Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

no way

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 05, 2011

Commenting on efforts by disgruntled parishioners to reverse parish-closing decisions in the Boston archdiocese, 

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said he sees "no possible way that the [parishes] would ever reopen in any form."

To be fair to Donilon, he is addressing the story created by a group that has exhausted every possible canonical appeal, and still keeps fighting a hopeless fight.  It's surely frustrating for archdiocesan officials, who are constantly asked to comment on a story that should have been settled years ago. No doubt Donilon wanted to convey the message that the parish-closing decision is final, the Vatican won't reverse it, the appeals have been heard and rejected; it's over. Finished. Done. 

Still, when he says there is "no way" that the parishes could reopen, one wonders: Really? No possible way? Not even by the grace of God? Not even if the Archdiocese of Boston is suddenly transformed into a juggernaut of evangelism, and thousands of families begin flocking into the Catholic Church? Not even if at some future date the nearby parishes are filled to bursting, the collection baskets are overflowing, and there are so many young priests they can't all fit into the available rectories? If those churches that were closed in 2004 are still standing on that happy future date-- and haven't been converted into condos-- why not reopen them? It could be a ready solution to a happy problem.

When you say that a parish can never possibly reopen, you're suggesting that the Church in Boston will never expand in the future the way she did in the past. You're accepting an intolerable situation-- the steady attrition, the dwindling attendance, the exodus of young people and new immigrants from the parishes-- as inevitable. You're forgetting that the Church is designed to grow, to spread the good news of the Gospel, to bring an ever-larger number of souls to Christ. 

When you say that the Church can't possibly regain lost ground, you're making a self-fulfilling prophecy. You're adopting the attitude that brought the Boston archdiocese to its current parlous state. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Jan. 10, 2011 11:10 PM ET USA

    Too many bishops in the US are administrators first and apostles a very distant second. They see parishes as physical plants and priests as numbers to be shuffled around as demographics shift. Since I do similar work for a living, I'm not saying that's immaterial or inconsequential but it has the dangerous tendency of reducing the Church's mission to a managerial exercise instead of the work of the Holy Spirit. What if the Boston Archdiocese were to experience a new springtime? What then?

  • Posted by: michaelwilmes - Jan. 05, 2011 8:25 PM ET USA

    Bingo, Phil.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2011 3:50 PM ET USA

    I'm looking forward to the Holy Spirit proving Donilon wrong. You're right, though, Phil. Too many in the US episcopacy have forgotten that they are heirs to the Apostles. Think of the daunting task that Christ laid in front of THEM! And none of them had the formal education, financial means, or ready access to mass communications that our Bishops today have. They did, however, have this little thing called faith. Hmmm....