Archdiocese releases first decrees of suppression

BRIGHTON — Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley has signed the first round of decrees officially notifying one dozen parishes that they will be suppressed. The decrees were sent by overnight delivery service to the parishes for delivery July 21.

A copy of each letter is also printed in this week’s Pilot.

The decrees, which bear the heading “In Nomine Domini” (Latin for “In the Name of God”) specify the date each parish is to be suppressed, the parishes that will receive the records and territory of the closing parish and the disposition of any special group or ministry within the parish to be closed. In addition, each decree includes a brief explanation as to why the archbishop selected to suppress the parish.

According to archdiocesan spokesman Father Christopher Coyne, all parishes named for suppression have been asked to suggest a timeframe they think is most appropriate for closure. All of the parishes included in this round of decrees will be closed by Sept. 1.

The first parish in the archdiocese to be suppressed as part of the reconfiguration process — Sacred Heart, Medford — will shut its doors July 25.

Other batches of decrees are likely to follow in the coming weeks.

Speaking to parishioners of an East Boston parish named for closure July 18, Moderator of the Curia Bishop Richard G. Lennon explained that there has been a delay in issuing the formal decrees of closure in order to give affected parishes a chance to bring forward any new information that may have been overlooked in the previous stages of the reconfiguration process. The archbishop made public a list of 70 parishes to be suppressed May 25.

The archbishop is also consulting with parishes about how to best distribute their territory among neighboring parishes.

Of the 12 parishes receiving decrees four are “Personal” parishes founded to serve a particular ethnic or language community and have no geographic boundaries. Among the eight territorial parishes receiving decrees, in three cases the territory has been assigned to a single parish, in another three cases the territory has been split between two parishes. In the remaining two cases three neighboring parishes will reshape their boundaries to accommodate parishioners of the suppressed parish.

Father Coyne said the archdiocese is being thorough in its preparation of the decrees because once they are issued they cannot be altered.

With the release of the decrees, the clock now begins ticking for those who may not concur with the archbishop’s decision to suppress their parishes. Several parishes have announced that they intend to appeal their suppression.

According to Father Coyne, anyone who wishes to appeal a parish suppression has 10 days from the date the decrees are made public to make a written request to the archbishop explaining why they would like him to revoke the decree.

Once the appeal is received, the archbishop has 30 days to reply. After the archbishop’s reply is received — or at the end of the 30 day period if he does not reply at all — the party requesting the reconsideration has 15 days to seek recourse from the Vatican.

Speaking to The Pilot last month, Assistant for Canonical Affairs Father Mark O’Connell explained that the Vatican is unlikely to heed parish appeals because under Church law “the archbishop has a right to suppress, alter or merge a parish ... as long as he follows the process.”

Archdiocesan officials have consistently expressed confidence that the amount of consultation employed throughout the reconfiguration process greatly exceeds the requirements of Canon Law.