Rad Trads set up shop in closed Catholic church

Rad Trads set up shop in closed Catholic church

A schismatic Traditionalist group is leasing a closed church in Lawrence, Mass., from the company that bought it from the Archdiocese of Boston. The Willing Shepherds of Jesus Christ, a self-described “chapter of the Third Order of St. Dominic,” has leased the former Sacred Heart Church from ETC Development Corp., which bought the property from the archdiocese last May.

The archdiocese is understandably concerned about this development:

“We’re very concerned for the Catholic faithful up there,” said Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. “They are not a Catholic organization.”

The concern would seem to be borne out by the reaction of some of the former parishioners of the closed church:

“I think it would be something good for our church if it reopens,” said Irene Potvin, a longtime member of Sacred Heart. “God will be in our church again. It’s better than having it empty.”

The Willing Shepherds are sedevacantists, positing that the last valid successor to St. Peter was Pope Pius XII.

I thought the archdiocese included a codicil in all its purchase-and-sale agreements for church properties that prevented the churches from being used for purposes inimical to the mission of the Catholic Church. Based on recent examples of the eventual disposition of some churches, apparently not.

A similar situation happened in Salem a few years ago when St. Mary’s Italian parish closed. The property was purchased by the Salem Mission, a homeless shelter affiliated with Crombie Street United Methodist Church, but they rented out the church itself to an “Apostolic Catholic” group, schismatics at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. pro-gay, pro-married priests, pro-whatever. However, that arrangement ended quickly, I think because the archdiocese did have a codicil in that P&S agreement and enforced it. Hopefully they had one in the sale to ETC Development.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Any lawyers out there? Is a codicil possible in property transactions?

    Or asked another way, is it possible to restrict a property’s use once the deed is transferred? It strikes me that once property ownership transfers… How could you sell a property and retain any control over subsequent owners of that property? How many generations of ownership would something like that last for?

  • Why the flap over the “Rad Trad” takeover compared to the Springfield church being turned into a mosque?  Sedes are worse than pagans one must presume.

  • Having once been a consecrated Church though, isn’t it preferable that it be used, and owned by a true church?  By church I mean a group, schismatic or not, that has valid Eucharist? 

    The fact that this group is schismatic, doesn’t seem to necessarily place them against the Church, rather they are simply in error as to a certain fact, i.e. that John XXIII and his sucessors are valid Pope’s. 

    I say this in light of the fact that many Churches have been turned into condos and restaurants, etc. 

    I think that I would prefer to have a valid liturgy being celebrated in the place than having the place remain empty.  I mean in Rome if we can let Rowan Williams celebrate “pretend mass” on the consecrated Altar of Santa Sabina, and give a number of small chapels to protestant groups who otherwise would not have them, then it seems like we should be willing to grant a place for worship a group of tradies, or orthodox, etc. definitely before we sell the property to a land development company or tear it down.

  • It’s been quite a while since I studied property law, but it is called a “covenant which runs with the land,”  which means that it is binding on all future title holders of the property.  A good example is an easement of access.  Restrictions on use are not uncommon.  My apartment building is selling ground floor space right now and I understand there is a long list of specific types of businesses that no owner may ever operate in that space.  Obviously such a restrictive covenant affects the market value.  I would imagine the covenant needs to be fairly specific to be enforceable.  “Inimical” sounds rather broad to me, and I wouldn’t want to be involved in a lawsuit trying to determine if an “R” rated moviehouse (for example) is inimical to the Church’s mission. Perhaps the deeds themselves are specific.

  • This situation could have been avoided if the
      archdiocese had established a traditional
      parish,similar to Mater Ecclesia in New Jersey,
      or in invited the Fraternity of St. Peter or
      the Institute of Christ the King to establish

      Incidentally,there is another sedevacantist
      group within the archdiocese which appears
      to be attracting followers. When people are
      ignored by their shepherds, they will look
      elsewhere. Although I can sympathize with the
      frustration which drove people to embrace these
      groups, I cannot agree with their actions. I
      pray they will one day return to the Church.

  • “One question I would have is, aren’t all other churches ‘inimical’ to the Catholic Church to some degree?”

    An excellent question.  The obvious answer, with the “to some degree” qualifier, is absolutely yes. 

    Now, whether that would impede another non-Catholic religious organization from using the property is another question. 

    Would a codicil of the type Dom described be included in a quitclaim deed upon transfer?  If so, it should be in the North Essex County land records.  It might make for interesting reading if it’s there.

    I did a quick on-line search of the land records for May 2006 (the month the property was sold, according to the linked E-T article), but nothing came up for the church’s address.  Hopefully, someone has better luck than I.

  • …and the beat goes on in the Archdiocese of Boston.

    We have a Cardinal who has never seriously considered pastoral needs of traditionalist Catholics who is seemingly bent on shutting down Holy Trinity Church (HTC), an important part of our physical patrimony as Catholics despite our pleadings. All we seem to experience is a general lack of pastoral solicitude and general disinterest in the role Houses of God continue to play in an increasing hostile culture, only to minimize there role to a generic “worship space” to facilitate his reconfiguratrion.

    The Cardinal despite his physical proximity (a few blocks) to HTC, has never had the decency to even darken our door…even in unannounced manner. In fact its my understanding that he recently visited “Bridge over Troubled Waters”, a home for troubled young people, in the former HTC Rectory. When asked if he had any interest in seeing Holy Trinity’s interior, he simply responded, “No”. So much for pastoral solicitude, at least as far as the concerns of HTC’s parishioners.

    Maybe I’m just “sour grapes”. I get the feeling the Pilot and his Blog are very careful to cultivate an impression “Cardinal Sean” is very accessible, very low key and has an interest in the down trodden. Personally, I have found him less accessible than Cardinal Law in the mid-90’s, who only seems to communicate through his inner circle unless there is some advantage.

    Since 2003, we have continually stressed the importance of a dedicated apostolate for the Faithful who seek out the richness of Classical Roman Rite and Sacraments, to both stem the exodus and general growth of schismatic groups, particularly sedevantist error and attract newcomers. What has been the answer?…

    One of dozens of replies:
    “Please know the Archbishop has received requests similar to your’s in the past and has consistently responded that in accord with the request of Ecclesia Dei the archdiocese of Boston provides the celebration of Mass in the Tridentine(sic)Rite and has qualified priests to celebrate this Mass. It is not the intention of the Archbishop to begin a Tridentine(sic)Rite parish, thus at this time he does not envision the necessity nor the advantage of inviting priests from either of the two groups (FSSP & ICK) that you mention to the Archdiocese as we can provide for the celebration of the Mass on a weekly basis.”

    Most Reverend Richard G. Lennon
    15 Feb 06

    There you have it, one of dozens of boiler plate responses received from the Chancery that continues to dismiss the general aspirations of the Faithful. I never cease to be amazed that our hierarchy thinks this is solely a liturgical issue with never any consideration of a legitimate need for parish life born out of the Classical Liturgy.

    FYI, I understand that the CMRI chapel in Woburn has now more that 300 people attending on a Sunday. Most Sundays we see between 200-250 at HT. Now why the flap and astonishment over Sacred Heart? Maybe the RCAB will get the hint.

  • Right on Robert!  “Cardinal Sean” could have preserved at least two of his most historic (and now shuttered) parishes had he only invited the FSSP or the ICK into his diocese.  What a tragic waste!

  • I think the reason the archdiocese is upset about this is because the group represents itself as the “true” Catholic church. This group believes that all Novus Ordo masses are invalid, most priests ordained after 1970 are not validly ordained, and that there has been no pope since Pius XII died.

    Muslims do not pretend to be the True Catholic Church. While Protestants may claim to be the “true” church in some corporate sense of the invisible body of Christ, no protestant church is going to say that they are the true bearers of the teachings of the Church of Rome.

    Finally, I agree that marginalizing Catholics who prefer the more traditional rites only helps groups like this. It is too bad. That being said, I can see how a chancery employee could think little of traditionalists when they can only turn out a couple of hundred people for one mass a week. They ignore the impact of these people on the church and focus on the numbers. 200,000 at NO masses each weekend vs 300+ at Holy Trinity. Not that I agree with this kind of reasoning, but I understand it, in any case. If one looks at the numbers alone, it is hard to make a solid case that there is an even moderate demand for the Tridentine Mass in Boston. Add that to they general impression among many that traditionalists are grumpy rubricists and you do not have a formula for success in swaying the archdiocese.

  • How would you know that these loons have “valid but illicit” sacraments?

    I’d like to know what state of mind is necessary to believe that the Pope isn’t Pope and that the entire Church is in schism and heresy rather than one’s tiny group. The only “good” thing is that those ultra right wing groups left the Church, while the ultra lefties stayed and have been doing damage internally.

  • Michael et al:

    The RCAB has been warned repeatedly about this problem and has chosen to ignore the existence and potential growth of such groups. This was particularly dismissed out of hand by the Cardinal and Bishops Lennon and Boles in particular. Meanwhile the legitimate need for Parish life that includes formation and traditional spirituality outside of Holy Mass goes ignored. Sadly, many souls choose the path of least resistance rather than informed discernment. While the ultimate responsibility is in individual free, I attribute much of the responsibilty of the loss of Faith with our Shepherd’s silence and/or inaction.

    As a member of the Indult community since 1994, we were directed for many years “not to advertise” by Msgr. Fred Murphy and Bishop Boles. How does this fly in the face of the New Evangelization? Do we share the same responsibility and dignity of other Catholics? Of course! Yet this is but one example that needs to see the light of day before the RCAB can complain about Sacred Heart? Does the RCAB complain about the missionary activity of the CMRI in East Boston and the North End, among unwitting Catholics starved for the Faith of their forebears? What of the steady defections in the Indult community by those simply worn down?

    The day Cardinal O’Malley starts showing some genuine pastoral concern for a faithful portion of his flock, I may be swayed in my view point. I honestly think schismatic groups will continue to flourish until he makes a concerted outreach. Inviting the FSSP or ICK to foster parish life could go a long way forming and reforming many souls lost in sad confusion and spiritual abuse.
    The reality of the RCAB solution at HTC revolves around a dwindling rotation of aging priests (except Fr. Charles Higgins) in ill health and the steadfastly refusal to several young priests who have expressed interest in assisting, despite personal initiative to learn the Rite. Involvement most assuredly spells political risk and retaliation from the chancery. The RCAB trajectory is a self fulfilling prophecy of institutionalized decline.

    This brings me to wonder and reflect…
    John 10:11-18

    Salvation of Souls: Not a Numbers Game    
    Luke 15:4-10

  • To keep the record straight, these folks are not part of the Order of Preachers also known as the Dominicans. The Eastern Province of the Dominicans have many “Third Order Chapters” but these folks are NOT part of those chapters. There has been a recent change of the name of the secular branch of the Order to Fraternties of St. Dominic.  I mention this so that any readers who see “Third Order of St. Dominic” will realize that the real Third Order (Fraternities of St. Dominic) are NOT part of this sedevacantist movement.

  • I think it’s better than St. Anselems parish in Sudbury, being taken over by radical lunatic lefties who filled the taberancle with sunflower seeds while the bishop did nothing.

    My neice who was baptised, and confirmed there, is now getting married in the Old North Church by a “minister” of some kind. None of us can go to her wedding and many of us blame members of the Church for permitting the liberalism of that parish to distroy her faith.

    I am sorry for the traditionalists.  I knew a family who tried and tried and tried to stay but the secular rock music,  heresy and lunacy was too much for them and they broke.  They suffered a great deal as they had seven children and one had a brain tumor at age five.  Still, they pray the five decade rosary every day and want very much to love and obey God. They were a beautiful Catholic family and I can’t help but believe that members of the Church are somewhat responsible for them leaving. 

    I am sorry that Catholic Church property is being used by schismatics, but you reap what you sow.  The Boston Archdiocese should expect much worse.


  • It’s sad, and it’s a violation of our rights as Catholics, but sometimes diocese officials force good Catholics to not only shop around for parishes, but for dioceses!

  • If I own a shoe shop, “Fox Shoes,” on the corner of Main and High Streets, one of many such stores; and I close that store, while keeping others open, suppose a coffee shop opens there. No problem. Suppose another shoe store opens, called “Bettinelli’s Boots”; some problem. Suppose something called “Fox’s Shoes” opens up. That is a problem that would concern me, the more the store seems to be one of mine.

    While it is probably valid to say that bad liturgies made this problem worse, I doubt it is valid to say this wouldn’t happen if ____ had been done. There have always been sects and schisms, from the time of the Apostles! Notice, after all, how many sects there are calling themselves “traditional”!

    That doesn’t mean I like the idea of a Catholic church ever closing; but they do close, even in the best of circumstances. Sometimes people forget why they close; as if the bishop just up and did it, on a whim.

    They close because:

    * Not enough priests
    * Not enough people
    * Not enough money (especially with older properties)

    Here in this diocese, and many others, we are avoiding parish closing by having a pastor over two, three and four parishes. There is a move to have laypersons “administer” parishes in the day-to-day absence of the pastor. There is even talk of having Sunday Word-and-Communion services, in lieu of Mass. In my judgment, these “solutions” are fraught with mischief; but in fairness, part of the reason they arise is because (a) closing parishes is so traumatic and (b) we do want to keep a Catholic presence in that community and (c) this keeps our options open for the day when we have more priests.

    I don’t know why the archdiocese (there or here) doesn’t invite outside priests, such as FSSP. With foreign priests, the concern is that the cultural issues will create many problems.

  • Question from this post-1963, NO Catholic: I’ve got FSSP, and of course RCAB, but what are CMRI and ICK (unfortunate one, that)?  Some of these postings are like government documents…all acronyms.

  • It appears once again that we are ready to welcome every variety of pagan & savage into our midst but we want to throw bombs at other Christians.  I do not understand.  I have never understood.

    Why do we treat other Christians so much worse than we treat animists, muslims, hindus, even satanists?

  • Fr. Fox,

    The lefties simply cannot believe that people don’t like their gruel, can they?

    There is no reason for “keeping their options open” when people are leaving hand over fist. Rather, they’d better figure out where the leak is and forget “keeping their options open.” 

    As someone who is outside the official politics, I can tell you where the leak is: Having a “lay parish administrator” in place of a priest is not at all Catholic.  Having lay ministers who can boss around the clergy or worse, BE the clergy is not at all Catholic.  And having bishops who don’t know what they’re doing AT ALL may be Catholic but it’s the worst part of being Catholic, as any Catholic from the middle ages on knows.

    If it comes down to pick-your-own (which it is coming to—thanks to the progressives who constantly ridicule the church & her policies), most people won’t pick somebody liberal, vice-ridden, bitter, wacked-out or power-hungry.  After all, many people choose a religion for their kids.  They have to be able to take their kids to sunday school, CCD or whatever and keep a straight face.  It involves peace at home and common sense.  Think about it.

    Instead, they’ll pick an nice clean eastern priest (ala Rod Dreher), an earnest SSPX priest or even a good biblical Baptist minister first. Or they might go New Age and forget “institutional religion” altogether (a popular choice for those who have lost faith in the church thanks to the constant political manipulation and lying we’ve been subject to—from the left—for 40 years).  Or if they are looking for more driving direction, Islam, God forbid. 

    The leftie plan has one gigantic flaw:  It requires people—people who don’t seem to be consenting as good morons (or so we have been consistently billed by the lefties) should. Unless they change their views about people quickly, they’re going to be in for a world of hurt.  Oh wait, it’s probably too late.

  • I must respond to Fr.  Fox’s statement, “Sometimes people forget why they close; as if the bishop just up and did it, on a whim.”  I agree that the bishops didn’t do it on a whim, but their gross mismanagement of so much of Catholic life led to much of the crisis that forced the closings in the first place.

    * Not enough priests –

    This is a problem primarily because the bishops allowed (or actually facilitated in some cases) a homosexual culture to take over most seminaries in America. What straight man can discern a vocation in that climate?  This is well documented and supported by facts.

    * Not enough people – People fled for the exits beginning in the late 60s and it never really stopped.  Why?  Lots of reasons, but the failure of strong bishops to show courage and shepherd their people through the crisis that continues to this day is a major factor. 

    * Not enough money (especially with older properties)”

    The failure to preach on the biblical laws of the tithe is another failure of management (bishops).  Good bishops should have instructed their priests to hone in on this major lapse of Catholics.

    All of my responses are gross oversimplifications, but my point is that the bishops (and by this I mean the vast majority of our shepherds for the last 40 years) are a major source of the problems we now face.  They didn’t close parishes on a whim, but rather on a slow destructive course they led for decades.

  • Restoration:


    Most seminaries in this country have never been “taken over” by a homosexual culture. Are you kidding me? It’s one thing to say that such a culture took root in some seminaries; but took over most? That’s ridiculous.

    “People fled for the exits beginning in the late 60s and it never really stopped.  Why?  Lots of reasons, but the failure of strong bishops to show courage and shepherd their people through the crisis that continues to this day is a major factor.”

    Have you never been in the decaying center cities of this nation, where once-thriving neighborhoods have emptied out, leaving churches empty as well? You are telling me that is the bishops fault? They’re to blame for suburban sprawl, the interstate highway system, urban removal, the riots of the late 60s, urban crime and blight?

    Gimme a break.

    “The failure to preach on the biblical laws of the tithe…”

    A Catholic over 60 please advise: I don’t believe tithing in the usual sense&88212;i.e., giving a tenth—has been a Catholic thing. That’s a Protestant thing. It’s a bit much to consider it blameworthy that bishops didn’t push something not part of our tradition.

    There are lots of reasons for lack of money, some the bishops’ fault, some the fault of those responsible for promoting economic development, some aren’t really a matter of “fault”—it’s tempting to blame someone, but sometimes, it’s not a matter of “blame.” Neighborhoods change; society changes; churches open and close. It’s a bit much to say it’s all the bishops’ fault.

  • Fr. Fox:

    I never meant to place ALL the blame on the bishops, only to highlight how many of their decisions or failure to act helped magnify the outside influences that affected the Church.  Clearly, they didn’t start sprawl or urban decay, but was there nothing they could have done as leaders to preserve our most glorious structures as vibrant centers of Catholic life?

    As to the issue of the priest shortage…it too has many causes, but I think you are too quick to dismiss the role of sexual deviancy in our seminaries as one cause of the shortage.  I advise you to read the book “Good-Bye Good Men” which details the rot in our seminaries.  Some studies estimate that nearly half the priests in America are homosexual. (This would vary by diocese, of course)  Even if it is only 1/3 though, I would call that a major problem.  Gay bishops appointed gay rectors and you can see where that leads to the acceptance of mostly gay candidates for the priesthood.

    I strongly disagree that tithing is a “Protestant” thing.  It is a fundamentally biblical directive and is all too often ignored.  The Old Testament specifically discusses the duty to give 10% of one’s harvest and the blessings that will come from doing so.

    Anyway, great response and it did give me a lot to think about.  There are many who share the responsibility for failing parishes—not simply the bishops.

  • Some studies estimate that nearly half the priests in America are homosexual.


    Even if it is only 1/3 though, I would call that a major problem.

    Still ridiculous.

    Exaggeration and oversimplification. The bishops are not our bogeymen….

  • Restoration:

    Actually, my response was a bit sarcastic, sorry about that.

    Michael Rose has his heart in the right place, and has a lot of good insights, but I believe you cannot rely on his book for an accurate picture. His method was badly flawed, and yes, I read the book.

    He reported a host of horror stories, but did nothing to quantify the problem or give context. He’d tell a stories about stuff between guys, but you couldn’t tell, from his account, if this was widespread or isolated, in the seminary where it happened. That the administration failed to take action is one thing; that such incidents equal the whole seminary being under the sway of a gay culture is something else entirely.

    Further, what he should have done, upon hearing a story like, “two guys kissed at a party, everybody saw it/knew about it” is ask other guys who were in the seminary at that time.

    You simply can’t take a story like that on face value. Stories like that you have to check, for accuracy, for one thing, and for context. Inside and out of the seminary, I have heard indubitably straight guys joke about gay stuff in ways that, to someone who is humorless or wanted to paint a picture, it could be presented very differently.

    Also, every story by a dismissed seminarian (“I was kicked out because I was too orthodox”) should have been checked; guys get kicked out of the seminary for lots of reasons they don’t want to talk about, so what are they going to say? I remember a guy who I could well imagine saying, it was because he was too orthodox; in my judgment, he was crazy. People have axes to grind.

    But if Rose did the hard work of checking these stories, he gave almost no evidence of it.

    Finally, and this is in many ways the most blameworthy, he gives no evidence in his book of giving those he accuses of mismanagement and complicity, a chance to respond and tell their side. Did he talk to these folks, too? I remember noting how many places there should have been either a comment from the rector, or a “refused to respond.” But neither was there.  If he did not give them that opportunity, that is an inexcusable failure of justice and charity.

    Now, I’m not saying it’s all lies; of course, a lot of it is true; but without context, it is impossible to assign proper meaning to it.

    Another flaw was that a lot of the stories were pretty old, from the 80s and early 90s. Only in many cases, you had to go to the footnotes to find that out; you could easily have drawn the conclusion, from Rose’s account, that they were current stories. Can you assume what was true in the 90s was still true in 2000? No, you cannot.

    Now, this’ll probably invite a lot of incoming, but I think anyone who googles the title of the book, and looks for reviews, will find many people, otherwise sympathetic to Mr. Rose, found these and other faults with his book.

  • Fr,

    I am sure you dismiss the whole matter of deviancy far too lightly.

    And the reason several dioceses have gone belly up is—tadaa—the sex abuse crisis.

    Let’s not be coy.  This problem is huge and it needs to be stopped.