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Thursday, June 9, 2005

'Suffer the children' indeed.

Displaying extraordinary pastoral sensitivity, Archbishop Sean O'Malley changed the locks, canceled graduation, and had his staff call all the parents of students at Our Lady of the Presentation Elementary School to tell them the last two days of classes were canceled, too. Why? The Archdiocese claims that it was to "protect the children" from protests by their parents over the scheduled closing of the school at the end of the academic year. Michael Paulson reports:

Presentation School was slated to close last year, but O'Malley agreed to grant it a one-year extension after parents protested. He declined an offer by the parents to buy the school.

The parents proposed paying what they said was market value for the school, and they said they would turn it into a private school and a community center. But O'Malley said he wanted the building to house a church agency, the Metropolitan Tribunal [which assesses requests for annulments], because the archdiocese is selling the current tribunal building to Boston College to help defray the cost of settling clergy sex-abuse cases.

Mayor Tom Menino and Secretary of State William Galvin (who lives in the neighborhood and may run for governor) quickly expressed support for the kids and their parents — in a further sign of the Archdiocese's weakness in Boston:

Last night, Menino was clearly angered by the decision to close the school early. He pledged to express his unhappiness to the archdiocese and asked, "Don't they care about the human factor?

"This is disturbing, the cloak-and-dagger approach to closure," Menino said in a telephone interview. "These poor kids — what kind of effect will this have on the children? It will leave an indelible mark on them. And this is not a way to treat parents who have worked so hard over the past year."

A similar story in yesterday's Globe reported that almost half the graduating seniors at a Catholic school in New Hampshire signed a letter asking their bishop not to attend their baccalaureate mass because of his involvement in Boston's clergy sex-abuse crisis.

("Diocese Shuts School Early to Prevent an Occupation," Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 6.9.05, reg req'd; "Some Grads Don't Want Bishop at N.H. Rite," Rebecca Mahoney, Boston Globe 6.8.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 9 June 2005 at 8:16 AM

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June 9, 2005 07:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

How startling that a religious institution would fail to provide a context for people to grieve together over the loss of one form and the transition into a new form.

How tremendously sad that the students, families, and other community members feel betrayed and angry with the institution that should be teaching them ways to reconstruct identity, both individually and collectively.

But how utterly unsurprising to see such conduct from a corporate religious body that has facilitated abuse of some of its most vulnerable members, and, by threatening to close parishes to make reparation payments to the injured, has exploited its constituents' fear of losing their parish identity in an attempt to redirect hostility toward the judicial process.


June 10, 2005 10:17 AM | Permalink for this comment

Of late, the RC Church has made two significant missteps.

First, it seems to entirely misunderstand the way things spin in the media atmosphere. It seems that no one may have noted that this manner of dealing with the issue could only make the Archbishop look extremely bad, uncaring, and distant from his flock.

Second, the institutional church, here in Boston and in the larger world, seems to have misunderstood the force of democracy, especially in a place where the democratic norm is as natural to people as drinking water. In a democratic society, people in general will simply not put up with capricious exercises of raw power such as this one. They will become energized in opposition. The hierarchy seems to think that it still lives in a time of absolutism, when people would obey unquestioningly--this is clearly not the case. Furthermore, with its credibility hanging on only by the most tenuous of strands after the sex abuse scandal, moves like this continue to demonstrate that the church has no idea what its people think, want, or need.

The hierarchy seems to think that IT is the church, rather than the people who are the church.

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