In the Roman Catholic Church, a parish
is the lowest
ecclesiastical geographical subdivision. A parish needs two things
under common law to become a parish. First, a body of Catholics
within a fixed boundary
and a named priest with responsibility for
that parish. (1)
It is a territorial unit.
We find this citation in the present Code of Canon Law:
"Can. 518 As a general rule a
parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the
Christian faithful of a certain territory. When
it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established
determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the
Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason." (2)
The definition given in the 2nd sentence above applies to either
Eastern Rite or so-called "national parishes", which have no geographic
boundaries. But those are exceptional cases.
Key point: the purpose for the
existence of a parish is to serve the spiritual needs of Catholics who
reside within it.
Catholics are not now required to attend the parish church in which
they reside (i.e. they may attend another); though in the past they
were. The following distinctions are made for statistical purposes:
a) The total number of Catholics
living within the territorial boundaries of the parish (as per
b) The total number of
registered parishioners (i.e.
Catholics resident in the parish boundaries who are literally
registered as members of the parish).
In many cases A usually
far exceeds B. The total average Sunday mass attendance is usually a
subset or percentage of B, e.g. 1000 registered parishioners, with 600
coming to mass on average Sundays. But if 200 of these do not reside in
the parish boundaries, they are technically, i.e. canonically, not
parishioners. For a non-resident to register as a parishioner is
A Cathedral is the "seat" of the Ordinary of a Diocese (Bishop or
Archbishop). While most Cathedrals in the US and Europe were
originally established as parish churches, the present day reality is
that many of them are either virtually empty on Sunday, or are
In either case, they tend to have few resident parishioners. While
there are some exceptions to this, they are rare. Thus many Cathedrals
today exist largely for ceremonial reasons; and/or as cultural,
The result is the inverse of the hypothetical figures given above: in
many Cathedrals the actual numbers of resident parishioners is a tiny
fraction of Sunday Mass attendance.
Key Point: many Cathedrals,
regardless of actual attendance or funding, do not justify their
existence - as they do not serve a significant resident base of
Catholics. Yet - as we shall see - they are treated as pampered
pets, while other parishes are treated as stray dogs.
That is the case with the most famous Cathedral in the Western
Hemisphere: St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
average Sunday mass attendance is some 14,000 +. Yet it has only
around 100 +/- resident parishioners
elementary school closed in 1942. For all practical
intent, it ceased to function as a real parish church well over 50
years ago. It's Rectory has no parish hall, and no large group
is a museum. A religious 'tourist trap'. Many if not most of those who
attend mass there are either non-Catholic... or non Christians, who are
there "for the show". Were the
hotel/tourist trade to vanish from Manhattan, this Cathedral would be
largely empty. The illusion of filled pews (or standing room only)
masks this reality. (4)
With an estimated 5.5 million visitors annually
- most of whom either put money in the collection plate, or 'poor box',
or when lighting a candle, it annual income must be considerable. Yet a
priest on its staff told this writer with a straight face: "...we
have no money
"St. Patrick's Cathedral (NYC ) to Undergo a three-year, $177 Million Renovation...
" (5) (5a)
Note: with $177 million
US, about 3.5 million people could each be given $50 worth of food.
"“I'm talking about survival,
” (Cardinal Timothy Dolan) said in
an interview last week. “If
we don't do something substantive for St. Patrick's Cathedral, in four
or five years we're going to have to close it, because it will be
he has raised $45 million for the
impending renovation of the cathedral from the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of New York, the cathedral trustees (6)
and individual donors,
he's still $132
million short of the total needed." (7)
both the photos and video on the cathedral web site and personal
observations from recent visits indicate that its interior is anything
but shabby or ill maintained.
In long professional dealings with clergy, this writer has noted
much overt and intentional duplicity. Further, that in many cases a
parish with "no money" will see its physical plant intentionally
allowed to deteriorate (thus driving many parishioners away in
disgust). But Lo! Upon the arrival of an OD friendly pastor (and a
pre-arranged 'signal' from the Chancery), money will magically flow
from the heavens.
Even assuming the legitimate need for all of this work at the
cathedral (which may be dubious, except perhaps for exterior safety
the unmitigated gall of Dolan is
appalling. His Blindness to the spiritual reality of the End of these
Times. And the very real physical needs of the poor in his
But when a poor Black parish in the South Bronx (9a, 9b)
needed funds to repair their church, both Cardinals Dolan and Egan
denied them funding. For them "there is no money
Leading to a similar self-fulfilling prophecy: that the church would
become unsafe, and thus be closed
. This has been done again and
again - to poor, non-White parishes.
that is precisely the case with the Cathedral - it has virtually NO
resident parishioners. It exists as an icon, a pretty ceremonial site
for the affluent members of the Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy
Sepulcher, Knights of St. Lazarus, et. al. who hold their rituals
there. To use Dolan's words, it only exists for "artistic, cultural,
and historic purposes". (10a,
"The Catholic Church, capital C, needs renewal, restoration and
repair, because we've been through a lot, O.K.? We've got a
wheelbarrow full of problems and tensions and scandal. There's a lot of
soot all over the Church, with a capital C. So St. Patrick's — as
it was an icon for the grandeur and the permanence and the radiance
of the Church, with John Hughes — now it could be an icon of a
Church that needs revival, restoration and repair."
To which Jesus responds:
"Woe to you scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup
and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine and uncleanness.
Thou blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of
the dish, that the outside may become clean.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to
whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within
are full of dead men's bones, and of all filthiness. So you
also outwardly indeed appear to men just; but inwardly you are full of
hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matthew 23: 25-28)
Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton
(3) From conversations with
cathedral staff members, including one
former rector. Within the parish boundaries there is very little
residential housing. It is mostly office towers and commercial
properties (stores). Any real residential base was lost prior to W.W.
becoming the Madison Avenue advertising district in the 1920s, and
Rockefeller Center (22 acres) in the 1930s.
(4) Thus a question is posed:
how many of the crowds coming to
daily/Sunday masses and receiving Holy Communion.... are Catholic? Or
even cognizant of what they are doing?
web site asserts "more than 500 families are registered as
parishioners". Even if true, only a fraction reside within the
As with other parishes, this number will include former parishioners
who moved away but still contribute.
If you want to find out the identity of the 'Trustees of St. Patrick's
Cathedral', good luck! It is a mystery greater then that of the Sphinx.
Yet the 'Trustees' operate both the
present and the original Old St. Patrick's Cathedral (in Little Italy),
Calvary and Allied Cemeteries, along with other obscure corporate
entities. Such as the "NYC Orphan Asylum", and other assets.
personal observation, the 'approved diocesan contractors' are sometimes
only one step above the Mafia. Shoddy workmanship, intentionally
inflated contract prices (with the clergy getting a "cut") are the
norm. In contrast, a similar
project (e.g. painting) done for a Protestant church will usually cost
a fraction of that charged to a Catholic church
of comparable size. It is also standard practice to exaggerate, if not
invent, 'problems' which require major capital projects. Hence, the
'minor repair' requiring vast sums to fix.
Archdiocese knowingly allowed this church to deteriorate over some 40
years, and a string of pastors It has now closed the parish, despite
its Sunday attendance of 350. Yet many nearby mainline Protestant
churches are lucky to get 30 on a Sunday.
The young adult program at the
Cathedral has overt ties to Opus
Dei, and its various ancillary operations.... and draws young people
from all over the city.
(11) Video of the most
recent Sunday High Mass Note the obvious tourists
wandering the aisles before and during mass, as if it were Disneyland.
Sure, the pews fill up, but how many of these actually are Catholic? Or
believe.... anything? Those able to view the entire video will find it