On Friday, a Massachusetts judge denied a request from a non-profit group—which had been holding a continuous 24/7 vigil for almost 11 years at a church south of Boston—to suspend his order that they leave the property.
Norfolk County Superior Court Judge Edward Leibensperger ordered the Friends of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Scituate, MA, to leave the premises by June 5, writing, “Defendants may, of course, continue their protest of the decision to close the parish, but they may not do so by an around-the-clock vigil in violation of the (Boston archdiocese’s) property rights established by neutral principles of property law.”
On May 24, 2004, the church received a letter from Archbishop Sean O’ Malley that informed the church it would be closed as part of a reconfiguration process; the planned date to close the church was set for October 29th. But on October 25, the archdiocese of Boston changed the locks during the night.
Parishioners want the archdiocese to either sell them the church or restore it to its prior state; they have attested they are willing to be arrested if necessary.
Maryellen Rogers, one of the organizers of the vigil, said, “As we promised from day one, we’ll exhaust every level of recourse.”
Leibensperger had ruled earlier in May that the protesters were trespassing and should leave before May 29, then briefly froze his order to consider the group’s new request, which he subsequently denied. The archdiocese opposed the delay but has been reticent about what action it would take if protesters hold fast.
The parishioners have been remarkably steadfast; as far back as 2008, Margy O’Brien, a parishioner, said, “There’s an emotional connection people have with their parish that the archdiocese has no concept of. The longer this goes on, the more determined we become and the more we will dig our heels into the sand.”