Boston Archdiocese to close underused parishes
Archbishop Sean O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston has announced plans to close a number of underused parishes in an attempt to overcome financial problems exacerbated by revelations of sexual abuse by its priests.
The archbishop told a gathering of about 600 local priests that the parish closures are necessary because of a decline in church attendance, the archdiocese's financial condition and a shortage of priests. He gave no details on the number of parishes that would be closed, though some priests have speculated that several dozen of the region's 358 parishes will be affected.
In announcing the closings, O'Malley also made a plea for unity among the clergy, a theme he has echoed repeatedly since he took the helm of the country's fourth-largest Catholic archdiocese in July and quickly helped broker an $85 million settlement with more than 500 abuse victims.
"I want the Catholics to realise we are family and we must see ourselves as something bigger than our own parishes," O'Malley said. He added that while "the cost of the [abuse] settlement has nothing to do with the challenge of parish closings and reconfiguration," the changes were accelerated by the abuse crisis.
A statement from Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay group formed in response to the abuse crisis, in the city where it began, said, "given that the sex abuse crisis has impacted the economic viability of both parishes and the diocese, it is an indirect driver [of the parish closings]."
The parish closings will begin with a first wave June 1, 2004. The archbishop said no new parish priests will be named, or nonessential expenditures by parishes authorised, until the process is complete.
Already this month, the church has taken several other steps toward shoring up its beleaguered finances. The church borrowed money by mortgaging two of its most valuable assets, including the seminary and cathedral.
Boston Archdiocese to Close Underused Parishes (Washington Post 17/12/03)
Archdiocese of Boston
18 Dec 2003