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Issue Date:  March 7, 2008

Vatican supports Boston area parish closing

BOSTON -- A Vatican ruling that backs Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s closing of a Lowell, Mass., church doesn’t bode well for other area parishioners appealing the archdiocese’s decisions to close their parishes.

The Vatican’s top appeals court, called the Apostolic Signatura, has rejected an appeal from parishioners at St. Jeanne d’Arc parish that claimed O’Malley had violated canon law by closing the church, The Boston Globe reported Feb. 26.

The ruling supported O’Malley’s decision to close the church, one of dozens of closures begun in 2004. Five of the parishes have been occupied by parishioners for at least 40 months.

The decision upheld the authority of the archbishop to close a parish “for just reason” even if -- as the petitioners argued in this case -- the parish itself has a large and active following. Several parishes have appeals pending at the Vatican, and five have filed civil suits against the archdiocese.

Opponents of the church closings said they were upset about a passage in the Vatican ruling where a canon law expert said O’Malley had been given wide discretion to close churches in order to save the archdiocese from “monetary ruin” brought on by the church’s sex abuse crisis.

O’Malley has said all along the church closures were brought on by dwindling parish enrollments, fewer priests to serve them and financial shortfalls.

-- NCR Staff

National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 2008

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