Written by Catholic Register Staff
Friday, 23 August 2013 11:36
Bishop Dunn- Register file photo
ANTIGONISH, N.S. - A further 62 Catholic churches in Antigonish, N.S., are under review as the diocese tries to get its buildings in line with the number of people attending Mass and the number of priests available to preside.
The diocese of Antigonish has to decide which of 62 churches in Richmond, Inverness, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties it can afford to keep open. Excluded from the review will be churches on First Nations territory, which are owned by the native communities.
An earlier review in Cape Breton and Victoria County closed 16 of 43 churches. The number of closures in Cape Breton was “more severe because the area is in pretty desperate decline,” Fr. Don MacGillvray told The News in Pictou County, N.S.
The review exercise isn’t just about closing parishes, according to a letter from Bishop Brian Dunn to local Catholics last May.
“This process has as its end goal the development of a specific action plan which is to be implemented throughout the diocese,” Dunn wrote.
Apart from the revi ew of churches, the diocese is planning a Diocesan Renewal Conference for Oct. 6 at the Memb e r t o u Convention Centre near Sydney, N.S.
While a number of sexual abuse cases haven’t helped, it’s the shifting demographics of rural Nova Scotia that is driving the church closures.
“Our population is decreasing in almost every part of the diocese mainly because of out migration and a lower birth rate,” Dunn wrote to parishioners in May. “We also recognize that parishioners generally attend less frequently and support the Church in a lesser way than in the past.”
While the diocese formally owns the churches, parishioners have to come up with the money to pay their priest and keep up the buildings. Parishes with Sunday congregations of a couple of dozen just don’t have the funds.
The process has been accelerated by a $15-million settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse over the past 50 years. The diocese took large sums from parish reserve funds, sold banked real estate (not churches), and took out $6.5 million in loans from private lenders to meet the fall 2012 deadline for the settlement funds.
While the Catholic population of rural Nova Scotia is getting older and fewer, the decline in priests has been even more dramatic. In 1996 the diocese had 82 priests who averaged under 56 years of age. In 2011 they were down to 50 priests with an average age of 61.2. Dunn projects Antigonish will have 44 priests available in 2016, falling to 30 in 2021.
“The challenge that we face today is to make the appropriate changes so that we will have stronger, more viable parishes with richer and stronger faith communities,” Dunn said.
Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:15 EST
By Patrick B. Craine
SYDNEY MINES, Nova Scotia, October 5, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, has organized a conference this month to be delivered by dissident theologian and former Jesuit priest Dr. Paul Lakeland of Fairfield University in Connecticut, who openly holds views on abortion, homosexuality, contraception and women priests that go against Catholic teaching.
The conference, entitled ‘Catholicism at the Crossroads: How We Can Save the Church’ and scheduled for October 22-24, has a strong emphasis on the role of lay people in the Church. The brochure includes a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, calling for lay people to be “co-responsible” for the Church rather than mere “‘collaborators’ of the clergy” (Rome Conference on the Laity, June 2009).
There is strong evidence, however, that Lakeland’s vision of a “co-responsible” laity radically diverges from that of the pope and the bishops.
In his books, Lakeland suggests that Catholics can disagree with the Church’s condemnation of contraception and homosexual acts, for example. He has even suggested that the Church should not seek a ban on abortion, based on the notion that Catholics should not impose their view on the entire population.
In his book The Liberation of the Laity, he wrote: “What we have is an episcopate of men selected more for their commitment to the party line on outmoded ideas about contraception, ordination, and homosexuality, more for their administrative capabilities than for their stature as spiritual leaders.”
While the diocese’s conference brochure lists several of Lakeland’s publications, it leaves out his 1975 book “Can Women Be Priests?,” in which he seeks to refute theological objections to a female priesthood and calls for it to be introduced after suitable preparations.
Lakeland was the keynote speaker at a synod in September that was disavowed by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Organized by a group called the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), it was entitled “Claiming our Place at the Table.”
In a statement last month, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis wrote that the synod “is not being conducted under the auspices of the Archdiocese, the universal Roman Catholic Church, or any entity or organization affiliated with the Archdiocese or the universal Roman Catholic Church.”
In 2009, Lakeland opposed the Connecticut bishops by backing a state bill that sought to transfer control of Roman Catholic parishes to lay-run boards.
Diocesan spokesman Fr. Paul Abbass said he would look into the event, but LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back after repeated calls.
LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back from Dr. Lakeland by press time.