St. Bob Bowers of Weymouth

St. Bob Bowers of Weymouth

For all the angst and handwringing in this editorial in the Weymouth News, you’d think they’d have bothered to get their basic facts right. They are bemoaning the case of Fr. Bob Bowers and St. Albert’s in Weymouth, Mass. The newspaper has always been on the side of the parishioners against the archdiocese when they began their sit-in protesting the parish’s closure, and so now they come galloping to their side again.

The Rev. Robert Bowers, whom the Boston Archdiocese had [sic] assigned to assist the new pastor of St. Albert’s, has been reassigned.

No, Bowers was never assigned to the parish. As Fr. Jim Clark made clear in the comments on a previous post, Bowers’ role was as a “supply” priest. He shows up on the weekends to say a couple of Masses. That’s it. The sucking up by the newspaper then continues.

The Rev. Bowers came to St. Albert’s in 2004, after the vibrant church had been pegged for closure by the Archdiocese, an action the Archdiocese pursued even though St. Albert’s had a full, active parish and was financially solvent.

So the newspaper’s editors know all. They know all about the situation of the Catholic Church in the Weymouth area. After all, it’s not just about one parish, but about meeting the needs of all the people in the region. And as was made clear from the beginning by Archbishop O’Malley, financial solvency of a single parish wasn’t the only consideration; if it were then all the inner-city parishes serving poor people would close and suburban parishes would stay open. They also use that word again: “vibrant”. It’s become meaningless and overused, like saying someone is “devout” or that “he was an altar boy.”

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • I think we are bringing these situations upon ourselves.  If Boston is anything like Chicago, (Milwaukee, Peoria, St. Louis), the (arch)Diocese seems much more to respond sympathetically when Parishes perform radically.

    Stewardship is rewarded with confiscation; orthodoxy with expulsion, Eucharistic Adoration rewarded with locked doors; soup kitchens infested with drug dealers waiting outside.

    There must be some better way of keeping parishes open than fighting it out via the secular media through press release and wild responses.


  • Whatever is the case in Chicago, that’s not the case in Boston. St. Albert’s is no hotbed of orthodoxy. The previous pastor denied the existence of hell. Yet, Holy Trinity has the Latin Mass. However these things were decided they weren’t decided by orthodoxy/heterodoxy.

  • Yes, Dom,

    I think you have hit this right on the head.

    Since Orthodoxy, The Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration hasn’t been working all that well in keeping parishes open, the church opening tactic has changed to bring in a Radical Heterodox Priest, get the sympathy of the secular media and professional protesters and keep Churches open.

    It is losing tactic for the Catholic Church, but given that the pleas of the Orthodox are ignored, it seems an awful trend that Heterodoxy is strengthened through the church closing process.

    (Incidentally, with Cardinal George the process works pretty well in Chicago.  There are many, many legitimate attempts and success in keeping Catholic Parishes as Catholic.)


  • It would seem the best way to close a parish would be to take a priest from a parish with little or no attendance (most likely because of him), and place him in a parish that is selected for closing.

    Don’t announce the closing.  Just wait until he has driven all the people out of the church.  Then closing will be met with little resistance.

    Meanwhile, you take the priest from the VIBRANT parish, and put him in the suffering parish that you need to keep open for logisitical purposes.  He comes in, Mr. Hollywood, people flock to the church, finances get fixed because people start opening their wallets, they hire professional musicians, build a school,etc…

    Problem solved.  Reconfiguration executed through natural attrition. 

    Media baffled!

  • Joe,

    I think you describe the technique, but not the motivation already in place. 

    Imagine what happens when you have the plot you described being manipulated by someone as vicious as Archbishop Weakland in Milwaukee. 

    The results are, needless to say, not ideal.


  • It is interesting.  When you look at the poorly attended parishes anywhere, it is usually because of the priest who the Archbishop chose to put there.

  • Does the Vatican ruling about parish property affect this argument at all?  Suburban parishes’ assets can’t be seized outright at a closure any more than city parishes’.  So should we understand the closing of suburban parishes as merely a matter of spreading the unhappiness around?

  • I am not convinced that the Vatican considers the official arguments put forth by Parishes against Church closings whatsoever.

    Aside from technicalities, the Vatican has in every case sided with the Hierarchy vs. the Parish, which makes it not an appeal, but a donation to a canon lawyer. 

    The principle of subsidiarity is certainly at work here. Those that are closest to the situation tend to make the best decisions rather than far off appeals, who in this case make no decision at all, as a decision implies there is some choice in the matter.


  • RC,

    The Vatican didn’t really rule on anything. It simply settled a technical discussion. Canon law doesn’t include any mention of “welcoming” parishes for closing churches, so what is the status of the closed parish’s goods. In canon law, if a closing parish is simply suppressed, then its goods revert to the diocese. If it is merged with another parish, then its goods go to the new parish. All the Vatican said was that “welcoming” parishes are merging parishes and so the closed parishes’ goods go there.

    I don’t think it has any bearing on whether or not the diocese can close a parish nor on what factors it can use to decide which ones.