Desecrating a closed parish

Desecrating a closed parish

The Archdiocese of New Orleans, reeling from the Hurrican Katrina whammy, recently announced that it was merging some parishes, including St. Augustine’s, an historically black parish in the heart of New Orleans with a small congregation. Even though Sunday Masses were to continue to be celebrated in the church, the people were not happy and—taking a cue from some people in Boston—occupied the parish’s rectory in protest. At that point, it looked like the familiar pattern of a sit-in would follow. It was not to be.

Last Sunday, Mass was disrupted by protesters swarming the aisles with signs. This was not just recalcitrance and disobedience. This was sacrilege. In fact, Mass had to be stopped midway through. It turns out that this is no homegrown protest, but it is being fomented by outsiders.

Maestri said the bulk of Sunday’s protesters were members of Common Ground, an activist group, or were people who are being influenced by the group. … Seruntine said she is among a group of young people who’ve occupied the church rectory for a week because they believe church officials are closing St. Augustine “without ever going through canon law.”

An interesting argument, although last week I pointed out that the protesters themselves said they didn’t know what the relevant canon law is. So how do they know it’s not being followed.

Apparently, the pastor expected problems since he asked 10 police officers in plainclothes to attend the Mass, including some members of the “welcoming” parish, in case things got out of hand.

The bishop’s strong response

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
5 comments
  • Abp. Hughes, formerly a Boston auxiliary and seminary rector, has been doing a lot of good work in recent years, particularly on the USCCB’s committee for doctrine.  In particular, he’s worked to point out and remedy various deficiencies in catechetical texts. 

    Ad multos annos!

  • Decisive action in response to parochial rebellion is known as the “local interdict”, which would have evoked a much different response from the American media, who love giving cover to officials peddling interesting “my hands are tied” stories. 

    Under the 1917 canons, this would seem to not be a desecration.  Manifesting a desire to worship and minister is not a “godless” use of the sanctuary.  I don’t see how the fear of violence can be considered a desecration, while actual violence would not be (as long as nobody was murdered, and bloodshed was not “effusive”). 

    The 1983 canons seem to give the bishop broad jurisdiction.  But this still looks like a gross abuse of a canon (1211) relating to worship, in order to impose a de facto penal sanction.  I suspect the Holy See will reject the attempt decisively.  Otherwise, our “friends” in Orange could face a similar fate.

    Consecration, he said, would entail an expression of regret by the protesters.

    Totally unnecessary and punitive, even if the church were in fact desecrated.  He could, of course, require such a step for absolving a local interdict.

  • If I understand the law correctly, interfering with a church service is a Federal crime.  Time to apply the law?

  • Northshore, on the surface what you are reporting sounds good.  I have to wonder, though, what sort of price will be paid to make this happen?  It’s hard to believe it will be a free ride, as you seem to be indicating.  It does sound like an awful lot will be riding on the shoulders of student athletes.

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