First Vatican decision on closed parishes in Boston

First Vatican decision on closed parishes in Boston

The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has rejected appeals by parishioners of 10 Boston parishes against their suppression. The announcement was made on Saturday.

Of course, it doesn’t deter those diehards holed up in the churches. They say they expected to lose this first round of the appeals process and will continue with an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura. While the Signatura has overturned suppression orders before, they haven’t overturned any in Boston and they were overturned for violations of canon law.

Whatever else they’ve done, the Archdiocese of Boston has followed canon law (generally), and the minor errors they made were corrected without invalidating the closings. The archbishop has the right to close parishes if he presents legitimate reasoning, and he is given broad discretion as to that reasoning.

“They won’t listen even to the Church”

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • They’ve got to come up with a better word than suppress, don’t you think?  What world do these people live in?  Today I watched the Mass from Sacred Heart Basilica at Notre Dame.  I watch because the sermons are usually good.  The last 2 Sundays, tho, the celebrant left out the “men” in the Creed.  It’s encouraging that you can hear the congregation say it; all you notice, like a sore thumb, is the priest’s pause between the words “for us…and for our salvation.  If they can be so concerned about that why do they use language like “suppress”?

  • JBP,

    According to the article some suppressions have been successfully appealed, but I gather that it because canon law wasn’t followed.


    I don’t think the word “suppress” comes from the same people leaving out “men.” It comes from canon law and therefore is probably a translation from Latin.

    Just checked and it’s Canon 515, par. 2. The Latin word is “supprimat.“This is directly translated and literally means “to push under” or even “to sink”, as of a ship. A canon lawyer could probably tell you exactly why this word is most effectively used above other choices.

    I don’t know why you have a problem with it.

  • Are there any winners here?  The decision of the Congregation for Clergy comes after Archbishop Sean has vacated some suppression orders on the advice of the Mead-Eisner Committe, thus vindicating, at least in those instances, the efforts of parishioners to contest the original decisions regarding parish reconfiguration as the misbegotten fruit of a flawed process.  Even Peter Borre acknowledges that the Congregation’s decision comes as no surprise, nor is it unexpected that the pastors of 10 welcoming parishes have signed over the assets of suppressed parishes to the RCAB, throwing some tens of millions of dollars into the pot controlled by the same chancery that not only allowed with impunity pedophile priests to be shuttled from parish to parish (a crime that you, Dom, have condemned) but also honored Mayor Menino (over yours and others’ objections to his positions on gay marriage and adoption). 

    When statistics show that one out of every three parishioners on average leave the Church when their parishes are eliminated, how does it serve the interests of the Church or the broader society to have more churches closed—and moe souls lost?

  • I think the statistics are suspect. How many of those people leave and then trickle back over time? Who does the study consider “parishioners”? Weekly attendees? Monthly? Catholic living in the geogrpahic area?

    The fact is that we have too many churches and not enough priests, people, or dollars to support all of them. Yes, some parishes claim to be financially viable on their own, but when you consider the whole Church of Boston it becomes different. As the archbishop said from the beginning, if you were only to close financially struggling churches and keep open ones with lots of money, then the inner-cities and poor neighborhoods would be denued of churches while suburban half-empty parishes in wealthy towns would stay open?

    How does that serve the interests of the Church?

  • Dom,

    I am not convinced that we have too many churches.  The priest to laity ratio was historically high after WW2, and has been decreasing for some years now, but is by no means historically low.

    I am also not convinced that inner-city parishes are poor.  They may not be bringing in much money, but many of them have independent foundations, and huge estates willed to them.  I am convinced that parishes in African American neighborhoods are not well attended vs. their size, but do draw a higher than average proportion of African American Catholics (vs. Irish or Polish etc).

    I think the open and close process is broken because of spending on church maintenance, real estate bubbles, and lawsuit payouts.  I keep coming back to having some less-stressed body make open/close decisions, but of course, the body (Cardinal) which owns Boston (and Chicago) Churches has the ultimate decision.

    This calls out for a plan.  Anyone have any ideas?


  • You obviously are making assumptions about Boston’s inner-city parishes. None of them have independent foundations or huge estates willed to them. Most exist solely on the donations by parishioners supplemented by assistance from the archdiocese.

    Plus, as the archbishop detailed in his initial report, churches within the city of Boston alone—never mind the rest of the archdiocese—require $50 million worth of repairs.

    Before you make assumptions about the situation in Boston, you would do well to get the facts instead. This isn’t just a snap decision made over night. This has been coming for years and every priest who has served in the inner city has known it.

  • Dom,

    You have a nationwide audience.  Pretty much the same closings are going on throughout the USA. 

    In my experience, and I have been in hundreds of churches and seen my share of repair plans and estimates, the Centralized (Archdiocese or Diocese or Metropolitan etc) repair estimates are about 600% of what is required.  However, that is the amount that is budgeted, UNDER CURRENT SPENDING PATTERNS.

    This calls out for a plan.  Anyone have any ideas how to fix this?