Vatican Rejects Wendelboe Appeal

By John Koziol
The Citizen [New Hampshire]
February 8, 2007

The Vatican has rejected Rep. Fran Wendelboe's initial appeal to stop the merger of three Roman Catholic churches in the Newfound and Pemi-Baker Region.

The six-term Republican representative from New Hampton was not surprised by the answer but said she isn't giving up just yet, announcing efforts to raise $10,000 in order to appeal the denial, and, ultimately, to keep the doors of her parish, St. Agnes in Ashland, open.

In July 2006, Bishop John McCormack, head of the Diocese of Manchester, decreed that St. Agnes, St. Timothy in Bristol and St. Matthew in Plymouth would be merged, forming Holy Trinity Parish which would operate out of St. Matthew church.

Patrick McGee, speaking for the Diocese of Manchester, said the churches would remain open until after a parish council was convened at Holy Trinity to decide their individual fates.

McGee explained that the action is part of a statewide attempt to deal with the movement of New Hampshire Catholics from urban to suburban parishes and the serious shortage of priests.

Wendelboe, in a letter to Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican — under canon law, the first entity to which diocesan administrative decisions must be appealed — wrote last August that McCormack's judgment and that of Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian were suspect given their roles in the scandal over sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston and in the Diocese of Manchester.

"Had our bishops been true to their calling and acted in a manner worthy of their offices, it is virtually certain that the need to merge parishes would be greatly reduced if not eliminated entirely," Wendelboe said in asking that the Congregation for the Clergy invalidate McCormack's plans for establishing Holy Trinity Parish.

Wendelboe sent her appeal with the expectation that it would be automatically denied and, last week, she learned it had been, which prompted her to launch "Save St. Agnes," an effort that will take the matter to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Roman Catholic Church's highest court.

In an e-mail to media this week, Wendelboe said the Manchester diocese again displayed bad faith in how it shared news about the Congregation for the Clergy's decision.

While she said she was keeping the news quiet while working to set up a meeting with the diocese "to explore possible alternate solutions to closure of the church," Wendelboe said she was surprised when the parishioners of St. Agnes were informed about the denial at Mass last Sunday.

That fact and the manner in which the diocese released the information, said Wendelboe, demonstrated to her that it has "no desire for discussion on ways to keep all three churches open in the long term."

She added that, of "particular concern was mention of closure of St. Agnes in the decision."

Wendelboe has contacted an Italian canon lawyer — an appeal to the Signatura can only be argued by an Italian lawyer who has been accepted by the Signatura to present cases before it — and said she will be calling on area businesses, current and former parishioners, and members of the public to raise money for the appeal.

She is asking anyone who wants to help to contact her at 968-7988 or via e-mail at



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