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Christine Roussel, a member of ARCC and former ARCC Board member
and Editor of ARCC's newsletter ARCC Light, has been so troubled by the
parish closings in the Boston area, and especially the plight of the parishioners of St. Albert the Great, that she wrote a couple of long letters to Archbishop O'Malley in October 2004.  She received no response from the Archbishop, and has now, especially in light of the November 13, 2004 VOTF meeting at Worcester, MA,  authorized ARCC to publish the letters in the ARCC website as examples of what ARCC members might be able to do.


From: Christine M. Roussel <rsvpcmr@juno.com>

To: kaye_woodward@rcab.org

Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2004 08:33:14 -0700

Subject: For Archbishop O'Malley -  Confidential

Dear Archbishop O'Malley,

Like many American Catholics, I am increasingly dismayed by the situation

of Catholic churches closing in the Archdiocese of Boston and especially

by the plight of those churches, like St. Albert the Great in Weymouth,

which obviously and strenuously do not wish to close.

As a professional historian, I have recently been researching the history

of ownership and incorporation of Church property in the United States. 

It is a history filled with contention and disagreement.  There is, 

however, one very clear statement of the wishes of the Holy See that is,

in my opinion, relevant to the situation of St. Albert the Great.

On July 29, 1911, after a petition of the American bishops to the Holy

See for guidelines on incorporation of Church property in the United

States, given the problems arising from the variety of states' laws, the

Congregation of the Council gave the following instruction as coming from

the See of Peter:

"1. Among the methods which are now in use in the United States for

holding and administering church property, the one known as Parish

Corporation is preferable to the others, but with the conditions and

safeguards which are now in use in the state of New York. The Bishops,

therefore, should immediately take steps to introduce this method for

handling property in their dioceses, if the civil law allows it. If the

civil law does not allow it, they should exert their influence with the

civil authorities that it may be made legal as soon as possible. 

2. Only in those places where the civil law does not recognize Parish

Corporations and only until such recognition is obtained, the method

commonly called Corporation Sole is allowed with the understanding that

in the administration of ecclesiastical property, the Bishop is to act

with the advice, and in more important matters with the consent, of those

who have an interest in the premises and of the diocesan consultors, this

being a conscientious obligation for the Bishop in person.

3. The method called in fee simple is to be entirely abandoned."

From Bouscaren et al in "Canon Law: A Text and Commentary" (Milwaukee,

1963), pp 805-6.  

These three paragraphs are the heart of the Letter of Instruction.  The

entire text can be found at

http://arcc-catholic-rights.net/1911_vatican_directive.htm.  A PDF

version is at http://arcc-catholic-rights.net/1911_Vatican_Directive.pdf.

 There, for your convenience, the Latin and English texts are side by

side for easy comparison.  The New York State law referenced in the

Vatican letter will be posted at both sites within a few days, but I

would be happy to send you a reliable copy of the text before that if you


Thus, the intent of the Holy See is quite clear:  even in the situation

giving the Ordinary the greatest legal power over parish property, i.e.,

the corporation sole, which is the arrangement in Boston, the Ordinary is

reminded in no uncertain terms that his civil ownership is a legal

fiction.  In all important matters pertaining to the parish property, the

bishop must have the *consent* of the people most concerned, i.e., the

parishioners. This is even specifically made a matter of conscience for

the Bishop.  You most certainly do *not* as of now have the permission of

the parishioners of St. Albert's to close their church.

Some canon lawyers claim that the 1911 Instruction is no longer in effect

because it is not specifically referenced in the American versions of the

New Code of Canon Law as it was in the 1917 Code.  

One would, however, be hard pressed to argue that its spirit no longer

holds.  Further, it would be difficult, if not dangerous, for the Church

to try to argue that it is or wishes to be less attuned and responsive to

the will of its members in non-dogmatic matters which so intimately

concern them than it was almost 100 years ago.

Even more seriously, the Archdiocese of Boston has not followed its own

guidelines in its decision to close St. Albert the Great.  These

guidelines (published at

http://www.rcab.org/Parish_Reconfiguration/HomePage.html) cite changing

demographics, leading to declining attendance at certain parishes; aging

physical plants requiring extensive repairs or expensive upkeep from

diminishing resources; and a decease in the numbers of Boston priests and

their increasing mean age, requiring a redistribution of priests to the

parishes most needing them.  

St. Albert the Great does not fit any of these criteria.  Its physical

plant is in excellent condition; it has no parish debt - indeed, it has a

healthy bank account; it is a vibrant, growing parish, and it gets by

with one resident priest.  One cannot help wondering if its active Voice

of the Faithful chapter and the fact that its pastor was one of 58

signatories to the December 9, 2002 priests' letter requesting the

resignation of Cardinal Law might not have weighed heavily against its

staying open.  Further, Father Ronald Coyne, a senior pastor in the

Archdiocese,won't even be getting a new parish; he will become a

replacement priest, shuttled around the Archdiocese to allow others to go

on vacation. Questionable use of a man of his experience, unless the

intent is to make him an object lesson.  In the same vein, it appears

that the other four parishes in Weymouth, and God knows how many others

in the Archdiocese, have deemed it advisable not to let St. Albert's VOTF

chapter meet on their premises.  The Archdiocese seems to have solved a

number of non-financial problems with this closing.

The argument is being made that Weymouth cannot support five Catholic

churches and that St. Albert's has no school, making it the logical

church to close.  Why not turn those facts around?  Since St. Albert's

has no school and only one priest, why not give its parishioners the

choice of keeping their church open *if* they find a priest not presently

employed by the Archdiocese and pay his salary and benefits?  That would

relieve the Archdiocese of the expense of a priest and keep St. Albert's

contribution to the Archdiocese coming in.  This would be a reasonable

compromise, allowing both sides to save face.  I must make clear that the

above is my idea only.  It has not been suggested to or by anyone at St.

Albert the Great.

Archbishop, you inherited a difficult situation in Boston.  The policies

of Cardinal Law and his auxiliaries of hiding clerical abuse of children

by his priests by many different and legally, let alone morally,

questionable, means, thoroughly discredited the Archdiocese. You created

a great swell of goodwill by putting a rapid end to the lengthy

negotiations and legal struggles of the Archdiocese and the survivors of

clerical abusers.  You seemed to be responsive to the desire of the

people of greater Boston for reconciliation.  Please, keep that goodwill

growing by making some reasonable compromises with solvent and vibrant

parishes like St. Albert the Great.  Your present position, or that of

the people around you, is pushing these People of God toward schism, not

because they want it but because they have been singled out arbitrarily,

and now the Archdiocese does not want to change its mind for fear of

setting a precedent. *Set* a precedent, for being creative and working

*with* the lay People of God instead of trying to rule over them.  The

days of "because I say so" are long over in the U.S.  It might still work

in a few mission areas but it no longer works here.  

Pope John XXIII told us to read the signs of the times.  The signs of

these times all over the educated, industrialized West is that people are

voting with their feet, saying they will not stay where they are treated

like sheep.  Your duty is to the People of God, all of them.  Please do

not sacrifice justice and the future of the Church for a short-term

financial gain for the Archdiocese.  The price is far too high.

My prayers are with all the people of Boston and with you.


Christine M. Roussel, Ph.D.



From: Christine M. Roussel <rsvpcmr@juno.com>
Thu, 21 Oct 2004 00:18:18 -0700
To Archbishop O'Malley - Confidential

Dear Archbishop O'Malley,

I would like to add my voice to the praise and encouragement expressed in
yesterday's editorial in the Boston Globe ("Reviewing Parish Closures,"  Boston Globe, 10/20/04).   It is never easy to admit publicly that one has made a mistake, or not handled a situation or group of decisions as well as possible, but it is the mark of an open, honest, thoughtful and caring leader when he is willing to do so.

It was my belief that you possessed these qualities that led me to write to you about the parish closings in the Boston area two weeks ago, and that leads me to write to you again today, first to congratulate and thank you for your creation of the review committee and postponement of some planned closings (St. Bernard and St. Mary of the Angels) and second, to ask you again to reconsider the closing of St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, St. Anselm in Sudbury and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in East Boston. I must say at the outset that I am most familiar with the particulars of St. Albert the Great but I think that much of what follows could apply to St. Anselm and other parishes as well.

Archbishop, the passion, organization and constancy of the assertion of life and identity at St. Albert the Great demonstrates that this is a parish community, a locus of the People of God. Some of the parishes closed or merged under the plan of reconfiguration recognized, however sorrowfully, that it was indeed time, that they were no longer self-sustaining units. St. Albert the Great parish examined itself and decided quite emphatically that such was not the case there. They are a community, vibrant and growing. Indeed, they are the kind of community the Church wants and wants to encourage and sustain. The question is how.

I made one suggestion in my letter of October 5, that St. Albert's be allowed to hire and pay its own parish priest so as not to be a drain on the limited manpower of the Archdiocese. If that is not acceptable, why not try a system that has been used successfully in many dioceses and allow St. Albert's to share the sacramental services of a priest with a neighboring parish?  St. Albert's healthy income and healthier spirit makes it quite likely that it could organize itself to be administered by paid laypeople: an administrator, pastoral associate or faith formation director, and whatever other personnel are needed. A priest shared with another parish could say one or two weekend Masses and perhaps rotate weekday Masses with lay-led Communion services on the other days. Some arrangement could be found to provide Confession and priestly counseling as needed in a neighboring parish. The level of commitment demonstrated at St. Albert the Great makes it an excellent candidate for this kind of arrangement. If attendance and participation declines markedly or if, God forbid, the parish administration falls into disarray, it will be a signal that the original recommendation of closure was correct, and it can be carried out. In the meantime, during a trial period of perhaps five years or so, St. Albert's would be a contributing parish of the Archdiocese.

Archbishop, some advisors might tell you that to revise your decisions on St. Albert the Great and St. Anselm and perhaps other parishes would be signs of weakness. I disagree. Rather, it would be indicative of thought and reasonableness, of a careful reading of the signs in your archdiocese, and I think it would be viewed as such by the people of Boston. The people of Boston and the media want to support you, want to believe in you and follow you. They are waiting for an honest, open, loving, spiritual leader who will work with them rather than try to rule over them from a pseudo-Olympian height.  Be that leader, lead with your heart as well as your head, and galvanize the hearts and heads of the loyal but badly burned Catholics of Boston!

The vitality and love of the Church demonstrated in the actions of the parishioners of St. Albert the Great, St. Anselm and yes, even in the Council of Parishes are the Catholic Church of the 21st century. I venture to predict that if you recognize and provide caring, cooperative leadership to *that* Church, it will follow you and assist in the rebuilding of the Church of Boston.  Please, be the sign the Holy Father appointed you to be and help move the Church into the 21st century.

My prayers are with the people of Boston and with you.

Christine M. Roussel, Ph.D.

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