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Baltimore Archdiocese unveils plan to close two-thirds of its parishes amid financial pressures

The exterior of the Archdiocese of Baltimore building as seen on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
Ulysses Muñoz
The Baltimore Banner
The exterior of the Archdiocese of Baltimore building as seen on Monday, March 13, 2023.

The Baltimore Archdiocese is planning to close about two-thirds of its churches in the city and county as the organization continues to be embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings regarding restitution for victims of child sexual assault.

The plan would shutter 40 of the archdiocese’s 61 parishes, consolidating the congregations and closing some of the most historic churches in the area, leaving 21 parishes and 26 worship sites.

The archdiocese website states the church “has been prayerfully journeying to envision and discern how we revitalize the Church in Baltimore City. Our collective listening, dialogue, prayerful discernment, visioning, and modeling has brought us to this point.”

One of the more prominent churches that would close under the plan is St. Vincent de Paul, located in downtown, which was dedicated in 1841.

The archdiocese cited high maintenance costs and low mass attendance for the proposed closures.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori will hold two listening sessions at the end of April to take in parishioners’ concerns about the plan.

A decision on whether the plan will go through will be made in June.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy last fall, just as a law allowing sexual abuse victims to sue the church at any age was about to take effect.

The Church is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings due to the anticipated costs of compensating hundreds of victims.

The Church was considering consolidating long before it filed for bankruptcy, the plan has been in the works for about two years.

However, the archdiocese admitted that the legal challenges from victims would be a large drain on its resources.

“Chapter 11 reorganization is the best path forward to compensate equitably all victim-survivors, given the Archdiocese’s limited financial resources, which would have otherwise been exhausted on litigation,” Baltimore Archbishop William Lori said in an open letter to his congregation. “Staggering legal fees and large settlements or jury awards for a few victim-survivors would have depleted our financial resources, leaving the vast majority of victim-survivors without compensation, while ending ministries that families across Maryland rely on for material and spiritual support.”

Filings show that the archdiocese was retaining lawyers and consultants that probably advised the Church on how it should move forward with the abuse cases. The filings show the Church paid more than a quarter of a million dollars for legal advice on bankruptcy.

The filings also show the organization has more than $200 million in assets, which include a Tiffany tea set, a diamond-encrusted crucifix, a sapphire-studded locket and dozens of solid gold rings.

The public hearing sessions are scheduled for:

Thursday, April 25, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Archbishop Curley High School, 3701 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, 21213

Tuesday, April 30, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Mount Saint Joseph’s High School, 4403 Frederick Avenue, Baltimore, 21229

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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