Friday, May 15, 2015

Court Orders Parishioners To End 10+ Year Vigil Protesting Church Closure

A Massachusetts trial court yesterday granted the Boston Catholic Archdiocese an injunction to end the ten and one-half year vigil that parishioners of the now-closed St. Frances X. Cabrini Church in Scituate (MA) have been maintaining inside the church.  On the website of the Friends organization supporting the vigil, parishioners say:
The members of St. Frances believe that we have been unjustly shuttered via the flawed process of reconfiguration introduced by the Archdiocese of Boston and that this misguided decision was based solely on the value of our parish property - 30.3 acres of prime coastal real estate.
In Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston v. Rogers, (MA Super. Ct., May 14, 2015), the court held that the former parishioners "are unlawfully and intentionally committing a trespass by the continuation of the protest vigil on the premises of the church."  The court rejected defendants' arguments that it lacks jurisdiction over the suit because the claims require the interpretation of ecclesiastical principles. saying:
defendants' argument conflates the issues of whether the parish may be closed (an eccleisastical question) with whether an owner in control of property may determine when individuals may be on property (a civil law question).  Because the latter may be decided by neutral principles of property law, this court may proceed to hear the facts and decide whether defendants' vigil is a trespass and whether an injunction should issue.
The court also rejected parishioners' defense of laches, and their $37,000 counterclaim for amount spent on upkeep and maintenance during the vigil. AP reports on the decision.  The Quincy Patriot Ledger reports that defendants plan an appeal and plan to ask the trial court to suspend the injunction pending appeal.  Otherwise it will take effect on May 29.