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In Chicago, Cardinal George asked the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to reopen a closed parish in a tough neighborhood (see “A Magnificent Witness: Our Lady of the Angels Mission in Chicago” in the Spring 2017 issue of Sacred Architecture).

If the building is no longer slated for sacred purposes then it is better that it no longer exist.In many upper-income neighborhoods the church building itself is worthless and the property is more beneficial being “converted” to high-end condominiums.The building should be offered up to God, not unlike an Old Testament sacrifice.For those who would mourn it, it is well to remember that this is what the Romans did to the Temple in Jerusalem when the Israelites rebelled.This is because we have come to believe that the architecture itself is not sacred, the place has not been sanctified by its use, and if we move the furniture out, it is okay for a temple to become a den of thieves.

Another option is to tear down the historic church and sell the land.In America, where everything is portable, why not move historic churches from the old ethnic neighborhood out to the suburbs where there is a growing population?Unless it is a small wooden chapel, this is a serious undertaking and is much more difficult than it sounds.The option most likely to succeed is to invite a religious order in to run the parish.Opus Dei, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, and the Institute of Christ the King have a track record in reviving dying parishes and restoring beautiful buildings and artwork.There is an unprecedented crisis in our cities, yet most are not aware of it.