Priest punished for serving closed parish

Priest punished for serving closed parish

A priest of the Spokane diocese who said Masses at a closed parish full of protesters in Boston has been told that his faculties have been revoked in the archdiocese. Fr. Tom Mele was studying for a degree at Boston College. When Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence parish in Brookline closed on October 29, 2004, he was contacted by the people and asked to celebrate Mass weekly. The parish has since reopened as a chapel of another parish.

While this may be a bit heavy-handed (I can think of other priests in the archdiocese who have done far worse and remain at the altar), Mele can’t exactly be surprised. He’s suffering the consequences of his actions. He acted in disobedience to the bishop of this diocese. What else could he expect? Hey, it makes his action more noble and self-sacrificial if there’s an actual cost.

But though the vigil is over, parishioners had hoped Mele would stay on, and many questioned removing a priest at a time when the archdiocese is citing a priest shortage as one of the reasons for closing parishes. “You have a priest like this who is willing to step in,” Healy said. “It would be great to have a priest that the people care for ... It’d be nice if they let him step up and say Mass. I don’t get it.”

For one thing, he’s not a priest of the diocese and presumably he’ll be returning to his own diocese at the end of his studies. Or not: evidently he’s the director of a veterans outreach center in the Boston area. It’s not exactly like he was going to have time to be a parish priest.