Vatican Rejects Appeals of 10 Closed Parishes

By Andrew Ryan
Associated Press, carried in
January 15, 2006

BOSTON --The Vatican has rejected the appeals of 10 parishes in the Boston Archdiocese that had petitioned to remain open after being shuttered as part of Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley's reconfiguration plan.

O'Malley announced in January 2004 plans to close more than 80 parishes in response to a decline in the number of priests, changing demographics, and financial troubles brought on in part by the clergy sex abuse scandal.

"We appreciate the disappointment that this news brings to those who submitted the appeals and all who are saddened by the parish closings," O'Malley said in a statement released Saturday. "This has been a difficult time for our Catholic community."

The news trickled from journalists to parish groups that filed the appeals.

"We are disappointed but not surprised," said Peter Borre, co-chairman of the Council of Parishes, a coalition that includes eight of the parishes that lost appeals. "We did not entertain any illusions that the clergy would greet us with open arms."

The parishes that had their closures affirmed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy are: Our Lady of Lourdes in Revere; Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence in Brookline; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Scituate; St. James the Great in Wellesley; St. Augustine in South Boston; Star of the Sea in Quincy; Our Lady of Mercy in Belmont; Sacred Heart in Natick; St. Jeremiah in Framingham; and St. Anselm in Sudbury.

The Council of Parishes plans to weigh it options, which could include further appeals to the Vatican, Borre said.

The Vatican has bodies that are higher than the Congregation for the Clergy that can review the closings. Those processes can take several years and cost thousands of dollars, Borre said.

The Council of Parishes has also discussed filing a lawsuit in civil court, he said.

The suit would claim that O'Malley failed in his role as a trustee for the archdiocese's churches by closing parishes that are financially viable, Borre said. The archdiocese's financial troubles were caused in part by the clergy sexual abuse settlements because of its own mismanagement, Borre alleges.

"Parishioners are standing back and saying, 'You are going to close my house of worship, where my parents were married, not because we can't pay the heating bill but because you failed to supervise some of these monsters?"' Borre said.

While many parishioners expected the rejections, they were surprised by the timing.

"We had no idea this was coming from the Vatican, especially not on a Saturday," said parishioner Jackie Lemmerhirt, 47, who has participated in a round-the-clock vigil at St. Jeremiah.

Lemmerhirt learned about the decision from reporters and said parishioners have had no communication from the Vatican or the archdiocese.

At least four of the parishes that had their appeals rejected are holding vigils, Borre said. Three parishes still have appeals pending before the Congregation of Clergy.

O'Malley announced plans to close or merge more than 80 of the archdiocese's 357 parishes. Sixty-two eventually closed, and the archdiocese now has 303 parishes.


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