Catholic Diocese of Columbus Announces Closure of 15 Churches in Response to Declining Attendance, Other Challenges

Decline in Churchgoers
Unsplash/ Karl Fredrickson

Columbus' Catholic Diocese has recently announced the closing of the doors of more than a dozen churches in Ohio, which is considered a big milestone. This was announced last Thursday in the morning and it shocked most of the community.

The diocese recently disclosed the final findings of its ambitious effort, "Real Presence Real Future," and this was started three years ago lead by former Bishop Robert Brennan. Bishop Earl Fernandes announced this decision. The project sought community input on ways to increase church attendance and presence by reviewing the diocese's organizational structure. The indept investagion which was carried out for about three long years carefully looked at all elements of the diocese while taking into account the helpful suggestions provided by parishioners and priests.

Closure of Over a Dozen Churches in Central Ohio

According to the article in 10 WNBS, nine churches and one school in Franklin County are included on the list of the 15 churches impacted by this decision. The closures will have an effect on Corpus Christi, St. Ladislas, the Community of Holy Rosary and St. John the Evangelist, St. Anthony School, St. Bernard, Church of the Atonement, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Francis de Sales, St. Mark, St. Mary, St. Philip the Apostle Church, St. Mary, Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Parroquia Santa Cruz, and St. Matthias. The information that St. Anthony and Ss. Peter & Paul will shut down at the end of the current academic year. 

Since taking on the position, Bishop Fernandes has spent his first year carefully reviewing early drafts and integrating suggestions to make sure that the needs of both parishioners and clergy are satisfied. 

According to the story shared in The Columbus Dispatch, due to a shortage of priests and declining attendance, the Catholic diocese is eliminating parishes. Bishop Fernandes acknowledges the difficulty of the decision to close these parishes and the emotional tie people have to the places of worship where they have celebrated important life milestones. He clarifies, nevertheless, that occasionally pruning is required in order for new development to take place.

Over the past 50 years, an observance has been made that the Catholic population has grown, but the number of Catholic priests has declined by 42%. At the same time, a big decline of churchgoers were also observed.

In order to overcome the priest shortfall, the Columbus diocese has been hiring foreign priests from nations with less severe shortages; as a result, 21% of the clergy are non-American. Due to objections from parishioners, the planned merger of the dioceses of Columbus and Steubenville was temporarily put on hold.

Also Read: Christian School in Kansas City That Promotes Inclusivity of LGBTQ Individuals is Closing

Perception Gap: Catholics Divided on Church's Handling of Sexual Abuse Crisis

There is a gap between parishioners and religious authorities in the Catholic Church, according to population statistics, particularly when it comes to how sexual abuse is handled. According to NBC4 WCMH-TV, approximately 1 in 4 Catholics attended mass less frequently in 2019 as a result of the church's sexual abuse problem, which received global notice in 2012. Not all responses, though, are unfavorable; in the midst of allegations of wrongdoing, 1 in 5 Catholics expressed support for their priests.

24% of the Catholics thinks that the case of sexual abuses were a thing of the past, as well as 9% of non-Catholics also thinks the same, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study. The Columbus Diocese has taken action to address sexual abuse, including publishing a list of clergy who have been credibly accused of wrongdoing, changing policies, and providing staff training. While conceding the impossibility of changing the past or current tendencies, Bishop Fernandes highlighted the significance of embracing the future.

Related Article:Faithfuls Express Sorrow After St. John the Evangelist Announced It’s Church Closure