Faith or Folly?

For 11 years, parishioners have been occupying a church in Scituate, Massachusetts that was designated for closure by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. They will end their vigil as they call it on May 29 in accordance with a judge’s final ruling that they vacate the property. The always great Thomas Farragher called it a “Journey of Faith” in a recent column in the Boston Globe. I can’t help but feel it was a colossal waste of energy.

The church was closed because the Archdiocese needed the money to pay for the settlement of the mountain of the child sexual abuse cases revealed by the Globe’s Spotlight team. Reading through some of the news stories over the past 12 years, I learned that parishioners repaired the roof and heating system themselves, in the hope that the church would remain open (note: parishioners have sued to be reimbursed for the $37,000 they say they spent to keep the property up) and that the Archdiocese kept the electricity, heat and water on, and paid for snow removal (which had to have cost a bundle in 2015) for the protestors.

The case had been reviewed by the Massachusetts Superior court, the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican, appeals court until ultimately the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. And the town of Scituate has sued the church for property taxes, claiming that since they are no longer tax exempt, they need to pay up.

It feels so petty, so incredibly short-sighted and self-absorbed.

I am not religious. If anything I am anti-religion. I do understand faith, however. I was raised in a family of the faithful. My nana went to 9:00 mass every morning. My brothers and I went to parochial school, and there was a stretch of time when I wanted nothing more than to be a nun.

I fail to see how this protest was about faith. This was about a building. And, putting aside my distaste and distrust of organized religion, I cannot figure out how a building was so important to these hundreds of people that they could not find somewhere else to gather and celebrate. There is another parish right in Scituate! They did not even have to leave their small town!

In fact, Jon Rogers, a spokesman for the parishioners, said they plan to start an independent Catholic church, one not affiliated with the archdiocese.

“We are starting an inclusive church that basically welcomes everybody,” Rogers told WBZ radio in Boston. “This is going to be a great opportunity, as it’s a void that the Archdiocese of Boston has left and continues to leave as they close and destroy churches.”

So what was this all about again? Sounds an awful lot like it was about the protestors.

Just think of what all that combined energy could have accomplished. Yes, a building holds memories, and certainly a church can be the site of some of life’s most important moments. But our poor, our sick, our alone are today’s living reminders of the the most fundamental tenet of the faith–treat others as you want to be treated. There are so many ways those less fortunate would have benefited from the same 24/7 attention of hundreds of compassionate Christians that was given to what essentially is an edifice, a structure with four walls and a roof (albeit one that needed repair).

The parishioners have been called “brave” and “dedicated” by those who have attempted similar vigils in other parishes. I just do not see how brave applies. A protestor from Wellesley wrote in the Boston Herald “Vigiling in the service of a just cause has always reminded us of Christ’s assurance: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”

My point exactly. I’d love to hear yours.

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