Contraband Communion and location, location, location

Contraband Communion and location, location, location

Whenever columnists in the Boston newspapers write about sit-ins at parishes slated to be closed, they always write about the brave and wonderfully brave people standing up to the big, bad Church that’s only interested in money. And I’m sure that many of those people keeping round-the-clock vigil are in fact well-meaning and sincere if often misguided.

Margery Eagan’s column in the Boston Herald this week on St. Frances Cabrini in Scituate, Mass., is a prime example. A more slanted piece of opinion journalism would be hard to write. For one thing, not once is there an attempt at objective reporting. All of the worst claims as to the motivation of the archdiocese in closing the parish are treated as if they are indisputable. Not once is another rationale for the closing given.

Instead we’re treated to the same cliched descriptions of grandmas with rosaries and little kids in sleeping bags on the pews. It’s all there, including Eagan’s own amazement—being a dissenting Catholic herself—that these people still hold to the Church’s teachings.

Yet a more unlikely group of rebels you’ll never meet. Most are gray-haired, pious and, until now, obedient. Some still follow even the toughest church teachings on touchy topics like divorce and birth control.

Shocking! It couldn’t be that these people believe that it’s true. After all, the sophisticated Eagan knows that the Church is all about power and money and that the “rules” aren’t about what is good for us and what is the will of God, but is only about oppression and domination. Eagan seems surprised that having “thrown off the shackles” at the attempt to close the parish, they haven’t “thrown off” the teachings on divorce and birth control.

Contraband ashes and Eucharist

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
6 comments
  • I know nothing of this situation except what I read in the article. And I know nothing about the Diocese of Boston except what I read.

    Having read this column, I tend to want to know more before thining badly of the protestors. And, I tend to be significantly less harsh to the secular media than Dom.  Since this protest is going on 800-plus days, this is really a significant event that is worthy of comment.

    I have some personal experience with these kinds of controversies. In 1980 the Archdiocese of Detroit was embrolied in a monumental controversy when General Motors decided it wanted to build a new Cadillac assembly plant in an historic area known as “Poletown.” GM wanted 100-plus acrres of land that included two parishes and a Catholic hospital, in addition to several hundred homes. This was the first time in Michigan history that the state condemned property for use by a private entity.  There was a major protest, vigils by little old ladies and massive press coverage. 

    I wrote about it for the National Catholic Register. Needless to say, GM got what it wanted and the parishes and houses and hospital were torn down. 

    The police came in a arrested old ladies. Picture of the police putting feeble grannies in paddy wagons as they clutched rosaries made great play on the front pages of the newspapers. The whole mess was all about money and power, and the Catholic Church—to its everlasting shame— agreed to the outrageous precedent that a PRIVATE corporation could use the concept of eminent domain to confiscate churches, hospitals, and hundreds of homes and businesses. Protestors often said, “this is America, not Russia.”

    Then, in 1988/‘89, Cardinal Szoka decided to close 26 parishes in the City of Detroit. It was a bitter, bitter controversy that led to Szoka taking a post in the Vatican.  Some of the parishes that Szoka closed were financially solvent—at least the parish councils and pastors claimed they were—but they were closed nevertheless.  I was moderator of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council at the time (advisory body to the cardinal) and the closings of the parishes was a topic were were strictly forbidden to discuss, even though it was on the front pages of the media continually.

    It seemed to me then, and still seems to me, that sometimes bishops really are quite wrong-headed about their priorities when it comes to parishes, and there is a lot to be said in favor of the laity standing up to them. The laity will lose every time, of course, but geez, my experience with some bishops are really out of their element when it comes to real estate and comprehending the rights of ordinary citizens.

    In this Boston case, it may be that Cardinal O’Malley is trying to be as sensitive as he can and hopes the “rebels” will just get tired of their losing battle and will walk away peacefully.

    I don’t know about Boston, but in Detroit, there have been some parishes with fewer than 100 families that the archdiocese has poured countless thousands of dollars into to keep open. These tend to be in the city. 

    If this Boston parish has 100 families and it’s financially solvent, what’s wrong with keeping it open?  And if the parishioners are agreeable to selling off all but five acres, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

    Like I said, I’d like to know more about this case.

  • Well, I have been following and writing about the parish closing situation in Boston since it arose several years ago, and while there is justification for criticism of the archdiocese for how it was initially carried out, I don’t think there’s any rational dispute against the reasons for parish closings.

    If you want to get more details on the situation at St. Frances Cabrini, just enter Scituate in the search at the top of this page and you should find all the blog posts.

    This parish is small and very close to several other parishes. It doesn’t make sense to have yet another small parish in that area when those resources (not just money but also the precious few priests available and other intangibles) could be used for the health of the other parishes in town as well as the whole archdiocese.

  • I live in Scituate and attended St. Frances Cabrini before it closed. It was, in fact, a marvelous little community with a wonderful pastor who spoke the truth and did not constantly have his hand out for money. In fact, he tithed to a school in India and helped to build it.

    We were saddened to see the parish close, however we obediantly atarted attending Mass in a neighboring town. The other parish in Scituate does not appeal to us – enough said there !

    The neighboring parishes are very able to accomodate the severla hundred – if that – parishioners from St. Frances.

    I think Cardinal O’Malley should just get on with business and demand they leave. They are in fact trespassing.

    Also, I recently heard that high school students at Scituate High School can earn community service hours for taking part in the sit in at St. Frances Cabrini, which I think is ridiculous because they are breaking the law !! I intend to follow up on that rumor.

  • The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, not a building or a parish.  How many of these upper middleclass families encouraged vocations among their children?  How many of these grey-haired ladies even encouraged their children to remain in the Church? How many held prayer vigils and and Eucharisitic Adoration for the Church or for vocations?

    The Church is going through tough times in Boston – in the entire US – and it isn’t all the heirarchy’s fault.  In fact, their greatest fault has been that they gave us what we wanted – an easy-going, undemanding, live-and-let-live Church.

    It is time to stop with the sentimentality and get moving on building up the Church spiritually.

  • Sean
    I am a former member of one of the other churches that has been closed but is now reopened for 1 mass at noon. I feel that the building is a big part of the Mystical Body of Christ.  You must remember when these grey-haired ladies were in there thirites thu fifies the only thing active in the community was the church.  There was no 2 family income, no internet, no video games, NO cable. These female members were always at the church either for adult choir, sunday school teaching, bake sales, cleaning, novenas. They were a big part of the wist or bridge parties to help raise money for repaires for the church. And now there church is being taken away from them because of (should I list all of the excuses).  The biggest gripe right now is the so called lack of priest.  I now attend a church in Dorchester, and there are 3 priest on site. In the bullten there is a statment stating “Sorry we are not able to offer a 5:00 Mass during the week days of Lent this year”  WHY?  I ther a rule somewhere that the priest can only do so many Masses during the day. The church has daily Masses a 6:45 and 9:00 AM

    Please excuse the spelling

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