Boston Church Asks Vatican to Stop its Sale

March 15, 2011

The Boston Herald has just posted an article about how parishioners at Holy Trinity in Boston, which closed in 2008, have asked the Vatican to stop the Boston Archdiocese’s attempts to sell the church building. “Parishioners at Boston’s Holy Trinity Church, recently listed for $2.3 million, made the request Monday to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.”

We wrote about the archdiocese seeking input on the relegation to profane use of 7 other parishes, but Holy Trinity is different–they were not included in that group for some reason.  Could Jim McDonough be trying to fast-track this one so the prime South End real estate can go to one of Jack Connors’ developer cronies?

BCI has been unable to dedicate much time to following the details of this situation, but was pleased to receive this contributed piece by guest blogger, Monica Servidora. (click on any of the images below to zoom/enlarge)

Selling Off a Catholic Spiritual and Architectural Gem

By Monica Servidora

While the Archdiocese is garnering good publicity by seeking public input on the future use of seven closed churches, it also could be facing problems for bypassing Canon Law over the sale of another church.

Historical Holy Trinity Church in the South End is up for sale without going through the step of having it first “relegated to profane use.”

Former parishioners filed an urgent appeal through their canon lawyer in Rome March 14 to the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy to immediately halt the sale of this architectural gem. They also faxed a similar request March 11 to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, but have received no response.

Parishes are suppressed, merged or closed when the ordinary determines they are no longer essential to the mission of the Church.  When a church is “relegated to profane use,” it means a Church building is converted from sacred uses and will no longer be used for Catholic liturgical worship. “Profane use” is articulated by the canons, including that it either be torn down, or not allocated to “sordid use” (eg. abortion clinic, research facility for embryonic stem cell research, pornography shop).

Although Holy Trinity supporters had heard talk that the 134-year-old building would soon be sold, they were surprised March 9 to see this online “development opportunity” real estate listing at Gibson Southby’s Realty. (click on image to the right to zoom)

The beautiful neo-Gothic-style building, located on Shawmut Avenue between the Boston Herald and East Berkley Street, is selling for $2.3 million. Online photos show the turreted white altar flanked by golden angels with the now-empty tabernacle between them.

Of the nearly 70 Boston-area churches closed since 2004, Holy Trinity was the last to be closed (June 2008) and the first to have its appeal definitively denied by the Vatican Apostolic Signatura (November 2009.)

But concerned former parishioners say their last remaining right under church law (Canon 1222 sec 2) is being trampled; they’re between a rock and a hard place.

They had requested a “notice of the relegation of profane use” so they could appeal through the ecclesiastical channels: normally, to the Cardinal himself, then to the Congregation for the Clergy, and then to the Apostolic Signatura.

Parishioners sent a formal warning letter on December 27, 2010 to the Cardinal; they followed the lead of other Archdiocesan parishes whose suppressions were also upheld by the Apostolic Signatura. They “cautioned against selling the Church of Holy Trinity in Boston” without observing the canonical norms.

If the Archdiocese failed to respond within a 90-day deadline, parishioners could appeal the reduction to profane use to the Congregation for the Clergy, based on the fact of the closure of the church to divine worship since June 2008.

They cannot appeal the reduction to profane use before the 90-day deadline of March 27 expires. Yet because the property was listed for sale weeks before, this could be a moot point.

(Actually, starting back in March 2010, people had individually requested notification of  the Cardinal’s decision to relegate Holy Trinity to profane use. Vicar General Father Richard Erickson responded in May 2010 to one such letter that “His Eminence has not made such a decision,” according to one source.)

“The thought of what is planned for this Domus Dei (House of God) sickens me,” one concerned parishioner wrote to Boston Catholic Insider. “Two religious orders (the FSSP and the ICRSS), have previously expressed interest in maintaining the property and the Cardinal has showed no interest…A utilitarian understanding of ‘worship space’ seems to have been prevailed upon at least two generations of Catholics in Boston, reducing sacred architecture and the theology of the Domus Dei to a managed asset,” the parishioner said. “This has paved the way to massive church suppressions in Boston with little or no outcry from clergy or laity alike. Does anyone question the secular model of Church, currently peddled by the corporate wizards at the Pastoral Center?”

Why are the other closed churches being treated differently?

Why is the Archdiocese going through a very public survey through March 18 for relegation to profane use with other seven other parishes – getting input before the property is put up for sale, but not doing this with Holy Trinity?

In part, probably, because the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Although Holy Trinity parishioners joined with vocal Council of Parishes, they didn’t go along with the idea of vigil sit-ins or Communion services. They joined this loose coalition so Rome could have a more complete picture of the Boston church closings situation.

Those parishes now being given the courtesy of public input had sent letters earlier than Holy Trinity did to the Archdiocese warning that the “relegation” process be honored. (Their final appeals for suppression were denied in 2010.) Of the seven being surveyed, four still claim to be in vigil. And according to Archdiocesan records, the “vigil meter” to maintain suppressed churches is now up to about $1.5 million annually.

In addition, on February 1, Holy Trinity lost its tax exemption status; its first quarterly tax payments came due and were paid. (Source: http://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/search/?pid=0306170000.)

So Holy Trinity became a tax liability – but still a prime piece of city real estate. Sadly, it appears to be going the way of many other closed churches.

“When a parish is suppressed, the church is still a church because canon law requires it be relegated to profane use,” said a former Holy Trinity parishioner. “But mostly bishops up and sell them because they ignore the ‘profane use’ step. They almost entirely ignore it.”

Why?

“People have drunk the Kool-Aid,” the parishioner said. “They buy the idea that we need to sell our parish to help the Archdiocese. No, you don’t sell your house and move in with your parents because someone else can’t pay his debt. These are Christ’s churches; they’re houses of God, not to be treated like assets.”

Holy Trinity was designed by noted architect Patrick Keeley. A massive 2,880-pipe organ dominates the loft; the church can seat 1,200.

At the highest point near the vaulted cathedral ceiling are images of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Six-foot high Stations of the Cross line the blue-and- gold walls. Above each station stands a tall hand-carved wooden statue of an apostle. These alternate with 30-foot-high stained-glass windows bearing images of Michael the Archangel and other saints.

Peering down from higher on the walls are frescoes of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and other canonized Jesuits. The Society of Jesus ran the parish from 1848 to 1961, when it was transferred to the Archdiocese.

Pictorial pages of salvation history here surrounded generations of worshippers, who could point to them as they showed their children real faces from the Communion of Saints.

Over the years, this ethnic German parish opened schools, an orphanage and a home for the elderly. In 1990 it was designated to host the celebration of the Roman-rite in the Archdiocese, and soon a thriving Latin Mass community grew.

The German-Americans and the Latin Mass group did not just cohabit the building; they bonded. Together the parish had five active choirs, including a Gregorian chant ensemble, and a contributing membership from 94 zip codes. It hosted an Oktoberfest and a Christian Arts Series that offered orchestral and choir music concerts free to the public.

But in 2008 it was closed and its assets transferred to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Commented one parishioner who’s been working through designated channels for the canonical rights of the faithful: “This is the Church that’s pushed social justice for 40 years and they’re treating their own people like this? It’s not right.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BCI has just just one thought to add to the above piece. Why did Vicar General Fr. Erikson tell the Holy Trinity folks in May 2010 the Cardinal had not decided to relegate the church to profane use, and then it appears up for sale with no further notice–just after Fr. Erikson made a big deal a few weeks ago about how important it is to consider input from former parishioners?  Last month, he said in the Globe:

“Our buildings are important to us in the Catholic faith,” said the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, the archdiocese’s vicar general. “They’re places of high honor, where many of us have experienced first communions, marriages, the burial of loved ones. Church is like another home for us, so any time we consider a use other than the sacred, it’s a very serious matter, a very serious decision.”…

“To those skeptical” that their input will be considered, Erikson said, “I ask them to put their confidence in this process, which may be unprecedented, which is designed to be thorough, thoughtful and efficient, and which was developed with sincere intent.”

It’s a very serious matter, a very serious decision.  Put your confidence in the process…which is designed to be thorough…and developed with sincere intent.

Is Holy Trinity not a very serious matter and decision?  Why should people feel the process is thorough if the archdiocese excluded Holy Trinity and moved directly to sell it?  Fr. Erikson, what gives?

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Reader Comments: Vicar General and Reconfiguration Consternation

October 18, 2010

Sometimes the comments we get from readers are so interesting and insightful that we feel they are worth highlighting as they say things better than we could have ourselves.  Several from the past few days merit greater visibility:

In Vicar General, Moderator of the Furious, we gave some background on Fr. Richard Erikson, who has parish pastoral planning and some administrative management under his limited scope of responsibility and who is rumored to want to head back to the Air Force full-time.  Here are excerpts from what one reader, “Objective Observer” said:

[Fr. Erikson] seemingly a priest with no RCAB baggage, with a Ph.D. in social Work/Counseling, and with some administrative experience in the military looked good [in 2006 as a candidate for Vicar General]. But the cardinal succumbed to the classic mistake many schools make when they make their best teacher principal. The school ends up losing a very good teacher, and picking up an inexperienced, even mediocre principal. When he tapped Erikson, the cardinal took a really good member of the presbyterate and put him in a job for which he had no preparation and, frankly, no specific competence.

Father Richard Erikson, no question, is a good and holy priest. A great big parish full of kids, working class people and elderly are missing out on a man who would be a superb pastor. So, point one is, can we afford to have him caged up on this little running wheel where he is not free to care for the people of God, as diocesan priests are called to do, and not free to manage the diocese?

My prayer for Father Erikson is that he be called back to the Military diocese as an auxiliary bishop…

Boston needs a VG who understands how the Church must work, and who cannot be hoodwinked or disabled by ridiculous pretenders like McDonough. As the months and years pass by, Boston suffers and Father Erikson suffers. An orderly transition is not possible in an upside-down diocese, so better to limit the duration of the suffering. No matter how carefully planned the transition, it cannot yield benefit under these circumstances.

Unsolicited advice to Father Erikson: Discern in prayer, attain clarity, and act on that clarity with courage in order to do God’s will. Surely then the chaos that thrives at 66 Brooks will slip into your past, and you can greet the future of your priesthood with joyful tears of consolation. AMDG

In Reconfiguration Consternation, we talked about plans to combine multiple “church” buildings into a smaller number of city/regional “parishes,” with one pastor and shared parish staff. Here is what one reader, “Larry” offered:

O’Malley recently reported to a meeting of the regional vicars that in ten years there will be 150 parishes in the archdiocese. Multiple current parishes will be rearranged to fit into the 150 final parishes. What happens to buildings will be determined locally (you can have one future parish that includes the churches and buildings of many current parishes). This is a done deal. This model of reconfiguration has been successful in many dioceses. What is key to those successes, though, is that they have had bishops who have offered strong direction, have been willing to make difficult choices, and have accepted personal responsibility for their decisions. O’Malley notably lacks any of those qualities. He’s most likely to observe the process from Ireland or perhaps the palace of his noble friends in Portugal. No doubt Bryan Hehir and Jim McDonough will be able to take masterful care of things on the home front.

This target number of parishes is consistent with what Chancellor McDonough blabbed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was published in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

So, look for an alignment of multiple “church” buildings in a city or region to be organized around one “parish” with one pastor, several priests in a rectory and shared staff. No one wants to say anything right now about any church buildings closing, lest the hysteria and protests of “Reconfiguration Round 1” begin anew.  No one wants to say how many rectories there will be, and it is not clear if the plan has gotten that far.  Look for the episcopal leadership concerns in Boston and associated ramifications to dominate the discussions and process.

Oddly and importantly, no one will want to talk about process at getting to this “150” parish number and the tradeoffs for the future health of the archdiocese.  No one is yet sharing the fact that the ratio of priests to weekly church-goers  has actually remained relatively constant over decades as the number of priests and Catholic Church-goers in Boston decline proportionally. That means that the # of “parishes” could be much lower, and probably will need to be much lower in the future.  At one time, about 70-80% of 2 million Catholics in this archdiocese were going to Mass regularly.  Now we have 1/8 that number–about 250,000 Catholics attend Mass weekly.  We will report more on those statistics later this week.


Reconfiguration Consternation

October 16, 2010

Today we continue our exclusive Boston Catholic Insider series on the next phase of parish reconfiguration in the Boston archdiocese.  Just to get new readers up-to-speed, we started with Chancellor Spills Beans to vigilers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Boston regarding future plans to consolidate parishes, we then talked in Vigil Vigilance about the ongoing church occupancies and a proven way to end them  (which no one is acting on still) that would also dramatically lower the cost to the Archdiocese of maintaining those shuttered churches, and yesterday in Vicar General, Moderator of the Furious, we gave some background on Fr. Richard Erikson, who has parish pastoral planning under his limited scope of responsibility and will apparently be a spokesperson on the plans going forward.

We offer you today two areas to ponder: Fr. Erikson’s most recent comments, and a sense for the hodge-podge of planning efforts he attempts to rationalize in his Pilot column.

Vicar General’s Most Recent Comments

Here are excerpts from Fr. Erikson’s email to priests and column in The Pilot, called “Inspired by a Man on a Mission”:

He [St. Paul] would go to the ends of the earth, and lay down his life, so that people would come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ and so that vibrant communities of faith would be established.  Two thousand years later, we are carrying on St. Paul’s zeal and mission through evangelization and mission-centered planning for our future….Accompanying these efforts, and being driven by the same mission, is a renewed comprehensive effort at pastoral planning…

The more recent planning initiatives find their roots in the 1988 Synod that established the Office of Planning and Research and the formation of clusters of parishes to begin working together to find common goals in 1994.  Our archdiocese is indebted to Fr. Robert MacMillan, SJ, Mr. Harry Foden and Sr. Mary Anne Doyle, CSJ for their generous efforts…

Continuing in the spirit of St. Paul, and with the dedicated guidance and leadership of Fr. George Evans, the 2007 Pastoral Planning Report (available at www.bostoncatholic.org, click on pastoral planning) captured various voices and perspectives and called for a “culture of planning” throughout the Archdiocese, along with an “infrastructure that can sustain effective pastoral planning at all levels.”  The work of Fr. Evans and his committee demonstrated the fact that we are at a critical juncture, a turning point in the history of our archdiocese, as our parishes are challenged by a smaller pool of available clergy, changing demographics, tighter finances, and a secularized culture.   Sr. Marian Batho, CSJ, brought the challenges and perspectives of the Pastoral Planning Report to the people of our archdiocese through a year-long process of consultations on the report.

In 2009, motivated by the recommendations of the Pastoral Planning Report and by the feedback from the consultations, Cardinal Seán hired Director, Fr. David Couturier, OFM. Cap., and Associate Director, Mr. Joshua Phelps for our Office of Pastoral Planning.  Fr. Couturier and Mr. Phelps have been tireless in assisting the archdiocese in mission-centered planning for our future.

Hodge-Podge of Planning Efforts

Readers should immediately notice the variety of people, approaches, and ecclesiologies referenced in this message. We have a hired Jesuit, a hired Capuchian, members of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and a diocesan priest known for wanting “priestless parishes” among the players.  Not mentioned was another Capuchian, Br. James Peterson OFM, Assistant to the Moderator of the Curia for Canonical Affairs, who was also briefly involved in this effort until his input was ignored.  One can only imagine the starts and stops, as well as the conflicting agendas and theological viewpoints of the participants over time.

For example, the Fr. Evans group included a very diverse group of people, some of whom have controversial histories and have been described by our sources as holding “radical” views.  They asked for comments and suggestions from just about everybody.  Aa number of people with experience in this area submitted plans or solid ideas, yet we are told that Fr. Evans either refused to share all of these ideas with the committee or failed to include all good ideas shared with the committee in the final report.  Several sources report that Fr. Evans’ goal was driving toward “priestless parishes”—an idea also backed by people he consulted with such as Fr. Bryan Hehir and Msgr. Dennis Sheehan.  Here is the Evans’ report.   You will note that it includes a potpourri of ideas for consideration but basically no real recommendations.  That is because the committee could not get to consensus on anything other than “Cardinal Sean should look into X, Y, and Z and then decide what he wants to do.”

We hear that several people submitted their disregarded suggestions to the Cardinal, and though he liked many of them and wanted to combine elements of them into one plan, that new “plan” was not the Evans report. So when the Evans report came out, it received faint, half-hearted praise. After the Evans report came out and the dust settled, in May of 2009 Cardinal O’Malley sent for his Capuchin colleague, Fr. David Couturier, and they were off to the races with yet another “plan.”

Who is Fr. Couturier?  Here is the press release announcing his appointment. As a Capuchian, he wears the same kind of brown robe as Cardinal O’Malley, and we are told he and Chancellor McDonough are not exactly drinking buddies.  Could be because Couturier comes across as having more backbone than the average Pastoral Center staffer that the Chancellor can manipulate, and he  also seems to have nothing to gain or lose from the McDonough/Connors/Hehir regime.  (Perhaps Jack Connors has had his fill of mundane parish closings after previously meddling on the Meade-Eisner commission, and he has now turned his sights toward bigger and better things, like controlling the money flow into the archdiocese and getting more property assets for BC and Partners?)  Couturier has the benefit of also being a Capuchin, and the reality is that Cardinal O’Malley tends to listen to other Capuchins, even if their ecclesiological bent is different than his own.

We know little about the other person mentioned, Associate Director of Planning, Joshua Phelps, except that he has a B.A. (2005) and M.A. in Philosophy (2007) from Boston College, has research experience, and was a pastoral associate for the archdiocese before this job.  He also somehow made it through an interview/selection process in which some combination of Fr. Erikson and/or Chancellor McDonough managed to frighten off other well-qualified candidates for the job.

Anyway, this 2009 document, “Developing a Pastoral Plan for Parish Staffing” is basically Fr. Couturier’s plan for a plan.  It says that a plan was to be submitted by March of 2010.  Such a plan has not been released publicly yet.  We do know that it was tough to arrive at a plan that satisfied his boss, Fr. Thomas Foley (the Cabinet Secretary for the Parish Life and Leadership Secretariat) and Cardinal Sean.  Even if no “churches” were to close–and some probably will–a key issue was the number of “parishes” to group individual “churches” into.  Will the magic number be in the neighborhood of 50 parishes?  Will it be more like 150 parishes?  The archdiocese wants to start rolling this out in January of 2011, and though nothing has been publicly confirmed, we have some sense for the number of “parishes” they are aiming for.  Anyone wishing to weigh-in on what you think can do so via email or comments.

Something important to note in this process–and what no one is mentioning publicly–is the demographic reality of the priest-to-Church-going Catholic ratio.  We will talk about that next time, as well as what you might expect to see going forward in the Boston Archdiocesan pastoral plans.

In the meantime, the vigils at shuttered parishes apparently continue. At $4,100/day in cost and 93 days since the Archdiocese learned the Vatican had denied the final appeal, that has cost the archdiocese an additional $380,000.  What ministry is suffering for lack of these funds because the Archdiocese lacks the will to simply do what they have proven works already?  Who is in charge of decision-making in this area?

ps. Note to Chancellor McDonough: primary sources for this post are NOT at 66 Brooks Drive


Vigil Vigilance

October 9, 2010

In our recent post, Chancellor Spills Beans, about how Chancellor Jim McDonough let slip word a week ago about a future wave of parish consolidation, we said we would cover this topic in more detail, and now that we have gotten all of our facts straight, we are pleased to resume today.

Before we get into plans for future “re-reconfiguration” of parishes, we want to answer questions about why vigils in shuttered parishes are still taking place today.  Given the total cost in the archdiocese’s annual reports for “maintaining the remaining suppressed properties” adds up to more than $10 million over recent years and $1.5 million in 2009 alone, we thought you might want to know what the archdiocese could have done previously (but did not) to end the vigils sooner, and what the archdiocese can still do today (but is not).

At $1.5 million per year in cost in the annual report (whose actual disposition we cannot yet fully determine), that comes to about $4,100 per day in expense to “maintain” these properties.  Who is it in the archdiocese that would advocate continuing to spend that money or would oppose decisive action to halt the red-ink?  Hang on a minute—we will get there.

The need to close as many as 60 parishes was publicly disclosed by Cardinal Law back in 1998 to address long-standing issues of declining Mass attendance and declining numbers of priests–well before the financial crunch and sexual abuse crisis hit the Church.  That all went on hold for several years, so by 2004-2006, Chancery people and pastors in parishes all knew that reconfiguration was essential, even though few people may have been willing to say so publicly.

Closings and Vigils in 2004-2005

Most closings happened peacefully in 2004-2005, but vigils sprang up at a handful of parishes–St. James the Great in Wellesley, St Jeremiah in Framingham, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Boston, St. Frances X. Cabrini in Scituate, and St. Therese in Everett. The vigils started in late 2004 when the archdiocese announced plans to shut 66 parishes, and these five churches have been occupied by parishioners who protested the parish closings by refusing to leave the buildings. The occupancies have been largely staffed by people who were not known to be very active in the parish prior to the decision to close the parish. (By coincidence, some of the suburban vigil protesters might just happen to have property abutting the church and just may have not kept secret their desire to avoid Chapter 40B affordable housing next-door if and when those church properties were redeveloped). The last stage possible of their canonical appeals was exhausted in July, when the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, rejected canon law appeals from supporters of nine closed parishes (five of which maintained vigils).

Why have the vigils gone on so long?  Why were they not broken up shortly after they started?  Back in 2004-05, Cardinal O’Malley was advised by pastors, lawyers, real estate people and canon lawyers to end the vigils through a structured conflict resolution process that included requiring people to leave immediately. (That did not mean the churchs would have been sold or canonical appeals denied–it just meant that occupied vigils would have ended).  There was one person who advised differently.

Fr. Bryan Hehir said that he knew more about these things from when he was at Harvard in 1969 and saw what happened during the Harvard student occupation of the University Hall administration building.  [The April 1969 protest was organized by the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) primarily over the escalating war in Vietnam,  and protesters demanded Harvard end its Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. Though the demonstrators had forcibly removed administrators and staff from the building and vowed non-violent resistance when they occupied the building, they started to air private personnel files they found inside, so in the early hours of April 10th, 1969, university administrators called in city and state police.  The cops used billy clubs and mace to remove the demonstrators, and the results were not pretty.  Note: by coincidence, we discovered that the SDS used the same “clenched fist” symbol of resistance/unity that Caritas Christi uses in their new branding and advertising, which coincidentally was developed by the advertising firm run by Jack Connors’ son, John Connors, Jr. But we digress].

Regardless, here we were 35 years later in 2004 instead of the ‘60s, with a different problem, and an entirely different generation and circumstance. We are told from several sources that the incredibly persuasive Fr. Hehir dusted off his memories from 1969 and managed to convince Cardinal O’Malley and others that the parish occupations would end of their own lack of steam within six weeks–and if another more active approach was taken, the Archbishop of Boston might end up lambasted on the front pages of the Boston Globe and New York Times.

As we all know by now, there are three things this archdiocese dreads—lawsuits, loss of money, and bad publicity.  Apparently Cardinal  O’Malley listened to Fr. Hehir, and the vigils were allowed to peacefully proceed.  We are told that Cardinal O’Malley, along with Fr. Hehir and Ann Carter of PR firm Rasky Baerlein, then drafted his November 2004 letter to everyone in the archdiocese in which he said, “At times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job.”

The letter, of course, went over like a lead balloon.  Many priests were upset because they were ready and willing to work on parish closings due to sheer necessity and were on the front lines doing so, but they did not see the commitment matched higher up in the archdiocesan food-chain. (Cardinal O’Malley tried to recover from that letter  in 2006 and 2008 Boston Globe interviews).  As we said previously, the rest of the closings ultimately proceeded as smoothly as could be expected, though some were revisited and revised by the Meade-Eisner Commission.

2010 Vigil Situation

So, here we sit in 2010 not merely six weeks after the vigils started but at six years later.  The decree from the Apostolic Signature was announced on July 15.  That was 86 days ago.  In mid-September, the Boston Globe reported that the Archdiocese was calling meetings with the vigil leaders to try and peacefully end the remaining vigils.  (Note to archdiocese: sending Jim McDonough out to Our Lady of Mount Carmel does not seem to have moved the proverbial peanut forward at all.  If the archdiocese had paid attention to the “F-bombs” the Chancellor drops in most meetings except those including the Cardinal or reached out to the anonymous bloggers here at Boston Catholic Insider, we could have told them to send someone else before they wasted the opportunity and set themselves back. Do yourselves a favor and do not have the Chancellor meet with any more vigil groups.)

What to do now?

One simple recommendation for the vigils is already in the grasp of the archdiocese.  In case Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, Cardinal O’Malley, and others responsible for ending the vigils have now been deluded by Fr. Hehir into thinking that this is still a time for putative dialogue, let this blog be on the record as saying we think that is the wrong approach.  It is time to simply say that no one may come into the building.  Anyone inside is free to stay, but no one and nothing may enter the building now.  That is how the archdiocese prevented all the attempted vigils after St. Jeremiah in Framingham started in 2005, and it is a civilized, non-confrontational, responsible way to deal with them.

The proverbial “vigil-meter” is running.  86 days at $4,100/day (based on 2009 annual report, unless the archdiocese corrects that number for us), which means about $350,000 in unnecessary cost that could be put toward the Clergy Retirement Fund or other pastoral works of the Church. (Yes, we know that some of this money is being spent on other things that we cannot wrap our hands around.  And yes, we know that the cost does not drop to zero the moment the vigil occupants leave.  But, the buildings need to be secured and the properties prepared for sale, and that all cannot happen while people are still occupying them).  We all know that the buildings could not be sold until the canonical appeals had finished, but the cost to “maintain the suppressed properties” IS under the control of the archdiocese.

In the Cardinal’s 2004 letter, he said, “If difficult decisions are not made now, the mission of the Church will be seriously compromised in the future.”   Start with the “difficult decision” to end the vigils.  Then you might want to also look at some “difficult decisions” in Cabinet leadership.  Does anyone else agree this is the time for “difficult decisions” in order to assure the mission of the Catholic Church in Boston for the future?

Best wishes for a blessed weekend.

ps. Please note an urgent prayer request.  We just received word that the young daughter of a local Catholic family has just died and been brought home to God.  Please pray for them.


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