Vatican action on appealed Boston parish closings

Vatican action on appealed Boston parish closings

The Vatican has notified parishes in Boston that it will hear the appeal of two parish closings. This is not yet a reversal of the closing decisions and not a vindication of the protests or especially the sit-ins. Let’s recall that appeals by 10 parishes were rejected last January, and they simply appealed to the next highest level and this higher level—the Apostolic Signatura—will consider the appeal. This is not a victory for the appeals, but because there were some errors in other parish closings, the Vatican is probably going to go through these appeals to make sure nothing untoward was done.

This is not dissimilar to the appeal of a federal lawsuit. You lose in the federal court, so you appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals. That court can agree to hear your appeal, but it doesn’t mean it will rule in your favor. It just means that there is an ambiguous point of law that needs to be clarified.

Meanwhile, one of the parishes that was the site of protests, St. Anselm in Sudbury, which had its suppression reversed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, has been re-opened. At first it was going to become a chapel of a nearby parish, but now it’s going to be a rectorate. A rectorate is a rarely used designation, which means that it is a non-territorial church. A priest is assigned, but the rectorate is not a juridical person, i.e. a distinct “corporation” or body within the law with particular rights. All of the property of the rectorate—including all the buildings—belong to the archbishop, not a parish. The members of the rectorate are drawn from any place and all of the sacraments and normal ministries of a parish, including religious education, can take place.

St. Anselm is one of the two parishes whose appeal is being heard by the Vatican so further changes could still be coming. I just don’t think the Vatican is likely to rule against O’Malley.

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