ON WEDNESDAY, when he addressed a conference of Catholic journalists in Indianapolis, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said, "The habits of Catholic culture run very deep in the Philadelphia region."
On Thursday, Chaput announced deep and drastic cuts for the church back here in Philadelphia, including 45 layoffs, the consolidation of several offices and ministries, and the elimination of its print newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times, a very old reading habit for local Catholics.
"It's the end of an era," said Susan Matthews, a former Standard and Times editor who runs the Catholics4Change.com website. "With over a million Catholics in the city, it was not only a source for news but for historical records."
In a news release issued Thursday, the Archdiocese said it would be closing the paper and suspending the production of its monthly magazine, Phaith.
The diocese said the website CatholicPhilly.com would continue to be the official source of news for the Archdiocese.
The Archdiocese will merge or combine 19 offices and ministries. The Office of Youth and Young Adults, which operates the Catholic Youth Organization, will close, though the Archdiocese said the youth sports programs will continue on "with no change on the local level."
Camp Overbrook, a summer program for children, has been eliminated, along with the St. Peter Claver Center for Evangelization.
Along with the layoffs, the Archdiocese announced that remaining staff would not receive raises this fiscal year. It was the coming $17 million deficit, Chaput said, and not the "legal and professional costs of the past 16 months" that prompted the cutbacks.
"I take this action with great reluctance, as one of several urgently needed steps to restore the local church to a healthy financial footing," he said in Thursday's news release.
Philadelphian Rocco Palmo, who runs the blog Whispers in the Loggia, was in Indianapolis for Chaput's speech to the Catholic Media Conference. He said there were rumors there of coming cutbacks, including the loss of one of the Catholic Church's oldest U.S. newspapers.
"Philadelphia now becomes the largest American city without a diocesan publication," he said from Indiana.
"The Archdiocese is in the toughest period any American diocese has undergone in the last 50 years, if not longer," he said. "It's a shakeup of seismic proportions."
Matthew Gambino, director and general manager of the Standard & Times, said the paper's conversion to a monthly publication last year wasn't enough to combat dropping circulation and a difficult year. "We tried to keep it going,"he said.