the compassion is gone
Archbishop Alfred Hughes is sending in the NOPD to arrest parishioners holding vigil at the closed St. Henry’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel churches uptown. During times of continued hardships, the Archbishop is strong arming grieving parishioners. With the downturn of faithful attending Catholic Mass, and subsequent loss of church revenue from the collection plate, this certainly does not send out a welcoming message to the faithful. How can the Catholic church treat people seeking spiritual solace like this? Poppy Z. Brite was one of the parishioners arrested. How ironic is it this happened on Epiphany. Unbelievable…
New Orleans police sent in to remove parishoners from Uptown vigil churches
by Bruce Nolan and Susan Finch, The Times-Picayune
Tuesday January 06, 2009, 11:44 AM
The Archdiocese of New Orleans today sent New Orleans police to two occupied Catholic churches to remove parishioners who for more than nine weeks have participated in a vigil in resistance to a closure plan.
The archdiocese sent in police with instructions to arrest occupiers if they continue to resist, with Archbishop Alfred Hughes deciding “It’s time to bring this to a close,” spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey said.
Police have entered St. Henry’s Church on Gen. Pershing Street and Our Lady of Good Counsel on Louisiana Avenue. At St. Henry’s, one resisting parishoner, Cindy Robidoux, was denied entry to the church after police arrived, and she worked frantically to negotiate a deal with a city attorney at the scene that would allow her to face police church in place of a few others who had been holding out inside the church.
A police spokesman could offer no immediate elaboration on the operation.
A similar episode is unfolding at nearby Good Counsel. There, one supporter of the vigil waiting outside the church, Arthurine Payton, said her elderly mother was inside the church this morning and told Payton by phone that men had arrived at the door and appeared to be breaking in. Payton said she couldn’t understand why the archdiocese couldn’t negotiate a compromise that would allow continued use of the old Uptown church.
Property managers from the Archdiocese of New Orleans on Monday again visited two Uptown churches occupied by people protesting their closure, but left with protesters still in possession of the buildings as their standoff entered its 10th week.
Shortly after noon, archdiocesan staffers visited St. Henry Church and nearby Our Lady of Good Counsel bent on “routine inspections” of the properties, archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey said.
She and parishioners concurred that the staffers tried to enter Good Counsel, but were denied access by those inside. They briefly entered St. Henry, made a quick inspection and left, Comiskey and parishioners said. As a result, occupiers said they have reversed a former custom and now keep the doors closed and locked. Although the day ended as it began, the visits only further heightened occupiers’ wariness, given the events of the weekend.
In a sudden shift from a hands-off approach, archdiocesan officials hoping to end the occupations entered the two churches Saturday at 2 a.m. They awakened sleeping occupiers and asked them to leave. St. Henry’s occupiers refused; whether all occupiers left Good Counsel remained a matter of dispute Monday.
Harold Baquet, a Good Counsel parishioner, said an occupier there remained behind in hiding to re-possess the church after the archdiocese officials left; Comiskey cautioned against accepting that version, but declined to elaborate. In any event, Good Counsel remains in parishioners’ hands.
Comiskey acknowledged Monday that after weeks of allowing parishioners and supporters to hold the buildings, the archdiocese hoped to finesse an end to the occupations with a surprise appearance in the middle of the night without media or police, hoping to encounter two or three parishioners who could be persuaded to leave. Comiskey said Archbishop Alfred Hughes wants an end to the occupations — parishioners call them vigils — so nearby Good Shepherd parish, into which St. Henry and Good Counsel have been merged, can get past its birth pangs and realize its full potential.
Hughes and Comiskey also cited other reasons for their change in concern, among them reports that children had spent the night inside the churches and that people were exercising in the buildings. That apparently referred to some occupiers’ walking laps around interiors during their two- and four-hour shifts — as well as to “reports of people bringing yoga mats, things like that, ” Comiskey said.
The archdiocese believes that either is inappropriate. Even though neither church contains the Blessed Sacrament, consecrated bread that Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ, the churches are still sacred, consecrated spaces, she said.
Some of the holdouts are speculating that the archdiocese suddenly moved to end the vigils because the Vatican is ready to announce a replacement for Hughes, who is eligible for retirement but wants an end to the standoff so his successor does not inherit it. Comiskey dismissed that as a motive. “That’s never been part of any discussion that I’ve been part of, ” she said.