Joliet Bishop Silent About Financial Cost of Priest Sex Abuse Scandals, Closing Catholic Parishes

Newsbreak [Mountain View, CA]

January 27, 2024

By Natalie Frank, Ph.D.19 hours ago

Joliet Diocese faces financial struggles, announces closure of Catholic institutions

The Joliet Diocese, encompassing Will, DuPage, and Kendall counties, has declared the closure of five churches and two schools, citing financial constraints and a decline in mass attendance. The decision, attributed to “budgetary issues,” comes after a year-long evaluation process that stirred discontent among the faithful.

Bishop Ron Hicks’ office has pointed to diminishing mass attendance and financial challenges, yet remains silent on the profound impact of the decades-old priest sex abuse crisis on these closures. The diocese has been grappling with the aftermath of the abuse scandal for over two decades, with over 70 clerics accused of child molestation listed publicly.

While millions have been spent on legal settlements with victims, Bishop Hicks has chosen not to disclose the total financial burden or engage in discussions about the topic, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times in September.

In the announcement made on the diocesan website, Bishop Hicks acknowledged the changing landscape of the Church over the past 50 to 60 years. With fewer vocations to the priesthood, an aging active clergy, and the need for substantial repairs in aging churches, the diocese faces challenges exacerbated by prolonged deferred maintenance.

Hicks expressed, “The Church today is not the same Church it was decades ago. The trend against organized religion is gaining momentum. Reducing the number of parishes will enable us to redirect our limited financial resources to ministry.”

However, a church official, preferring anonymity, criticized the decision as “cold-blooded” and lacking pastoral sensitivity. Concerns are raised that the parishioners, disheartened by the closures, may cease attending worship services altogether.

Among the churches marked for closure, Sacred Heart Church, Joliet’s only historically Black congregation, is particularly noteworthy. The Cathedral of St. Raymond, serving as the Diocese of Joliet’s seat, is among the institutions that will remain operational.

St. Anne in Crest Hill, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, and St. Jude in Joliet are also slated for closure, with their operations merging into other local parishes. Additionally, Hicks’ office hints at the potential closure of St. John the Baptist Church in Joliet in the future.

Further adjustments include the closure of St. Jude School, merging with St. Paul the Apostle School, and the shuttering of St. Matthew School in Glendale Heights.

A spokesperson for Bishop Hicks stated that neither the bishop nor the church attorney leading the closure process will provide comments on the matter.

This announcement follows the recent closure of two Catholic schools in the west suburbs by the Archdiocese of Chicago, led by Hicks’ mentor, Cardinal Blase Cupich.