St. Frances parishioners must leave by June 5, judge rules
Parishioners who have kept a round-the-clock vigil for more than a decade at a shuttered Scituate church must vacate the property by June 5, a judge ruled on Friday.
The ruling in Norfolk Superior Court from Judge Edward P. Leibensperger was the latest setback for those keeping the vigil at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church.
Earlier this month, Leibensperger ruled after a one-day trial that the parishioners, who have occupied the church for nearly 11 years, had to leave by Friday. That ruling was the product of a lawsuit filed in March by the Archdiocese of Boston, which asked a judge to intervene after the highest Vatican court, the Apostolic Signatura, denied the vigil group’s appeal to keep the church open.
But the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the group holding the vigil, asked Leibensperger to suspend his order while their appeal is pending in the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
Leibensperger rejected that request on Friday and set a new deadline of June 5 at 5 p.m. for the parishioners to leave.
He wrote in the ruling that “the greater community’s interest is harmed if there is not timely enforcement of established principles of property law and the peaceful resolution of property disputes by the court.”
Leibensperger also denied motions by the vigil group to bar the Archdiocese of Boston from selling the land or dismantling the church, and from interfering with the group’s use of the property while they appeal.
The judge said that the Friends of St. Frances have shown “a misapprehension of legal process and a stubborn refusal to accept the reality of final decisions of the courts.”
The archdiocese declined to comment on Friday, since the case is still pending.
Mary Beth Carmody, a lawyer for the vigil group, said they plan to appeal Leibensperger’s latest ruling but declined further comment.
Maryellen Rogers, a spokeswoman for the vigil, said in a phone interview that her group is “just staying faithful, 24-7.”
Asked if the group will comply with Leibensperger’s order to leave the church if their appeals fail, Rogers said, “I can’t answer that. I have to get through the day. ... We will exhaust every level of civil recourse. We need to exhaust every level of appeal.”