After a nearly 11-year-long protest, parishioners fighting to defend a Catholic Church in Scituate have now appealed a court ruling which mandates vacating the church by the end of May.
Parishioners have been protesting round the clock for eleven years after their church on the Massachusetts coast was de-consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church. The vigil continued on Thursday and parishioners say that they intend on appealing all judicial decisions handed out before the ruling.
For the past eleven years, parishioners haven’t only protected their church but have also held weekly Sunday services despite their church’s de-consecration.
Representing the group is Mary Elizabeth Carmody, attorney, who explains that parishioners were faced with several decisions that “handcuffed” them at trial. Yet hope is not lost, she says. Carmody hopes that the Massachusetts Appeals Court will suspend the judge’s ruling.
The Scituate protesters aren’t the only parishioners fighting to prevent their church’s closure. In the Boston area, there are five more parishes facing similar closure orders following a controversial parish consolidation initiative in 2004.
Parishioners, how deemed trespassers, have filed motions with Norfolk’s Superior Court as one particular detail needs to be cleared up: who exactly is the rightful title owner to the land upon which the church is build?
Judge Edward Leibensperger ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Hence, any and all churchgoers were considered trespassers from that point on.
Of course, while parishioners accuse the judge of not having considered their arguments (addressing church law issues), the Archdiocese explains that these closures were caused by massive decreases in attendance.
Polls reveal that Christianity is in freefall in the United States. Since 2007, three million fewer Americans call themselves “Christian.” What’s more, there is a 3 percent drop in those identifying as Catholic.
Yet even if the numbers don’t seem all that alarming, the loss of parishioners is actually noteworthy. The Catholic Church is losing adherents faster than any other denomination. One in every four Americans who had been raised Catholic no longer identify with the denomination.
But the drop is not as evident because of the large influx of Hispanic population. The Catholic Church had been gaining parishioners just as fast as it had been losing them, so numbers remained pretty even. Yet not that the influx of new adherents is slowing, the true numbers are becoming evident.
Apart from decreases in attendance, the Archdiocese also mentions other reasons for the closures: financial constraints and shortages in priests.
Whether the Friends of St. Frances’ efforts of protecting the church will bear fruit remains to be seen.
Image Source: Boston Globe
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