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Cleveland Catholic church closings help finances but still generate controversy
Millions of dollars distributed, new uses found for sold churches

Kevin Niedermier
Cleveland Catholic Diocese Bishop Richard Lennon discusses the financial impact of the church closings. He spoke at the Museum of Divine Statues, a closed church turned into a showplace for Catholic icons.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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The Cleveland Catholic Diocese is financially stronger after a controversial round of church closings and merger, and the bishop hints there could still be more to do. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermer has more from the press conference today  by Bishop Richard Lennon, and from critics of his closing of more than 50 churches.

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Lennon on new initiatives

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Lennon on responsibility

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Since the last church was closed in July 2010, 26 have been sold, and 14 are still up for sale. Another 14 are being maintained while parishioners wait for the Vatican to rule on their appeals. Those verdicts are expected in March.  Bishop Lennon says that so far the sales of buildings and contents, and the transfers of closed parish funds have generated $19.5 million for the diocese that includes Cleveland and Akron.  About $5 million of that was spent on closing costs and paying off parish debts. $8million has been distributed to merged parishes or ones having financial problems, and to charities. Nearly seven-million dollars remains for future uses. Lennon says he has no plans now for more closures, but that could change.


Lennon:  “Regrettably we still have some parishes that are in financial difficulty. It’s a far cry from where we were. In 2006 when I reviewed the records of the diocese we had 84 parishes in deficit spending, now we have 12, so we have made substantial progress.”


Bishop Lennon says he wishes the re-configuration process had gone smoother, and, that in some cases he was unfairly criticized. The emotional closings were concentrated in inner cities. They followed resulted from steep drop-offs in the number of parishioners, and fewer priests available to serve the diocese. These issues are affecting dioceses nationwide. Critics of the closures say they understand the numbers, but still have problems with the decisions.  Bob Kloos is a member of St. Peters in downtown Cleveland.  It’s one of the 14 churches appealing its closure to the Vatican.  Kloos the Vatican is allowing these appeals shows there are credibile concerns that churches like St. Peters should not be closed.


Kloos:  “Oh yeah, he wants  it all to be done and he wants to move on, and he’s made that very, very clear. But it’s paving over some very,very hurtful and questionable decisions. And as much as he wants to move on, I don’t think it necessarily rights the wrongs many people feel were a big part of the reconfiguration.”


Bishop Lennon held his press conference inside the former St Hedwig Catholic Church in Lakewood. The building is now the “Museum of Divine Statues.” A local businessman bought it, and turned it into a showplace for religious statues and other icons from the dioceses’ closed churches.  Lennon haled the museum as an example of some creative uses for the closed churches. Other reincarnations of closed churches include a greenhouse that grows fresh vegetables for neighborhood residents, and a drug rehab center.

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