5 Recent Diocesan Statements


Bishop Timothy McDonnell: "...we are a pilgrim people ... We're asking them to move maybe across the city, maybe across city lines, maybe to another parish." (Aug. 29, Springfield Republican)

Is it rude to point out that the Bishop hasn't the faintest idea where the people of the affected parishes will go? It's notable that he says "we" are a pilgrim people - but all the pilgrims in this caravan appear to be parishioners.

This is not the way that canon law is supposed to work! The stable communities of the faithful (parishes) are supposed to have an individual identity, as well as a great deal to say about what happens to their property. Parishioners should be involved from day one of the decision-making process. They should help mold the decisions.

They would then move en masse to the appropriate welcoming parish, and it would be a disciplined choice, not the free-for-all that Bishop McDonnell suggests. Because of geography, cultural patterns, finances and neighboring parishes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to change. Change can be managed. However, in order to succeed, it needs trust, open communication, and leadership.


Msgr. John Bonzagni: Bonzagni stressed, however, that he is not aware of any successful appeals in such matters. "Usually, all Rome is interested in is the process", Bonzagni said. "They just want to know that canon law has been followed." (Aug. 31, Springfield Republican)

One statement is untrue, the other is fudging the truth. The Congregation for the Clergy considers both procedure (de procedendo) and facts (de decernendo) when they deliberate. It is absolutely the case that the facts of each situation are considered, and not just how many i's are dotted and how many t's are crossed. It is a mystery why Msgr. Bonzagni, a canon lawyer, would suggest otherwise.

As far as the success rate of parish appeals, it may be true that no parish has yet succeeded at the Congregation for the Clergy level, but this is splitting hairs. Msgr. Bonzagni neglects to mention that there is a higher level yet, the so-called "Supreme Court" of the Vatican, the Apostolic Signatura, which could hear a new appeal, should the initial appeal fail.

Moreover, resistance to the authority of the local bishop has been far more effective than Bonzagni suggests. For example, in 2004, the Boston Archdiocese announced a reconfiguration plan to suppress 83 parishes out of 357 parishes. By the fall, over a dozen had resisted, and eight more parishes had gone into vigil to keep their parishes open.

In November 2004, the reconfiguration plan was put on hold as a direct result of the resistance. In the Spring of 2005, the decision to close 12 parishes was reversed. Bottom line, 65 parishes were closed, a far different number than the 83 that were to be extinguished. So, it is ludicrous to suggest that no resisting parish has been successful when we know that 18 suppressions were either put on hold, or are the subject of on-going appeals in Boston.

We could also note the dozens and dozens more parishes that have filed appeals, especially in Cleveland, all of which are piling up on the Vatican's doorsteps. Though not yet successful, they are being seriously considered by Rome - a point that Msgr. Bonzagni would apparently like to deny or downplay.


Msgr. John Bonzagni: quoted in an article by Bill Peters, who said:"What's more, studying for priesthood can take longer now than it once did. While that's often for the best, Bonzagni said that, given the priest shortage, the Church has no "back bench" whose talents they can spend time nurturing more fully." (interview with the Pioneer Valley Buzz, Sept. 8)

"Back bench"!? Whether this glib comment was directed at less-experienced priests, the deacons or the laity, it is disrespectful, and yet another example, along with his "tarring the driveway" comment, that he is seriously out of touch with the reality of the situation. No wonder the rationale of the parish closing program has been so flaky. Why are not the talents of the laity being "nurtured more fully" with regard to liturgy? Why do they continue to be treated like glorified altar boys and girls?

Elsewhere Bonzagni called the parish closing program "fair and transparent" and claimed that all parishioners were represented. These vague references to "fairness", "tranparency" and "representation" are apparently supposed to substitute for real participation by parishioners.

If the Monsignor would spend some time in other jurisdictions studying how the laity can be involved in the liturgy (yes, it is possible), and implement some of those programs here, he might not need to be so dismissive of the "back bench". I would suggest looking at Brazil, where 80% of all Sunday celebrations are led by the laity. As opposed to how many in Springfield?

For an excellent summary of the situation in Brazil, see this article from Notre Dame.


Mark Dupont: "He [Bishop McDonnell] will certainly consider every appeal that comes before him, but the parish selections were not made overnight. There was a four-year study with 12 committee members and parishioner listening sessions before any of these decisions were made." (Sept. 6, Springfield Republican)

Mark Dupont has more spin than Mariano Rivera's cut fastball!

OK, now I get it. It's all that hard STUDY that explains the decision to close a vibrant parish without any debt that just spent about a half-million of their own money for infrastructure with the bishop's blessing.

Thank you Mark "Mariano" Dupont for clearing that up!


Diocesan Press Release: "Msgr. Bonzagni, who was appointed director of the Office of Pastoral Planning nearly five years ago, and the committee have met with parishioners from all across the diocese through large dialogue sessions that they called “listening sessions.” These sessions began in November 2007 and incorporated every parish and mission in the diocese. The final listening session was held last May." (Aug., Diocesan web site)

Number one, the listening sessions were pathetically inadequate to their billing. They consisted of a single session where upwards of 100 and 150 people were supposed to - do what exactly? - in a gym or cafeteria over the course of a day. That's one short day to decide the fate of a parish that may have existed for 100 years.

And by the way, "every parish and mission" was not included in listening sessions, not by a long shot. Mine (St. Mary's in Lee) definitely was not. How can I be sure? Simple, I keep the weekly bulletins. Come to my house and I'll show you the blank space where there is NOT ONE MENTION of the listening sessions in my bulletins over the last several years. Completely missing in action!

Also, please note: "...the final listening session was held last May..."??? Like, it's all said and done, and they've officially stopped listening?

This is a perversion of the Catholic system, not an example of it, which is odd, coming from people who are supposed to know better.

There is a large idea lacking here and it is called: community.

How does this relate? Well, if you believe that the church is the People of God, a community which is a living reality, you would never consider - even for a minute - that a conversation needed to be scheduled, or that a conversation has ended. There would be no point at which the conversation would cease. In fact, it would resemble free speech, one of our great civil rights, except that it would be free church speech.

And why should church officials be afraid of free church speech?