BOSTON (AP) — Parishioners who have occupied a Roman Catholic church since it was closed 11 years ago will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to settle their dispute with the Boston archdiocese.
St. Frances X. Cabrini parishioners plan to ask the high court to review a ruling by a Massachusetts court that found they are trespassing on property owned by the archdiocese. The state's highest court declined to hear the case, but parishioners are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will review it.
The Scituate church was closed in 2004 as part of a sweeping reorganization by the archdiocese following the clergy sex-abuse scandal. Since then, a group of parishioners has held a constant vigil at the church and refused to leave.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on the legal battle, but repeated a request for the parishioners to end their vigil inside the church.
"The parishes of the archdiocese welcome and invite those involved with the vigil to participate and join in the fullness of parish life," Donilon wrote in an email.
Maryellen Rogers, a spokeswoman for the parishioners, said their lawyer will ask a state judge to put the case on hold while they petition the high court. A hearing is scheduled Monday on that request.
"We're trying to give ourselves time to stay in our church while we appeal the lower court's decision," she said.
Rogers said the parishioners will continue to ask Cardinal Sean O'Malley to reconsider the closure.
In the meantime, the parishioners plan to hold Christmas services there. Since the church no longer has priests assigned to it, lay people lead the services. Last year, about 600 people attended a service on Christmas Eve.
The archdiocese has cited the cost of maintaining the church building and its liability if someone is injured as reasons to evict the parishioners.