Friday, December 29, 2006

Stepney Graveyard Bulldozed by Archdiocese of Westminster

Background briefing. This unedifying story has been reported in the Catholic press (including The Tablet) and in the secular press, including the Evening Standard and Private Eye.

Summary of Private Eye story: the Catholic Parish of St Mary and St Michael, Commercial Road (Stepney), in he Archdiocese of Westminster, had a graveyard given to it in 1851. The Archdiocese has appropriated this land for part of a new school, despite vehement protests from parishoners and others. The parish priest, Fr Francis van Son, tried to prevent the builders coming onto the site, and was arrested for aggravated trespass; the police later recognised that this was wrongful arrest, as he had the right to be there.

Parishoners formed a limited company to fight the Archdiocese in court, and lost in the High Court. (English law, unlike canon law, regards the property of parishes as being at the disposal of dioceses.) The Archdiocese threatened to pursue them personally for its legal costs, and forced them to sign a 'gagging order'. Fr van Son has been forced to retire.

Readers may remember the recent case of the Diocese of Lancaster, whose appropriations of parish funds - legal under British accounting rules, but contrary to Church law - has led the Apostolic Nuncio to demand a strict accounting from every diocese in England and Wales. See here for the Catholic World Report on that story, and here for Bishop O'Donoghue's pastoral letter on the subject; see here for some commentary.
Hat-tip to Domenico Bettinelli.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen