“May We Burn Forever”

“May We Burn Forever”

[lead dropcap="yes"]The last of the church occupations in the Archdiocese of Boston is over after 12 years. The occupiers of the former St. Frances Cabrini church in Scituate have vacated the premises after a final desecration of the once-sacred space, having been given the court order to leave by midnight Monday night.[/lead]

Following the denial of their final, final, “no really this time it’s final” appeal, the occupiers led by the Rogers family left the building. The Rogers were the ringleaders behind the occupation and they repeatedly denied over the years that one of their motivations as abutting property owners was the prospect of seeing the multimillion-dollar acreage next door sold off and developed, despoiling their views.1

Rogers addressed the crowd at the sending-off party yesterday with a phrase that should send a shiver down everyone’s spines: “This is not a death, but the birth of a new church and a new way of thinking… We are the bright light our world needs, and I pray that we burn forever.” (emphasis added) I think the demonic irony was unintended.

That was followed by the announcement that they would form a new “Catholic community” church led by a man who has left the priesthood and married. and because Satan really, really wants us to know he’s behind all this, they will be meeting at the Freemason’s lodge in town.

Of course, the Boston Globe legitimizes this whole thing as if it’s possible to be a Catholic or a Catholic church or a Catholic priest, apart from the hierarchy of the Church, apart from the Universal Church. McDonough told the group, “The hierarchy has to lead, fall, or get out of the way… We are the body of Christ.”

And what do you call a body without a head? A corpse. It’s not like they are trailblazers here, despite their claims. Just ask Zwingli, Calvin and Luther. They're just the latest Protestants.

Who Decides What It Means to be Catholic

As for the Globe, I would like them to know that I identify as a Boston Globe journalist apart from their leadership, and so they have to allow me to be a Boston Globe journalist despite their requirements for being one. In other words, just because someone claims to be Catholic, to be a Catholic priest, or to be a Catholic church doesn’t make them one if they do not fulfill the requirements set by the organization they are claiming the title from. Of course, what do you expect from a society that sees a man in a dress and calls him a woman or see two men or two women and calls them married?

The Church herself doesn’t get off easy here either. Where did people get the notion that somehow they are individually the most important part of the Church? From 50 years of the Church telling them so. How many times have you heard the execrable hymn, “We are the Light of the World”, not to mention all the others I collectively label under the title: “Oh God, how great you are for creating a wonderful creature like me.” We’ve been singing about our own wonderfulness for decades now, instead of praising God.

Where did people get the notion that somehow they are individually the most important part of the Church?

Our catechesis, our homilies, our music has been undeniably oriented toward us, our needs, our individuality, all consumed with not alienating the people in the pews, which ends up alienating the people in the pews. In the past 60 years in the Archdiocese of Boston, we’ve gone from 80% participation in Sunday Mass to about 10%, so it’s not like we’ve been doing a bang-up job. But when people are more focused on buildings and making sure the comfortable familiarity doesn’t change and they don’t have to listen to homilies that are too long and aren’t asked to do more than ensure they aren’t mass murderers, this is the result. As long as we’re not asking people to be fully intentional disciples of Jesus Christ, then this is the kind of Church and the kind of Catholics we’re going to end up with.

Frankly, I’d have liked to hear less from the archdiocese’s professional spokesman and more from a pastor, a shepherd. Because the audience isn’t just the couple hundred people in Scituate or even the tens of thousands who still go to Mass in the archdiocese each weekend or the hundreds of thousands who think of themselves as Catholic but don’t bother, but every person who we as Catholics have been commanded by Jesus Christ to go out and proclaim the Gospel to, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In our fear of creating a scene over this closed parish, perhaps we’ve ended up worse off than if we’d actually done more than sat on our hands and let the lawyers and public relations people take care of it.

  1. Over they years, I’ve seen the properties described as “oceanfront” or having “water views”. I happened to drive by there today and while the ocean isn’t far away, this is not oceanfront property. ↩︎
  • This kind of attitude is why you hear us Eastern Catholics saying, “Lord, have mercy,” so much. We’re sinners, too.

  • Dear Mr. Bettinelli,
    You are just about 100% right here. Except for the part you left out: the rest of the story regarding the culpability of the Church here, meaning the hierarchy and the rest of us religious and lay people. Please don’t forget those forgotten souls whose stories surfaced almost unstoppably beginning in the early ’90’s (and before in some cases), culminating in 2004 with the arrival of Cardinal O’Malley to pick up the pieces. One tool he used to pick up the pieces, i.e., afford the clergy sex abuse horror, was to close churches and consolidate parishes, among the many St. Francis Cabrini. Of course, with active membership declining anyway for reasons you mentioned and others, the closures would have happened eventually anyway. But, without mention of those lost souls whose cries forced the issue, your explanation is sorely lacking. Their souls have been forgotten, it seems. I do commend you for speaking the truth as you did.

    • No, Maryanne, not forgotten. I’ve been writing about them on this blog for the past 16 years. But it’s a myth that parish closings was caused by the sex abuse settlements. Those were paid through loans from the Knights of Columbus and sale of the Brighton property. The parish closings in 2004 were caused by millions of dollars in deferred maintenance in urban churches whose populations had moved to the suburbs as well as a decline in the number of available priests. In the 1960s, Cardinal Cushing embarked on an unprecedented building spree of 50 new suburban parishes in a decade for his closest priest friends, even as Mass attendance began to decline. That was the seed of the parish closings in 2004.

      Yes, the scandal didn’t help as it chased even more people from the pews, but by 2002 when the scandal took off, the die had already been cast.

      I would also add that the parish closings were not Cardinal O’Malley’s project, but began under Bishop Lennon when he was apostolic administrator.

  • Dear Mr. Bettinelli, Thank you for enlightening me as to the circumstances surrounding the parish closings. I did not know and will have to take your word for it as I can’t delve into it right now. This is the first time I have read your blog, although I have met your lovely wife before in homeschooling circles. I am interested in learning in what ways the archdiocese as an official entity or Church members in particular are remembering the lost souls, the human wreckage of the clergy sex abuse. In what ways are they being sought out, arms outstretched with concern for their salvation? The payouts cost the Church dearly and did/do little to restore their aborted souls. Can you point me to some links on your blog that pertain to my concerns? Thank you.

    • I don’t think I said I have chronicled how the Church has reached out to the victims of the scandal. I am neither an official nor an unofficial apologist for the archdiocese of Boston and so that hasn’t been my concern here. You’re welcome to peruse the the thousands of distinct articles I’ve written about the scandal, but I simply don’t have the time or desire to glean such information for anyone.

  • Dear Mr. Bettinelli,

    I thought by saying that the violated aren’t forgotten that perhaps in what you have written was information on how the Archdiocese or its members are evangelizing among them. Thousands of articles is pretty impressive. I have subscribed and so I will probably have a chance to keep track of what was once my home diocese. At least I think I have subscribed. Don’t always push the right buttons. But, I can see that this is a very good blog. God Bless You and your family.