Suppression of the
In the Bishop’s letter to us, a number of terms are used that we believe were not taken into proper consideration as part of the decision made by Bishop Lennon for deciding to close St. Emeric Parish. He calls our parishioners Hungarian people and says the three parishes serve the Hungarian community. He states that he thinks we should come together into one parish in the spirit of unity as one Hungarian people to create a more vibrant parish with more vitality in worship, religious education, community outreach and other parish activities. He concludes that he is not asking the Hungarian people to do anything different from parishes of similar size across the diocese.
Yet, the "Hungarian Cluster" that the Diocese of Cleveland put together is radically different than any of the other clusters. It is not territorially based, with the parishes in close physical proximity, as are the other clusters, and it is singled out as the cluster for the Hungarian community, the “Hungarian People,” whereas all the other clusters are for Americans. We find that the end result of this special grouping is discriminatory, because rather than recognizing the unique needs and mission the grouping implies, it creates a situation no other parishioner in the diocese is faced with. There is a segregation implied by putting us into a unique category of a Hungarian cluster, calling us the “Hungarian People" and treating us differently as a Hungarian community than others. This was not done with any other ethnic or racial group. The Diocese is implying that we do not belong and we are not the same kind of Americans, or Catholics, with the same rights as others.
And as a consequence of this grouping, the decision to leave a “centrally” located parish, has the effect of segregating us further, and in fact bringing about an untenable situation for the majority of the widely dispersed Hungarian Americans who have supported a Hungarian parish much more local to them than the remaining parish. In effect, the diocese is conducting a campaign of decimating a specific ethnic group’s ability to maintain its cultural and language identity by creating a situation where it cannot survive realistically with the one church left remaining, in an area that parishioners from the other two closed parishes will not go to.
Just as racial discrimination is now recognized as much broader than just the outward appearances of denying access or participation to certain individuals, extending now to implied or negative characterizations or imputed attributes, so too this action on the part of the Diocese is much worse than just shutting down churches. Consciously, or unconsciously, on the part of the Diocese, but none the less in actuality, there is an anti-ethnic effect of the actions. We are experiencing a type of ethnic-cleansing, not the murderous type but the more insidious melting-pot, longer term forced conformance type. (According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Ethnic cleansing sometimes involves the removal of all physical vestiges of the targeted group through the destruction of monuments, cemeteries, and houses of worship.”) In other countries, ethnic cleansing has been recognized for what it is, whether done by the military, the government, or a fundamentalist or orthodox religious group, or individuals and their organizations. Sadly, here, it is conveniently couched in other terms, often financially oriented or free-market justified, but with the same or worse eventual societal results.
And if this is not the case, is Bishop Lennon truly sensitive to the needs of the Hungarian community and does he recognize the uniqueness of the Hungarian culture in the diocese? If it is his intention to allow it to continue its work in the Catholic church to serve both the youth and elderly, those who have the greatest need for the work of the Church, then why did he decree to close down the two parishes that are closer to physical community of believers on the east and west side of the city and only leave the parish located in the most difficult to reach intercity area of the city, that is located in the most dangerous area?
Did he not realize that young families (who are not committed to St. Elizabeth by long family histories) will not send take their children into dangerous neighborhoods, through areas of the city that are as crime ridden as where St. Elizabeth is located, and that the elderly (many of who were forced to leave the Buckeye Hungarian area many decades ago during a horrible time of social unrest) are mentally scarred and fearful, and physically unable to make the much more challenging trip to a location that is both difficult to reach and not inviting for those acclimated to more suburban and urban circumstances?
Members of St. Margaret and St. Emeric will not become active, attending members of St. Elizabeth. They will be driven away and may not even continue their affiliation with Catholic churches in their own home neighborhoods due to the bitterness engendered by the closing decisions.
Did Bishop Lennon fail to observe then, also, that St. Emeric is at the center of Hungarian community in terms of its support for the Hungarian School (of 100+ or so students every Monday evening) and for Hungarian Boy and Girl Scouts (of 150+ every Friday evening, and many dozens on other evenings like Wednesday and during the day on Saturday)? Did he not note that by closing St. Emeric you rob the city, and more specifically, the Hungarian community (Catholic and non-Catholic) of its cultural center?
We strongly believe that all three parishes have the vibrancy, financial strength and stability, and spiritual vitality to remain open, working as a group to serve the diverse population of Hungarian Americans that are separately by significant distances. That is why we very carefully considered our response to Bishop Lennon, and recommended that all three parishes remain open.
For if we do have a special ranking as the Hungarian people of the Hungarian cluster representing the Hungarian community, which implies a cultural bond and values beyond the purely religious, then closing 2 out of 3 Cleveland area based Hungarian community supported Catholic parishes (or more precisely, 5 out of 6 in the region), is horribly destructive of the life and soul of the community of the Hungarian people in this region.
We also strongly believe that closing St. Emeric is not a logical decision on the part of Bishop Lennon because of the great harm it does the work of outreach to the community (in this case, primarily Hungarian speaking and Hungarian culture oriented) of youth and elderly, and the irreparable harm it does to the future sustainability of the Hungarian community, not just Catholic, but all of it as an integral part of the greater American community of diversity.