Scituate Parishioners Petition Supreme Court to Let Them Stay in Church
By Brian Dowling
March 4, 2016
|Credit: John Wilcox|
Parishioners occupying St. Frances X. Cabrini Catholic Church in Scituate are making their last stand — petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to let them stay in their beloved church, which the Archdiocese of Boston has sought to close for more than a decade.
“We made a promise from Day 1 that we would exhaust every avenue of appeal, and this filing to the U.S. Supreme Court completes that promise,” said Jon Rogers, spokesman for the churchgoers, who have held vigil at the church since October 2004. “If they take this, I believe we will win.”
A Norfolk Superior Court judge ruled last May that the people holding vigil at the church were “trespassing,” siding with the archdiocese’s request to evict the parishioners. In October, the state Appeals Court upheld that decision, and the Supreme Judicial Court declined to review the case.
A deal between the parishioners and the archdiocese struck in December allows those holding vigil to stay in the church until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the petition for review — with the understanding that they would leave if the country’s highest court takes a pass on the case.
The dispute centers on who owns the church: the archdiocese whose name is on the deed, or the parishioners who filled decades-worth of collection plates to build the sanctuary and keep it running.
The petition to the U.S. Supreme Court written by Mary Elizabeth Carmody, a former U.S. Attorney, argues the Massachusetts court did not look at canon law, which says the churches are owned by parishioners, not the archdiocese.
The petition argues that the Supreme Court needs to rule on the subject because courts have ruled differently on the question of who owns churches — including a bankruptcy case in Washington where a bishop argued that the churches are not owned by the archdiocese.
“You look at Massachusetts and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, he owns the parishes, and in Spokane, the people own the parishes,” Rogers said. “We are looking for the U.S. Supreme Court to get rid of all the discrepancies out there.”