BY DAN VALENTI
This update on another breaking story (we post this at 8:45 p.m. 2/15/11):
The Pittsfield Parks Commission, by a 5-0 unanimous vote, extended the Pittsfield Colonials’ license at Wahconah Park from May 2011 through September of 2013.
We return now to our featured story on the former St. Stanislaus Kostka church
The Vatican has issued its decision in the case of St. Stanlislaus Church in Adams, which the diocese has wanted to close and protesters have occupied for more than two years.
Yes and No: Solomon Splits the Baby in Two
His Eminence Mauro Cardinal Piacenza signed Rome’s four-page decree “affirm[ing] the decision by the Diocese of Springfield relating to the suppression and merger,” according to Laurie Haas of the former St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, one of the leaders of the occupation. In plain English, the Vatican sided with Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield and against the parishioners of St. Stan’s.
The decree, though, appears to uphold the appeal on the basis that Bishop McDonnell did not provide “the necessary grave motivations” for his decision.
The arcane wording of the decree seems to both reject and affirm the claims of both the Diocese and the protesters, who have been staging their occupation of the church since Dec. 26, 2008. On Sept. 8, Haas et. al. filed an appeal of McDonnell’s decision based on canon law. The Vatican, however, ruled that the appeal had no basis in canonical law. The decree, dated Jan. 25, 2011, from the Vatican in Rome, is cosigned by Nsgr. Celso Morga Iruzubieta, secretary of the Congregation of the Clergy.
In the second part of the decision, the Vatican rejects the parishioners’ claim that Bishop ODonnell’s “reduction of St. Stanislaus Kostka, Adams, to profane but not unbecoming use” was illegal “de procedento” (procedurally), because “the necessary consultation took place” and that the bishop “understood himself to be issuing a decree of reduction to profane use.” However, it upheld the parishioners “de deccernendo” (“on the determination of facts”) “insofar as the necessary grave motivations for the decisions are not provided in the acts.”
Diocese Has No Comment on Ruling
Mark Dupont, spokesman for Bishop McDonnell, reached in Boston for comment this morning, said, “I have talked to bishop. We are not in receipt of that document yet. We have not formally received it, and we are not at liberty to comment on it.”
Haas said that “while the language of the decree is complex,” the decision means that the church “must be reopened as a place of Catholic divine worship. We can only speculate as to how the Bishop of Springfield … will implement this historic decision.” Haas said she had her canonical lawyers review the document.
One lawyer told The Planet the decision looked as if the Vatican didn’t want to make a decision. Cautioning that she hadn’t read the decree but was relying only on summary, she said the ambiguous ruling could probably mean whatever Bishop McDonnell wanted it to mean.
It is clear that the petitioners did not “win” nor did the Vatican “lose.” One can also say that both sides “won” and “lost.” It would seem premature to declare, on the basis of Rome’s decision, that St. Stanislaus would reopen as a parish.
Haas says the 200 petitioner’s “look forward to a respectful dialogue” with the bishop on the fate of St. Stan’s. She said, “We are open to a wide range of solutions that may be proposed by the bishop … to preserve St. Stan’s as a Roman Catholic place of worship.”
Bishop Did Not Demonstrate ‘Grave Cause’ for Closing
Based on this statement as well as the confusing language of the decree, it’s not clear that St. Stan’s will or will not reopen as a church. As of this moment, pending authoritative decree from the bishop, it would seem — seem, we say — that the petitioners have a basis to believe that it will.
The decree found the bishop’s arguments for closing and merging parishes in this case “exhaustive.” It found that the diocese followed procedures that were “correct and that the motivations presented” for the closing were “reasonable and in accord with” canon law.
It further said that in its original decree on St. Stan’s, the diocese “made no mention” of closing the church, noting that “the modification of a Parish does not in any way automatically include … closure …”. In other words, the diocese needed to conduct “an objective and separate process” to demonstrate “grave cause” for the closing, which it did not do.
In another interesting part of the Vatican’s ruling (clause 9), it revealed that while the bishop issued a “formal decree for the ‘merger’ of the parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka with the parish of Notre Dame,” it’s not clear “that this formal document was ever communicated to the community of the faithful to which it is addressed.” That would appear to be a major lapse on the part of the diocese, indicating either that it was not familiar with the need to do so or, being familiar, deliberately withheld this information.