BOSTON –– The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, has denied a request for further appellate review of a case brought by a group fighting the closure of its Catholic parish church in the Boston Archdiocese.
The Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini Inc. of Scituate confirmed the denial in a Dec. 4 statement and said that “at this juncture (they) are taking this decision under advisement with their attorney and reviewing as a community potential options and next steps.”
St. Frances X. Cabrini Parish was closed – suppressed in canon law terms – under the archdiocese’s broad restructuring plan. It was one of 70 churches that closed beginning in 2004 in a downsizing plan carried out under Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.
Archdiocesan officials cited declining attendance, aging priests and rising maintenance costs as reasons for closing dozens of parishes.
Since October 2004, St. Frances X. Cabrini parishioners have kept an around-the-clock presence in the church in the hope that various appeals based on canon law would be successful.
The archdiocese has been seeking to evict the parishioners, claiming they had no right to be on the property and filed suit claiming they were trespassers. The parishioners filed a series of motions and appeals seeking to block the eviction, but in October of this year, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals in a judgment agreed with the archdiocese’s stance that parishioners are trespassing on church property.
The group planned to seek a rehearing of their case with the lower court and petitioned the state Supreme Judicial Court to hear the case. The high court ruling was issued Dec. 3.
The Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini said in its statement that the group still has a canonical appeal pending at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. That follows a June 2014 decision by the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s highest court, to deny an appeal from the group.
The group said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley had promised “to wait until all appeals are finalized before making a move” on the group’s vigil. “(We) hope the cardinal will honor his word.”