Catholics will continue resisting parish closures

They plan to keep vigil, seek formal appeal to pope

By Michael Corcoran
Globe Correspondent / June 6, 2010

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Catholics from five Massachusetts parishes say they will continue to resist closures by occupying the churches and making a formal appeal to Pope Benedict XVI.

The Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, last month rejected the appeals from members of 10 closed parishes in the state. The churches were originally ordered closed in 2004 in light of the significant fiscal troubles for the church, prompting a long-running legal battle.

Yesterday, Peter Borre, chairman of the Council of Parishes, which advocates on behalf of the closed churches, said that despite the recent ruling, members of five parishes will continue their round-the-clock vigils.

The parishes organizing vigils are Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston, St. Therese in Everett, St. Jeremiah in Framingham, St. James the Great in Wellesley, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Scituate.

The other churches whose appeals were rejected by the court will take part in the appeal to the pope, but are not participating in vigils.

According to Borre, by keeping at least one person in the church at all times, church officials are legally prohibited from changing the locks on the buildings without first ordering law enforcement officials to arrest the occupants.

“The cardinal has some difficult decisions to make. We have people here who are deeply invested are ready to be arrested,’’ Borre said in a telephone interview from Rome, where he was helping to organize the appeal. “Does the cardinal really want, with all the other difficult Catholic stories running these days, to have another story that involves dozens of Catholics in handcuffs being pulled from the parish?’’

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Boston said it will respond continued efforts to stave off the closings “respectfully,’’ but did not say exactly how they will proceed.

“The Archdiocese of Boston is committed to rebuilding our local church,’’ said spokesman Terrence Donilon. “Cardinal Sean has kept his word not to take any action during the now concluding appeals process. We continue to welcome any opportunity to work with the parishioners of closed parishes to seek a way to help them join a welcoming parish.’’

Local church leaders said that despite the setback, their members are unwilling to stop their efforts at resisting the closures.

“It is business as usual for us,’’ said Jon Rogers, parishioner of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Scituate. “This is living proof that the parishioners will no longer stand for abuse. Enough is enough. We have said from the very beginning that we are looking for a fair and equitable solution.’’

Mary Beth Carmody, co-chairwoman of the appeal committee for St. Jeremiah in Framingham, said members of her parish are also prepared to continue their resistance.

“I think the archdiocese has misjudged the determination among our parishes,’’ she said. “If you interview 98 out of 100 members, they would tell you they have not lost faith in God, but have lost faith in the hierarchy.’’

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