Boston Catholic Churches to Close

( [email protected] ) Dec 18, 2003 10:12 AM EST

BOSTON – In lieu of falling congregational attendance, shortage of priests and hundreds of pending sex abuse settlements, the Catholic Archbishop of Boston announced plans to close parishes in the region.

Archbishop Sean O’Malley met with 600 priests on Tuesday, Dec. 16 to outline the planned closings. The first wave of closings will come June 1, followed by more in August and also in October.

"I want the Catholics to realize we are family and we must see ourselves as something bigger than our own parishes," O'Malley said as he announced the changes.

Though O’Malley said he does not yet know how many or which churches will be closed, he said priority will be given to churches serving new immigrant communities and parishes with schools. He plans to seek input from parishioners and clergy to make recommendations on how the parishes could be consolidated.

"There are so many familiar associations with a particular parish," he said. "It is a very sad moment, but unfortunately, it's a very necessary one."

According to O’Malley, a number of will be considered in making the decisions, including weekly Mass attendance and the "sacramental index" — or how many baptisms, marriages and funeral services are performed in the parish. The condition of parish buildings also will be considered.

Church closings are not new. In the past 20 years, about 50 churches have been closed in the archdiocese, O'Malley said.

While the archbishop said the churches are not being closed to pay for the $85 million settlement, he acknowledged the closings were “accelerated” by the financial difficulties facing the archdiocese. The victims will receive their settlement checks next week.