News Release:
from Western Massachusetts Catholics Web  Site: and

contact: Robert M. Kelly, tel. 413-281-1715 or

April 12, 2011

Robert M. Kelly, a parishioner at St. Mary's of Lee and a co-founder with Brody Hale of the Western Massachusetts Catholics Web Site, issued a statement on April 12 concerning the imminent sale of St. Francis church of South Lee to a private party:

I support Brody Hale's attempts to invoke canon law in order to slow any potential sale of St. Francis church to a private party. Recently, Mr. Hale wrote the following to the Most Reverend Timothy McDonnell:

" . . . while ordinarily the time limit would have elapsed for us to file such a claim, your failure to follow proper procedure in informing us of the existence of this decree after six separate written requests were made to you for such information, combined with the actions of your judicial vicar Msgr. John J. Bonzagni, allow this action to be taken. Further, the lack of any consultation of the former parishioners of St. Francis church prior to the issuance of this decree, combined with the dismissal without consideration of an alternative plan for the church’s use also detracts from the validity of your decree, as it shows no consensus existed supporting its issuance. . . "

I agree with Mr. Hale that St. Francis church remains the property of the parishioners of St. Mary's, and that any decision about its future should be of discussed by the owners, namely, the local Catholic community.

In contrast, there has been no public mention of this impending sale, or indeed any mention whatsoever of the entity known as "St. Francis church" in our parish bulletin - the main news organ of St. Mary's - for the last 5 years. The reason I can state this with confidence is simple - I keep the bulletins.

This is cause for concern, for it shows that the Bishop and pastors remain determined to keep the community in the dark about their plans for our property.

Bishop McDonnell, working in concert with the local pastor, closed St. Francis church in 2006 under a veil of secrecy. As Mr. Hale reminds us, despite at least six (6) well-documented requests from parishioners for a copy of the decree closing the church, as well as for decrees relegating the church to profane use, neither of these requests were honored.

Despite this departure from canon law, an appeal of the closing (Recourse) was filed with the Vatican in early 2007, and, contrary to suppositions, the appeal was heard and taken seriously by the Vatican, which issued a formal decree.

Although the Vatican has been prevented from taking any position on an appeal to the relegation to profane use of this particular church, there is ample evidence in recent canon law rulings that a consistent message is being sent to American bishops - the decision to relegate a church to profane use must, as a matter of church law, be a consensus decision: it must be agreed to by "interested parties", i.e. local parishioners.

It is scandalous that, once again, this Bishop would rather rely on the power of the corporation of the Diocese of Springfield to get results, instead of relying on the gospel values that he is pledged to uphold and that all Catholic people are taught to hold dear. Among these values are humility, a willingness to listen, fairness, and transparency.

We are disappointed in his actions.

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