Ban lifted at Newton parish

Taking another step toward restoring unity to the archdiocese, Archbishop Seán O’Malley lifted a 10 month-long ban that had been placed on Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Newton, preventing archdiocesan meetings or programs from taking place at the parish. The parish had regularly hosted such events in recent years because of its size, location and available parking.

On Sept. 16, Archbishop O’Malley lifted the ban instituted by Cardinal Bernard Law in early December 2002.

While no specific explanation had been given at the time, the decision to stop using Our Lady’s for archdiocesan functions came after the pastor, Father Walter Cuenin, planned to host a meeting of over 100 priests concerned about the archdiocese’s fundraising efforts in light of the sex abuse scandal.

"At the time the ban was put on, Cardinal Law was concerned that there were a number of meetings that were taking place there that were not helpful to the situation in the archdiocese -- with the scandal and the kinds of disruption and problems that arose within the archdiocese," explained Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese.

The ban has been a cause of some contention between parishioners, priests in the surrounding areas and the Archdiocese of Boston.

"We were hurt because, in fact, we hosted, probably more than any parish, so many activities. We were like an unofficial cathedral at times," said Father Cuenin. "When it came, it was painful but, on the other hand, it came at a very difficult time. Everybody was hurting--the cardinal as well as all of us -- so we can understand it."

After a Sept. 2 meeting with Archbishop O’Malley and priests at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Milton, Father Wendell Verrill, VF, the local vicar, sent a letter to the archbishop encouraging him to lift the ban.

According to Father Coyne, the letter communicated that the ban was a “sore spot and a point of hurt for the people in the parish.” After consultation, he said that Archbishop O’Malley decided to remove the ban because he “felt that it was time to move on, to set aside the sources of conflict and for us to move on as a Catholic community.”

Upon learning that the ban had been lifted, Father Verrill expressed his joy that action had been taken to ease this tension.

"I am delighted," he said. "I think it was a collection of miscommunications that resulted in that misunderstanding, so I am very, very happy that that situation is being cleared up."

He recognized the difficulty the ban has caused to parishioners saying, “the people of that parish have certainly labored through one of the most difficult aspects of this whole crisis.” The parishioners “really need to be encouraged in their prayer and their community life … and this will be very helpful towards that end.”

Bishop Richard Lennon, Moderator of the Curia and former apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, called Father Cuenin to inform him of the action.

"I was very happy to receive the news and I look forward to resuming as an unofficial host of so many activities of the diocese," said Father Cuenin. "I take it as a very nice gesture, a gesture of reconciliation from Archbishop Seán, and I know that the parish will be very happy to see that."