church is just a building. Closing a building doesn’t eliminate the faith or the church. It costs money to maintain and keep a building in use–it isn’t different when the building is a church. You are all welcome to visit Iglesia Christiana Renacer at 579 Clinton Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Religion is not exempt from competition.


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