Indian givers

Indian givers

Here’s another example of a lack of perspective on behalf of the people of closing parishes. At St. Mary’s in Marlborough, they’re want to be “Indian givers.” Specifically they’re angry that all the materials donated to the parish over the years are not theirs to do with as they will.

“The people here lived here all their lives, have given all this stuff, and what you’re saying is that we have no right to anything,” one man said.

That’s right, because you gave it to the Church. If you give me a crockpot for Christmas and I decide to sell it at a garage sale next year, it would be the height of bad manners to demand that I give it back to you instead. When you give something away, it is no longer yours. Most people learn that before grade school.

  • Dom, I take your point about a false sense of proprietorship (“I paid for half of a stained glass window, therefore I should have a say in who the next pastor is”).  On the other hand, there ought to be a mutual recognition on the part of donor and recipient that not all gifts are equally fungible.  If the laity make financial sacrifices in order to advance the spiritual mission of the Church, there’s a wholesome sense of indignation when the Church appears to treat her patrimony like warehouse inventory.  It hurts to see chalices auctioned off to pay lawyers to keep priests out of jail.  Of course not all gifts are sacred and not all liquidations are cynically motivated, but for all that the real spiritual pain needs to be addressed.

  • Then the good people of Boston ought to have kept an eye on their priests.  Rather, they thought it was cute when their priests made themselves out to be “cool,
    countercultural and independent of Church teaching and responsibility.  This is the payoff.  Maybe they will learn a lesson. 

    When you see a priest being swooned over, referred to by a nickname or wearing bermuda shorts in public, you best grab your wallet and hang on….

  • And reading this, it is easy to get the notion that the people who are doing the complaining thought that somehow they were “investing” in something they thought was their neighborhood property.  Some of the popular talk of the post V2 era encourages this sort of thing.  The Catholic church, unlike Protestant churches, is not a federation of independent communities. 

  • I agree that letting them auction off the chalices and altar linens to the highest bidder to pay the butcher’s bill is worthy of indignation. But to demand ownership over a parish and its property as if it belonged to you because your parents donated for it is just wrong. The sad reality that’s become apparent in this closing process is that many Boston Catholics have no real understanding of the ecclesiol and hierarchical nature of the Church; that they don’t see themselves as part of the Church in Boston, but as sort of a semi-independent franchise with primary loyalty to and ownership of their parish. To me that’s Protestantism, very clearly.

  • Agreed, Dominic. 

    But the public auctioning to pay the bills is the simple outcome of the whole parochial miscarriage of Catholic practice that occurred in Boston.  It is the consequence—there is nothing surprising here.

    Indeed, the huge focus on real estate is completely indicative of the problem.

  • We have the same problem on “our side”.  When I’m unable to make it to the regular Mass I attend, I fear going to another parish, because I don’t know what sort of heresy I might be subjected to in the homily.  This isn’t to pretend to assume that I am holier than a priest; rather, I would prefer to be able to sit in the pews and trust that the priest will shepherd well my soul.  A default suspicion of an unknown priest’s holiness, sincerity, intelligence or honesty makes Mass more stressful than it needs to be.

    In our society, we’re taught to angle for the best doctors and hospitals when we’re sick, for the best technicians for our computers, for the best mechanics for our cars, and for the best teachers and schools for our kids. 

    Many Catholics these days travel from their territorial or otherwise closest parish to attend Mass elsewhere.  While sometimes these “commuters” do so because of a particular liturgical rite, custom or language, a particular program offered, or an attachment to a community from which one has since moved, much of the time the reason is simply a preference for certain priests over others.  The parishioners at St. Mary’s and St. Ann’s may obviously exercise this option (for example to St. Paul’s Cathedral in Worcester) if they don’t like the priest at Immaculate Conception.  But it will be a burden for them, and especially for those among them who are less able to travel.  And, of course, they’re upset because they will be losing their Franciscans.

    (This is not unusual in Boston.  After King Louis XVIII named the first Bishop of Boston, Cheverus, as Archbishop of Montauban in France, 200 of Boston’s leading Protestants petitioned the His French Majesty in an attempt to get the appointment rescinded, claiming that Cheverus was an “irreplaceable treasure”.)

    Nonetheless, God is allowing them to face this burden.  By driving an hour to Boston to attend Mass at the Cathedral, they’ve proven to themselves that they have what it takes to bear this burden as individual Catholics and as a community of Catholics.  Wherever they end up, they will need to become part of that community and teach it whatever lessons they’ve learned while practicing religion at St. Ann’s.  These are the orders being given to these soldiers of Christ.