The Archdiocese of Boston may close as many as 75 of its 357 parishes in order to cope with a $4-million deficit and recent demographic shifts, reported Bloomberg March 6.
The recommendations to close certain churches as well as schools were made by a panel of pastors and lay Catholics. The final list will be approved by Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley and will be made public in May. If all 75 churches close, it would be the largest church closure in a U.S. diocese.
The announcement follows an $85-million settlement that the archdiocese reached in the fall with victims of sexual abuse by diocesan priests. The archdiocese has already borrowed $135 million in the last year to avoid bankruptcy. In addition, Cardinal Bernard Law's former residence has been put up for sale, and the cathedral and the seminary are being used as collateral on bridge loans to pay for part of the settlement.
But part of the deficit also comes from trying to keep underused parishes and schools open.
Demographic trends in recent years have seen Catholics leaving older parishes in the centre of Boston and moving to the suburbs and rural areas. In addition, the archdiocese is coping with a shortage of priests.
In a city where people still identify where they live by parish, rather than by street, the news is more difficult for older parishioners. The parish church still represents a very important social institution and provides elderly care, reported Bloomberg.
The Archdiocese of Boston includes 2.1 million Catholics. Its territory takes in five counties with a total population of about 4.1 million.