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Baltimore bishop explains decision for Archdiocese's proposed plan of closing dozens of parishes

Archdiocese of Baltimore proposes closure of 41 parishes
Archdiocese of Baltimore proposes closure of 41 parishes 02:30

BALTIMORE - Dozens of Catholic churches in Baltimore may be forced to close their doors in the Archdiocese's "Seek the City to Come" initiative. 

This plan would cut 40 of its 61 parishes, which would result in the closure of several historic landmarks and once-thriving worship sites.


The Archdiocese of Baltimore cited maintenance costs of aging churches, low mass attendance, and "multiple unmet opportunities to better serve the needs of the broader community" as reasons for this proposal.

The proposed plan was issued on Sunday and has raised many questions for parishioners.

"We do need to do something because we're not the church we used to be," said Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, Vicar for Baltimore City. "And by that, I mean the church has decades ago when we had tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Catholics in Baltimore."

Archdiocese officials called this proposed plan heartbreaking and is a difficult decision to make.

Officials say this consolidation process began two years ago and is not affiliated with the bankruptcy case filed in the fall.

"By Canon Law, the parish finance assets, whatever is theirs in resources, follow them to the newly configured parish," Lewandowski said. "It doesn't go to the Archdiocese."

Churches will not close their doors immediately. 

After a final decision is made, it will take time for churches to consolidate. 

Bishop Lewandowski said the Archdiocese has visited every site and spoken with clergy as well as lay church leaders.

"We've examined the neighborhoods and some great demographic studies," Lewandowski said. "In some places, we might be able to repurpose buildings, and some of them some of the buildings will be closed and some of them will have to sell."

The Archdiocese filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September ahead of a new law that went into effect in October. The Child Victims Act eliminated the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse claims.

An Attorney General report last year identified more than 160 clergy and other church staff accused of abusing more than 600 victims.

St. Benedict in Southwest Baltimore closed last November following an allegation of sexual abuse against a priest.  

Alongside consolidating, the church plans to work with neighbors to develop a new base of parishioners.

"We have not connected well to our neighborhoods as we would want to," Lewandowski said. "We want to shift away from giving so much to buildings to give more to people and focus more on mission than on maintenance."

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is planning to hold more public comment periods for people to voice their thoughts. Additional sessions may be added as needed, according to archdiocese officials. A final consolidation plan will be made in June.

  • Thursday, April 25, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Archbishop Curley High School, 3701 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, 21213
  • (Spanish) Monday, April 29, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., Our Lady of Fatima, 6400 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21224 – Spanish language ONLY.
  • Tuesday, April 30, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Mount Saint Joseph's High School, 4403 Frederick Avenue, Baltimore, 21229
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