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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