When Benny Tauro went to open up Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church last Tuesday for parishioners that have been holding a vigil at the church for the past seven years he found his key didn’t work. Tauro thought it was an act of vandalism and called a locksmith who let him in the church.
Tauro contacted the Boston Archdiocese, who has allowed parishioners to keep watch over the church until all appeals of the church’s closing were exhausted, to alert them of the vandalism.
However, what the Archdiocese told Tauro was shocking.
Under the cover of darkness, Archdiocese officials changed the locks and glued the side doors to the church shut.
The next day a sign was hung on the front door of the church that read, “This property is owned by the Archdiocese of Boston, all access to this property by any person other than its managing agent Newmark, is strictly prohibited. Any violators will be subjected to prosecution.”
The parishioners hung their own sign quoting the eighth commandment ‘Thou shall not steal’.
The Archdiocese released a cold statement to the parishioners that said, “For the better part of seven years, we have permitted the vigil while the petitioners pursued various appeals. The time for this vigil to end has come.”
And just like that the long vigil came to a close but the way it was done has infuriated parishioners like Lorenzo Grasso who held a prayer service outside the church on Sunday to protest the Archdiocese’s actions.
“We recently lost an appeal to the Vatican’s Congregation of Clergy but we still had one more appeal left to the Vatican Supreme Court,” said Grasso, who’s been serving as the church’s Eucharistic Minister. “We had 60 days to appeal the last decision so why are they closing the church now?’
Grasso said the Cardinal Sean O’Malley made a commitment to the people at Mt. Carmel a few years back that he would not intervene in any vigil until all appeals were exhausted.
Grasso pointed to St. James Church in Wellesley, a church that recently lost an appeal in the Vatican’s lower court and, like Mt. Carmel, is appealing to the Vatican’s higher court.
“They are in the same boat as us but the Archdiocese is allowing them to keep the vigil going until their last appeal,” said Grasso. “So out question to the Cardinal is why are you locking up Mt. Carmel and not St. James if we are in the same situation.”
Grasso and others at the church are questioning the timing of the Archdiocese move to end the vigil because parishioners have their best chance of keeping Mt. Carmel open before the Vatican’s highest court.
Historically, the Vatican’s Supreme Court has overruled closings in Springfield, Mass and Cleveland, Ohio and ruled that an Archdiocese could not close a church based on lack of priests or parishioners.
For the past seven years those holding vigil, about 60 strong, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the heat at the church, repairs and regular cleaning of the church and its grounds.
“We have been self sufficient,” said Grasso, who became a parishioner at the church in 1966 after coming to the U.S. from Italy. “Cardinal O’Malley is our Shepard but has never once reached out to us or worked with us to find ways to keep the church open.”
Grasso also said that the last appeal to the Vatican is strong because the original Archdiocese plan was to close St. Mary’s Star of the Sea and the Assumption and keep Mt. Carmel open. However, at the last minute the Archdiocese decided to close St. Mary’s and Mt. Carmel instead.
“We think there was a good chance that Mt. Carmel would reopen because of the Vatican’s rulings in Springfield and Cleveland.”
With nothing left to do besides hope and pray that a miracle occurs, Grasso and the parishioners will continue to hold outdoor services on Sundays at 10 a.m. in front of the church’s Saint Padre Pio statue.
“We will keep doing it until we are stopped or the Vatican overturns this decision,” said Grasso.