|The interior of "Martyrs of Uganda" Catholic Church in Detroit. Parish was closed in 2006.|
The above photo served as a reality check for me on a couple of levels. I had just read this article about the next spate of parish consolidations and closures in the Archdiocese of Detroit. The linked article features St Leo's parish, which NCR readers will know is the parish at which Bishop Tom Gumbleton served for years--and still does. The photo above is of another parish located in a similarly blighted Detroit area. The destruction of the interior has taken just five short years, aided by looters and the homeless looking for shelter. The city of Detroit is in serious straights and those straights are mirrored in the Archdiocese and in too many respects the Archdiocese reflects the incomprehensible damage the Roman Catholic Church in the West has suffered at the hands of it's leadership.
As I look at the interior of the Martyrs of Uganda, I can't help but reflect that Cardinal Vigneron's predecessor, Cardinal Maida, sunk over 35 million of the Archdiocese's money into the JPII Center in Washington DC. A boondoggle of a project that was just recently purchased by the Knights Of Columbus and will never ever make any money or be able to pay back Archdiocese of Detroit. Taken together, the two buildings paint a damning picture of the real priorities of too many of our bishops. In Maida's case his hero worship of JPII was taken to Imperial levels at the expense of the desperate jobless poor of Detroit. That one bankrupt DC building will ultimately be responsible for the creation of many more 'Martyrs of Uganda' and this go round of closure will take out St Leo's, a beacon of hope in an otherwise very destitute downtown landscape. A sort of "Martyrs of Detroit'.
And yet on another level, the above photo speaks to the spiritual soul of Roman Catholicism in the twenty first century--at least in the West. What appears to be an invincible edifice on the outside, is rapidly decaying on the inside, being cherry picked by spiritual leeches for it's last bit of life.
My hope and prayer for 2012 is that those who truly care about the soul of this Church, and I know that includes many silent voices in leadership, use 2012 to engage in a serious reality check. The real Catholic Church in the US is not about Cardinal George making KKK references about gays, or Archbishop Dolan spouting affirmative nonsense, or Cardinal Donald Wuerl pretending he's on the same theological level as Sr Elizabeth Johnson. It's about the thousands of 'Martyr's of Uganda' being closed in the middle of our poorest sections of our poorest cities. It's about the rot that comes when one chooses to serve Mammon and a self serving tradition over the service to others and complete detachment from material desire called for by The Way.
St Francis heard God command him to "rebuild my church", and Francis took it literally and rebuilt St Damiano, another abandoned and decayed sacred place. God is again making the same call. How many will answer?