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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The priesthood of all believers.

Bella English has been following the closing of St Albert the Great in Weymouth, Massachusetts, for the Boston Globe. St Albert, a thriving Catholic parish led by an outspoken priest, is among the 82 parishes the Archdiocese of Boston is closing this year. St Albert's last Mass was Sunday night. English reports that the parishioners learned one of the more valuable lessons of the Protestant Reformation — and the Second Vatican Council — the hard way:

At the last Masses, a member of the parish council read a statement thanking [the Rev. Ron] Coyne for creating a family feeling in the parish and for teaching them to ask questions. "We will no longer blindly follow the mandates set down by the institution," the statement said. "We now understand that we are the church and we are followers of Christ and not the Archdiocese of Boston."

Unresolved: How many parishioners will become Episcopalians? And will Father Coyne ever be given a parish again?

("Weymouth parishioners stage sit-in to protest closing," Bella English, Boston Globe 8.31.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 31 August 2004 at 5:18 PM

Previous: 'Catastrophic success.'
Next: General Assembly, better late than never.





August 31, 2004 05:38 PM | Permalink for this comment

Very few of them will become Anglicans in my estimation. From what I have seen since most grew up believing in the one true faith thing they have a difficult time accepting a faith that really does fulfill their needs. Maybe in a generation or two.

As for Fr.Coyne the diocese still needs priests and will send him to Marion, or some other small outpost.

Paul S. Sawyer:

September 2, 2004 09:33 PM | Permalink for this comment

The PBS program, "The Connection" out of WBUR Boston did an hour on the Weymouth parishioners yesterday. I listened and found myself greatly respecting the conviction and tenacity of these folks.

I was touched by their dedication to each other and to their priest, but wondered about some of the theological questions. They struggled to address the question: "why does the building matter, why not just meet somewhere else, and worship in another church?" This seems to me a question of particular interest to one professing adherence to a Roman Catholic theology, which emphasizes one holy catholic and apostolic church as opposed to the congregational polity of my own New England Protestant tradition. I find myself asking, isn't this the kind of situation that has caused dissention in the Catholic church since nearly the beginning--the kind of obedience-to-hierarchy situation that led people to become protestants in the first place?

Nonetheless, from my side of the reformation, their situation seems very sad, though the parishioners are fighting hard and with all the tools (legal and canonical) at their disposal. Among the points they brought up include the (successful)argument made by the diocese of Portland, Oregon in its bankrupcy case that parishes own their own property (i.e. it is not available for forfiture in the case of the insolvency of the diocese). Can the church have it both ways?

This is a powerful story of people of faith feeling betrayed by their leadership--they repeatedly used the term "abuse" and referred to the archdiocese's sexual abuse scandals and this parish's efforts to support reform.

I think we protestants can sometimes underestimate the kind of strength it takes to take a stand like this in the Catholic church. This situation, and others like it in the archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere, is worth our contiunued attention, and prayers for some form of productive resolution.


September 2, 2004 09:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks for this summary, Paul! Here's the episode, "Whose Church Is It Anyway?", from the WBUR Web site.

Anthony Keegan:

May 23, 2005 07:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

I have just learnt (i.e. May 2005) about the spirited and wholsome resistance which the two R.C. parishes of St. Albert the Great, and St. Anselm's, in the Boston area of New England, are putting up in order to fight against their forced closures.

I regretfully have to inform the reader that New England does not have the monopoly on forced church closures by the hierarchy. For instance, back in "Old" England there are four Catholic provinces. Since 1984, there have been no net lossess/closures in the three southern provinces. However, in the Northern Province of England (apparently run from Liverpool) there have been more than 77 mysterious Catholic church closures over the last 21 years. And the worst affected area (50+ closures) is the county of Lancashire, the traditional "Cradle of English Catholicism" during Reformation times around 450 years ago.

Liverpool and Manchester (in Lancashire) have bourne the brunt of this recent carnage. But two parishes have fought back and, unlike most of the rest, have not been summarily bulldozed into the ground by the local prelate concerned.

One church (closed Jan. 2004) is St. Michael's (which has a predominantly Italian congregation) in Ancoats, Manchester. Each Sunday at 11 a.m., these resolute parishioners congregate on the steps of their locked church, and say their prayers and sing their hymns, in the hail, rain, wind and snow. They, however, have now had enough and are starting civil proceedings in the British courts against their local diocese. This aggrieved Manchester congregation can be contacted at

The other church mentioned is the internally magnificent St. Mary of the Angels (closed Dec. 2001), which is thirty miles west of Manchester in the Lancashire coastal city of Liverpool. St. Mary of the Angels was built back in 1910 by the little known joint heiress, Amy Imrie, to the world famous White Star Shipping Line, which owned the ill-fated Titanic ocean liner. Amy was one of the richest women in the then British Empire. She deliberately built the church in the poorest district (i.e. Everton) of Liverpool (and of all England, an unenviable title which it still holds today). She also crammed the inside of the church with original, breathtaking, 15th & 16th Century Italian Renaissance artefacts. For example, saints Carlo Borromeo, Filippo Neri, and Ignacio Loyola, all offered Holy Mass on its huge, exquisite, marble, main altar. Currently, a Titanic battle rages around this spiritually unique church which is also known locally as the "Liverpool Vatican". Moreover, once you cross its threshold for the first time, one is instantly aware that one has been transported back into the opulence of the White Star Line. Local heroine (and cancer survivor) Kay Kelly is in the vanguard of the movement to save the stunning St. Mary of the Angels Church. Kay can be contacted at

But the really baffling fact concerning the Lancashire Catholic church closures in the North-West of "Old" England is that, unlike the the "situation" in the U.S.A. and Ireland, there have only been two known clergy court cases in Lancashire over the last five years, and only one requiring a relatively small amount of compensation. So why are theses viable churches in Lancashire (e.g. the aformentoned St. Mary of the Angels had the monthly, property rental, earning potential of some 3,000 or $5,000+ before a penny was put on the plate on Sundays) being closed down?

Even in Boston, Massachusetts, it could be deviously and sinfully claimed that the current prelate in charge is "logically" closing churches in order to fund astronomical compensation claims involving former clergy. But this does not apply in Lancashire. So why are these churches vanishing?

It cannot be because we have a shortage of priests in England. Scrutiny of the Vatican's 2002 global statistics clearly shows that England has more Catholic priests (i.e. one for every 848 baptised Catholics) than any other country in the world. We, for example, even beat Ireland, Spain, Italy, France, U.S.A., Brazil, and The Phillipines.

No! What we here in "Old" England are fighting against (apart from the Great Deceiver) is an influential and radical Catholic leadership in Lancashire (some of whom employ twice as many barmaids etc. than priests in their diocese) and who are straightjacketed by two bits of their own bogus "theologoy": 1) "Where in the Bible does it say build any churches? Where?" 2) "We are a pilgrim people; we must not be chained to bricks and mortar!" i.e. Catholic churches.

One doesn't have to be a Pilgrim Father stood on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, New England, to know that this statement (about pilgrims) from a senior English bishop, is balloney.

So if you think things are tough over in Catholic Massachusetts right now, please spare an occasional thought (and say prayer) for the hard-pressed Catholic communities in Lancashire, North-West England.

And if any of the Boston area's Catholic fighting congregations (or others of equal spiritual tenacity) are thinking of wending their way over briefly to dear old Blighty this summer (i.e. 2005) please do not hesitate paying a short visit to your equally wronged English counterparts outside their locked churches in the North-West of the country. Initial contact should be made via the e-mail addresses provided.

Yours sincerely,


Oxford, England. 24th May 2005


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