The piece addresses the central (unasked) question which animated this sarcastic YRHT post about the recent evictions of the vigilists in St. Henry's and Our Lady of Good Counsel. Why did the New Orleans archdiocese call in the police after only 9 weeks, when the Boston archdiocese continues to allow vigils in its churches after 219 weeks?
First let me quote a bit from Tidmore's piece about the legal issues involved. Daniel and I were wondering exactly how the titles of the properties were worded:
According to the Orleans Parish Assessors' website (www.opboa.org) the physical properties are owned by corporate bodies of the "CONGREGATION OF ST HENRY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH" and the "CONGREGATION OF OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH".
[Informed vigilist Barbara] Fortier explained to The Louisiana Weekly that under the original articles of incorporation filed when the churches were established in the 19th Century, there is supposed to a five person board that runs each organization. While the Archbishop and his auxiliary Bishop (in this case, Morin,) are listed as members of the board, so the documents also say are the Churches' pastors and two lay people from each congregation.
As Barbara Fortier outlined, "After the original two gentlemen who sat on the board past away, the Archdiocese never nominated any replacements," as they were legally required to do. This "Church Board", consequently, never met to dissolve the Parishes, a requirement of the original incorporation documents.
Moreover, Fortier and her fellow parishioners discovered, "In the articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State's office, it says, "this church will continue to exist for 500 years.'" She wondered how the Archdiocese could change that without a vote.
Since the archdiocese resorted to "secular law enforcement" relatively quickly (despite an imminent compromise to end the vigils that was in the works) I wouldn't mind seeing some "vigilant" lawyers take the Archdiocese to court over this. To me, it looks as if the parishioners have a case.
Tidmore's article centers around the possibility that the public embarrassment of departing Archbishop Alfred Hughes at a press conference helped prompt the timing of the evictions. On the Saturday before the evictions, Hughes incorrectly announced to the world that "the vigil at Our Lady of Good Counsel had ended". Knowing that some vigilists were still hiding there, journalist Tidmore corrected the Archbishop, saying
"Archbishop, how would you react if I told you there were people in Good Counsel right now?... How would you also react if I told you the vigil continues? That they have no intention of ending it? And, that they claim that a person stayed behind and let the other parishioners in, so there was no breaking an entering?"
Hughes was flummoxed.
As the television camera rolled, for almost a minute, Alfred Hughes stood silently absorbing what [Tidmore] had said. He then said simply, "This is new information."
Tidmore writes that this public embarrassment might have accelerated the timing of the evictions and arrests on Tuesday morning. A vatican expert supports this view.
Peter Borre', one of the leaders of the Boston vigils that have continued in six Massachusetts Catholic Churches for 51 months protesting their closure, has often visited the two New Orleans' Churches and has served as a close advisor to the parishioners of St. Henry's and Good Counsel.To be continued.
In an interview on the author's radio program (on 1190 AM from 3-6 PM weekdays), Borre' explained, "There are three remaining absolute dictators in the modern world: a Captain of a ship at sea, little Kim in North Korea, and a Bishop in his diocese."
"The Authority of an Archbishop cannot be challenged," he continued, "at least not in the view of the Church, and there is a tradition of not leaving a mess behind when you leave office.
"The Vatican recently announced that the appointment of Alfred Hughes' successor to Archbishopric was imminent. The Archbishop has passed the mandatory retirement age of 75, and has spoken of his plans to retire formally in the coming months.
Given that fact, "It's very likely, Chris," Borre' admitted, "that your comment did help cause this chain of events to occur."
Archbishops do not like to be embarrassed before Rome and the World, and certainly not before the television cameras. "Make no mistake. Rome is fully aware of what is occurring at Good Counsel and St. Henry's," said Borre' and former resident of the Eternal City for eight years and an acknowledged Vatican-expert.
James Gill's T-P column about the vigils had this delicious quote:
They are saying the best way to stop Hughes sending the cops to a church is to tell him there are priests inside abusing choir boys.
Personal embarrassment, on the other hand, apparently gets his butt in gear.
Last week's Tidmore's article on the eminent domain and financing issues surrounding the planned LSU/VA hospital (which also finds a way to incorporate the author's radio show into the story) is worth your while, too.