Vatican Rejects Appeals by Closed Massachusetts Churches

The Vatican has rejected final appeals by 10 parishes closed by the Archdiocese of Boston in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, leaving parishioners to consider fighting the closings in civilian courts, the leader of a parish advocacy group said Monday.

Peter Borre, co-chairman of the Council of Parishes, said a canon law expert for the groups told him Monday that the appeals were denied May 7 by the highest authority for parishioner appeals at the Vatican.

The archdiocese announced the closings of dozens of churches in 2004, citing falling attendance, a priest shortage and financial problems, but has vehemently denied the closings were linked to the clergy sex abuse scandal. The closings came a year after the archdiocese settled more than 500 claims for $85 million.

Three of the churches have had sit-ins going on round-the-clock for more than five years.

The decision leaves parishioners with no other recourse within the church to fight to keep open the churches, Borre said, adding he did not expect the parishioners to back down now. Borre said the group is considering filing a federal lawsuit.

"We expect the vigils to continue, so it's up to the archdiocese to decide whether to call in the cops," he said.

A spokesman for the archdiocese had no immediate comment.

According to MyFoxBoston.com, the closed parishes include Our Lady of Lourdes, Infant Jesus Saint Lawrence, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint James the Great, Saint Augustine, Star of the Sea, Our Lady of Mercy, Sacred Heart, Saint Jeremiah and Saint Anselm.

Since the sex abuse scandal broke in Boston, at least $2.5 billion has been paid in settlements, including a settlement of 26 claims for almost $18 million last week in Montpelier, Vt.

Parishioners must continue to press for accountability by church leaders, Borre said.

"One thing is clear: American Catholics will not let up in their efforts to bring the American bishops to account, and to compel bishops to stop using parishes as ATMs to pay the piper for clergy sex abuse," he said.

"We are seven years away from the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses in 1517.  What will the Roman Catholic Church look like in 2017?" Borre asked.

Click here to read more on this story from the Boston Herald.

Click here to read more on this story from MyFoxBoston.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report