Vatican raises questions on parish appeals, backs process

While supporting the fundamental principles and procedures behind the archdiocese’s process of reconfiguration, the Vatican is questioning the disposition of the assets of seven of the 15 parishes that filed appeals to the Congregation for the Clergy.

In an interview with The Pilot Aug. 10, archdiocesan officials said that, while the appeals are still under review, the Vatican has identified what is being described as a “difference of interpretation” of canon law.

“In the last three months we have encouraged the Holy See to respond to the recourses in Rome to bring some closure to those communities,” Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley said.

The archbishop continued, “In the course of those conversations it became apparent that they were supportive of the individual parish closings. However, they had other concerns about particular canons that were invoked in the process that we used here.”

The vast majority of reconfiguration parish closings have been implemented through a process known in canon law as suppression. In the case of suppression, which is governed by Canon 123, a parish is legally dissolved and both the assets and the liabilities of the parish revert to the archdiocese.

From the early stages of the reconfiguration process the archdiocese has said that one of the primary uses of the assets of closed parishes will be to create a fund to benefit those parishes that are unable to be self-sustaining, including many that serve the inner city or immigrant communities.

“One of the reasons the suppression canon was invoked was in order to prevent adding goods to parishes that already had sufficient capital and goods for their ministry, and then putting poor parishes together with the debt and liabilities of their neighbors,” the archbishop said.

“We have tried from the beginning to avoid that by seeing if there is a way to share human and material resources equitably throughout the entire archdiocese,” he continued.

Included in most decrees of suppression was a paragraph assigning the closing parish’s territory to a neighboring parish. By doing so, the Vatican contends, the archdiocese inadvertently invoked Canon 122 that deals with the division of parishes.

According to that canon, a closed parish’s property and bank accounts — along with its liabilities — must be transferred to the receiving parish or parishes.

“When you suppress a parish and in the decree of suppression you tell the people where they are to go, in the view of the congregation, the assets of that parish should follow the parishioners and not go to the archdiocese,” said Father J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston and close advisor to the archbishop in the reconfiguration.

“We asked how we might proceed in that case in order to satisfy their concerns and resolve these recourses,” Archbishop O’Malley said. “They suggested that we contact the pastors of the receiving parish and ask for their cooperation to cede the goods of the closed parishes to the diocese for the general reconfiguration use that had been announced and which was the expectation of all the parishes.”

Eight of the 15 parishes that filed appeals with the Vatican are not affected by the ruling either because their decrees did not specify how the parish’s territory should be allocated — such as the case of St. Anselm in Sudbury — or because they were ethnic national parishes which have no defined territory.

The seven closed parishes with appeals impacted by the Vatican decision are: Our Lady of Lourdes in Revere; Star of the Sea in Squantum; St. Francis Xavier Cabrini in Scituate; Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence in Brookline; St. James the Great in Wellesley; Sacred Heart in Natick; and Our Lady of Mercy in Belmont.

Over the past several weeks Father Mark O’Connell, assistant to the moderator of the curia for canonical affairs, has met with the pastors and finance councils of each of parishes that received territory from one of the affected parishes. In those meetings, Father O’Connell explained the Vatican’s interpretation of canon law and asked parishes for their cooperation in surrendering the properties.

Father John J. Ahern, Pastor St. Mary of the Assumption in Brookline, whose parish received the territory of Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence Parish, said he and his finance council met with Father O’Connell twice and raised several questions about signing over the closed parish’s assets.

Father Ahern said that the assets of Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence include the church and rectory properties and more than $4 million in cash.

He said that parishioners are concerned not so much about turning over the assets to the archdiocese as they about the consequences that the decision will have on further appeals of Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence.

“The initial reaction is caution,” he said. “Our main concern was, and it’s not really been answered, if we in fact did turn over all the assets, does it stop the appeals? We want to make sure the option to appeal is still there if they choose to do that,” he said.

“Clearly I think the council realizes that the needs of the archdiocese are significant,” he said. “If there’s a degree we can be of assistance, we need to be. Just because that’s what Church does.”

Father O’Connell said the archdiocese recognizes how difficult this decision is for pastors and parishes and has not set any deadline for response.

Chancellor David W. Smith stressed that parishes being asked to sign over assets will not be left without the means to absorb parishioners from closed churches.

The archdiocese has a process in place to provide financial assistance to welcoming parishes as the need arises, he said.

Despite the setback, the archbishop was pleased that the Vatican has confirmed the majority of decisions made as part of reconfiguration.

Archbishop O’Malley explained, ‘They [the congregation] are being supportive of our goals and what we are trying to accomplish. They are supporting our procedures to close the parishes and they’ve said we’ve done the consultations correctly. They are not talking about reopening parishes. As far as whether they are suppressions or divisions, on those kind of issues, we’ll need to continue to dialogue.”

Christine Tolfree contributed to this report.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...