EAST AURORA, N.Y. — Last week the seminarians and staff at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora found out it'll be closing in May, after operating there for more than 45 years.
The Buffalo Diocese says the plan to cease operations was approved by the seminary's board of trustees and the five governing members of the corporation.
It means 30 staff members and seminarians will be without a job.
One of them is Rev. John Mack who says the news was "devastating" to everyone, especially because they had no idea it was coming.
"A staff of folks who included people who had been in the seminary for long terms were somehow dumbfounded because they had never been consulted, they had never been involved in the decision," Mack said.
A spokesperson for the Diocese says that's not true saying "contrary to implication, the Seminary community was the first to learn of this decision, prior to communicating to the media or the broader public."
He added the diocesan president-rector, general and moderator of the curia were there to make the announcement, alongside the Youtube video of Scharfenberger since he was unable to be there in person given his other commitments.
But Mack says the way in which his colleagues were told is not the way it should have been done.
"The decision was made to them by a Youtube video, which is about as impersonal as you can get and is certainly not what we understand what it means to be a pastor," Mack said.
He adds the diocese made the announcement to them without a plan.
The decision to cease operations at Christ the King comes as the diocese considers filing for bankruptcy due to a large number of lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act.
Scharfenberger says the seminary has been losing $500,000 each year for a decade.
Mack says the seminary's employees were not naive about the financial problems Christ the King has, but he says there's a much larger issue that needs to be dealt with.
"Personally, and I could never prove this, I sometimes wonder if we're a scapegoat for refusal to deal with a broken culture at the heart of the diocese," Mack said.
Mack says he's talking because he feels people are uncomfortable and afraid to say anything. He says while he appreciates authority, he can't believe how the whole thing happened and how people's lives will be affected by the closing.