Parishioners engaged in a nine-year-long fight to save their church in Scituate say they will file one final appeal to the highest Vatican court, after losing yet another round in their effort to keep the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston from shuttering the parish.
The members of St. Frances X. Cabrini, who have held vigil at the church since 2004, say they are still optimistic, after their appeal to a lower Vatican court was denied on June 13.
“We will honor a promise made at the inception of the vigil to use all recourse available,” said Jon Rogers, a spokesman for the group.
Church officials in Boston said the standoff will have to end, one way or another.
“The archdiocese has been extremely patient and believes that we really are at the end of the line,” said Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. “This is not helpful for the wider church, for the community, for parish life.”
Donilon said that while the church hopes to resolve the disagreement peacefully, it will consider other ways to end the conflict and moving on with its plan to sell the Scituate property.
“We’re not going to allow it to go on forever,” he said. “The next question is how will you end it, but we will work for a peaceful and prayerful resolution.”
He added: “The cardinal is a man of peace. He’s not interested in dragging people out of a church. But I’ll never say never.”
Donilon said that it is understandable the parishioners have mourned the loss of their church, but that the vigil and obstinacy of the group show a lack of understanding for what the remainder of the church community is feeling and attempting to do.
“The vast majority impacted by the parish closings have moved on to welcoming parishes,” he said. “They weren’t thrilled about it, dancing with joy on the streets; they were upset, but they understood or at least accept that in order to be actively participating in the church you need to be part of a parish.”
The group at St. Frances X. Cabrini maintained they are merely following the church’s process. Even if the Vatican ultimately rules against them, the parishioners said, they are prepared to carry the fight to the end, even at the risk of arrest.
“We’re exhausting every level of appeal until it’s exhausted, and we will cross that bridge when we get to that ruling,” said Rogers’s wife, Maryellen, also a member of the parish group. “If they don’t even consider us for buying the church, we will consider civil action based on discrimination.”
Jon Rogers said his group was disappointed its appeal to the Congressio of the Apostolic Signatura was denied, noting that other parishes with similar appeals have had a 75 percent success rate. In 2011, three churches in Western Massachusetts and nine in Pennsylvania won appeals. In 2012, 13 more were reopened in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Scituate parishioners said they are left with no other option than to file the final appeal to the Vatican Supreme Apostolic Court, the church’s Supreme Court equivalent.
The Supreme Apostolic Court consists of five to six judges and meets twice a year. Though the court is most likely to meet in November, Rogers said the court calendar may be too congested for the appeal to be put on the schedule, and the wait may be longer.
The parishioners are seeking to reverse a 2011 decision by the Boston archdiocese to deconsecrate their church, which changes the building from a place of worship to a secular space.
Church law mandates that deconsecrating occurs before churches can be sold. The archdiocese has long sought to sell the church to consolidate, prompted by dwindling collections and minimal attendance.
Already, the church has sold off the rectory on the property, in early 2012.
While the appeal process churns through another round, Rogers said, the parishioners will continue to maintain a presence at the site.
“Our struggle began over nine years ago, and we will stay steadfast on this journey,” he said. “The Friends of St. Frances will carry on with their peaceful and prayerful 24/7 vigil while exhausting every possible avenue of appeal. We have steadfast faith that right will triumph over wrong and this grave injustice.”