O’Malley’s new tack

O’Malley’s new tack

It seems to me that Archbishop Sean O’Malley is starting to directly address the various problems in Boston, not leaving them to fester in the hands of underlings, but moving to deal with them himself. Case in point: He has started meeting quietly with protesters at closed parishes. He’s met with people in Wellesley, Sudbury, Framingham, and Boston’s South End. (The latter is Holy Trinity where the Tridentine Mass is celebrated each week.)

But he hasn’t met with everyone. In fact, it looks like he hasn’t met with those people who’ve had a penchant for overly emotional outbursts in the media and greater than the usual wild accusations, like those in Scituate and East Boston.

The meetings are characterized as cordial and direct. O’Malley listens to the arguments, but doesn’t tell them to abandon the protests nor does he give them undue hope that he will reopen the churches. That’s significant I think.

I’ve noticed sometimes that bishops have a tendency to make soothing noises toward upset people (which to be honest is the kind of person unfortunately they have to deal with on a regular basis), telling them enough that they think they’ve heard what they want to hear. The archbishop doesn’t seem to be doing that, and I think it’s a good thing. He needs to be direct and honest, promising nothing but that he’ll listen.

  • In the 13th Century, The Mercedarians would collect alms to ransom Christians captured in trade or battle from the Moors.  Pope Gregory IX made a Holy Order, The Order of Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy out of their ministry, with a relatively clear process to rescue Christians.

    Perhaps we need a religious order to act as intermediaries to approach Cardinal O’Malley, and find out his secret wishes for these distressed Churches.  Apparently there is no criteria for closing a Church, nor any regular method of keeping one open.

    I pray for the re-introduction of 13th Century methods to rescue our Churches from their profane crushers.


  • It’s Archbishop O’Malley.

    And I for one would rather see excess property sold off so the proceeds can be used for the good of the Church than to keep nearly empty, expensive buildings open as monuments to nostalgia.

    In Europe, the governments own all the really big beautiful old churches and they exist mainly as museums today. There isn’t a single closed church in Boston that needs to be kept open as a museum.

  • My husband and I worked with him when he was still “Bishop Sean” in the Diocese of the Virgin Islands. We were always so impressed with him and fond of him personally.  At the time, our son (now grown and married) was just a pre-schooler, and whenever Bishop Sean would visit St. Croix, son would take a flying leap and tackle him, just at knee-height, which was all he could reach.  He really loved the Bishop and so did we.  We knew him to be a kind and compassionate man, and one with many excellent abilities.  We have felt sorry for him that he has had such difficult assignments since then, and that there are so many problems in Boston.  I hope he finds a way to resolve the difficulties of parish closings.

  • So Dom,

    You would be a perfect candidate to lead a group of Mercedarians to establish criteria, other than the whims of the Archbishop, for opening, closing, mothballing, or levelling Churches.

    I get the feeling that parishoners become radicalized by the mystery of the process and vagueness of the criteria, rather than the economic realities.  I haven’t seen all the Churches being closed, but the few I have seen look architecturally and liturgically significant.


  • The process wasn’t that much of a mystery. I know because I was in our local cluster’s closing committee. But yes the criteria was vague. There was little guidance as to how to decide a particular parish should be closed. And rather than people working together for the good of the Church in their city or town, it often quickly devolved into: “I want to save my parish, you want to save yours; let’s gang up and recommend his parish beclosed.”

    And in the end, the archdiocese often ignored the recommendations anyway (which is good since so many recommendations were made arbitrarily.) The process was a mess from the get go and it shouldn’t surprise anyone how it ended up.

  • Dom,

    You also mention that the proceeds from any sale will used for “good” for the Church.

    Given the poorly run process so far, how can you (and the Mercedarians) assure that the alms raised will be used for “good”?


  • Okay, your Mercederian jag was funny, but you can let it go. I can “assure” you of nothing, except what the archbishop has said all along: that there are many poor parishes without sufficient wherewithal to make the $50 million of repairs to parish buildings necessary (based on aggregate estimates for buildings in Boston alone) and thus some of this money will go toward that.

    I know that some parishes have already received money for certain needs; my own parish received funds for the food pantry that moved into our parish from a closed one and that they are now able to provide better services: i.e. they’re better off now than they were.

    In today’s Boston Herald, there’s an article about the archdiocese funding a new soup kitchen and pantry to the tune of $500,000. Based on the archbishop’s track record and his Franciscan roots, I’m betting the poor are going to be served well.

  • $50 Million seems high.  I think you hit at the heart of the issue. 

    The Catholic Church is a notriously poor money manager.  In many jurisdictions, there are various rules demanding that very few contractors perform much of the work for the Church. 

    I am personally familiar with contractors charging 40x the competitve rate for sealing a large Church; $30,000 steps installed by the Church janitor and billed by a contractor; Leaky domes that have been paid for 7 times that still leak, and the list goes on.

    The $50 Million reads to me as an assumption that the Archdiocese of Boston will mismanage any maintenance project. 

    Given the shifting of funding from sacred structure to soup kitchens (didn’t those prove ineffective about 1845?), I am betting that the Archbishop has little intentions of maintaining the liturgy.