LAKEWOOD, Ohio— Bishop Richard Lennon laid out a case on Monday that asserts that the diocese's closing of more than fifty parishes was a painful, but necessary step.
"To some extent, you can be very sad about it," the bishop said, "but the utilities have to be paid."
The bishop spoke inside a closed church that has now been turned into a private statue museum.
He said the audited diocese books show it has received $19.5 million from the sale of 26 churches and related assets.
Fourteen churches remain for sale, and 14 more have appealed their closings to the Vatican.
The bishop said that with the decline in church attendance, the diocese could no longer afford to support 224 parishes across its eight counties.
He also said he understood first-hand the pain of a church closing.
"I closed my own parish back in Boston," the bishop said, "and it was the church that my grandfather built, where I made my first communion, where I buried my parents, where I said my first mass."
Members of Endangered Catholics, a group that has questioned how the closings were handled, said the issue was never whether some churches needed to be closed, but how the process was handled.
Bob Kloss, of Endangered Catholics, said he finds it "significant" that the Vatican still has not decided the fate of the 14 churches that appealed their closings.
The bishop said he believes some of the personal criticism he's received is unfair, saying critics "don't have the information that I do have."
But he said he understands that it stems from "very strong, religious feelings about what they lost."