Better late than never

Better late than never

In an article about the parish closing review panel in Boston crediting Archbishop Sean O’Malley with recent changes to the plan, we also hear about how the panel is doing its work of reviewing the parish closing orders:

Subcommittees of two or three people have been going to each parish and trying to decide how many churches those communities need and financially can sustain in an archdiocese suffering from a shortage of priests and a 50 percent drop in donations.

Of course, this is what should have been done in the first place. Have competent groups of people go to each community and sit down with the people of those parishes and determine the configuration of the Catholic churches in that town that would best serve those people. It would have been a far sight better than the free-for-all grudge matches that we were subjected to instead.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Dom,
        In my reporting on the parish reconfiguration process, I have been favorably impressed both by the thoughtful and prayerful way the parishioners at St. Bernard have conducted themselves in attempting to save their parish and the manner in which Archbishop Sean and the review committee led by Peter Meade and Sister Janet Eisner have gone about their business.  The big story here, it seems to me, is that Meade, Eisner and their colleagues acknowledge that they are working within the system, if you will—providing the Archbishop with better information upon which to base his decisions—but stressing that the decisions are his.  In contrast to some of what you have written previously, I would suggest that this is completely consistent with what the parishioners at St. B want and expect.  Their ambition, in my view, has never been to supercede the Archbishop’s judgment with their own but merely to ensure that Archbishop Sean was well-informed about the facts, which he may not have been.  That is not to say that the leaders of the vigil at St. B are happy with their situation.  They recognize how much their parish has been damaged unjustifiably by a misbegotten order of suppression and the removal of Fr. Kilroy, in whom many parishioners had great confidence, but, in all good faith, they are trying to turn a confident face to the future.  They want to work with the new administrator who will be taking the reins at St. B and Corpus Christie next week to restore and reinvigorate Catholicism in their part of Newton—despite the aggressively secular, even anti-Catholic bias of the wider community of that bastion of secular humanism.  I hope you and others on this blog will be appropriately supportive of their enterprise as you come to understand better its origins and its ambitions.

  • Tony,

    You have actually talked to the people at St. Bernard where I have not so I can’t speak to your experience. What I have spoken about, and what really bothered me, was the early attitude of making this all about money, assuming that their parish’s closing was about a money grab by the archbishop, and the means used by some parishioners who are members of the town’s government to try to undermine the archdiocese’s ability to determine the fate of the parish.

    I am sure there are well-intentioned and good-hearted people at St. Bernard. Hey, I know for a fact that the great Catholic writer Peter Kreeft is a parishioner. But there is also a loud contingent of people who are not so well intentioned and who are definitely ill informed about their faith. They may be a minority, but at times they were drowning out everyone else.

    I will support any efforts that are authentically Catholic, but I am automatically wary of people who join sit-ins to get their point across or make the future of the Church all about the money.

  • Dom,
        From my reporting, I do not believe that money was the first issue at St. Bernard.  Rather parishioners were perplexed that their church had been selected for supression when it did not appear to meet the stated criteria and was, by several measures, more robust than other parishes in Newton.  Thus, the first and most frequent complaint I head from St. B. parishioners was that the process had become “political.” 
        Some of the most active vigilers at St. B. were older people with deep roots in the parish who still hold much resentment over the handling of the pedophile priest scandal.  Thus, they were prone to have little trust in decisions issuing from the chancery that conflicted with the announced priorities for reconfiguration.  Having received no other explanation from the heirarchy, many of these folks concluded that St. B. had been singled out for supression for two reasons.  One, as you note, is money, as the parish owns a lot of valuable real estate.  The other was political retribution based on the fact that two of the priests serving the parish had signed the letter calling on Cardinal Law to resign and that the parish has a number of folk involved in VOTF.
        I suspect that your impression of the motivation of the St. B. folk may have more to do with the preconceptions some of our colleagues in the media brought to covering the story than it does with the actual thoughts and feelings of the members of the parish.  As an Episcopalian, I hardly consider it my place to say who is or is not authentically Catholic, but I would note that, in contrast to some other parishes, a number of the folks at St. B. have been at pains to underscore to me that their vigil was an act of prayer not of protest, much less rebellion.

  • And my problem has consistently been that from the very first people, intentionally or not, disregarded what the archbishop actually said were the criteria and only focused on money. So if a parish had a big bank account, it must stay open.  But the archbishop was very clear from the beginning that the criteria were varied, including the need that some parishes that were not struggling financially and were near other parishes should close so that parishes that are struggling yet serving poor communities and not near other parishes could stay open.

    The claim of retribution was ridiculous on its face. After all, how does it hurt Fr. Kilroy to close the parish? He’s just going to be assigned to another parish? And how to explain the fact that the number of parishes with VOTF chapters that were closed is exactly the same proportion as all parishes with VOTF chapters? And if they wanted to target vocally dissenting priests and VOTF-loving parishes, why didn’t they close the most logical target: Our Lady Help of Christians?

    This is my problem with these protesters. Rather than think things through logically, they act with emotion based on supposition anda preconceived notion of ill intent.

    Never mind the fact that the pastoral statistics alone show that St. Bernard is one of the smaller parishes in the city. My view of the protest has less to do with the news coverage of it than of the words and actions of the people themselves.