BOSTON — Parishioners illegally occupying a long-closed Roman Catholic church had their day in court Wednesday as the Archdiocese of Boston seeks to evict them.

State Appeals Court Judge Judd Carhart heard arguments from the archdiocese and the protest group, the Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini Church, as the group seeks to remain in the Scituate church while they appeal a lower court ruling that ordered them to vacate earlier this month.

In a brief hearing packed with protesters and their supporters, the group’s lawyer argued that the lower court judge made “several, consistent” legal errors and “abused” his discretion by, among other things, denying the group’s request for a jury trial and not considering their arguments focused on church, or Canon law.


“It resulted in a decision by the court that is not well-reasoned, not supported by the evidence in the case and contrary to other Superior Court decisions,” lawyer Mary Elizabeth Carmody said.

But the archdiocese opposed the request, citing the cost of maintaining the building and their liability if someone is injured on the premises.

The protesters “have no right to be on the property,” said William Dailey, the archdiocese lawyer. “They knew from the time they first went into the church that they were trespassers and that they were subject to arrest at any time.”

Judge Carhart took the arguments under advisement and said he’d rule later on the request.

The group is the last of a number of church occupations that popped up when the archdiocese decided to close dozens of Boston-area churches in 2004 in an attempt to stabilize its finances.

The protesters have occupied St. Frances Cabrini Church around-the-clock ever since, with at least one person at all times holding vigil in the now-deconsecrated building and members holding well-attended Sunday services each week.

The protesters say they want the archdiocese to either restore their parish’s standing or let them purchase the building outright.


The church sits on roughly 30 acres of prime, largely undeveloped real estate overlooking Massachusetts Bay about 30 miles south of Boston.

They say their fight is not only about protecting the rights of Catholics to worship in churches they’ve known their whole lives, but also a stand against the clergy sex abuse scandal that rocked the Boston-area before expanding nationally and globally.

After the hearing, a few protesters expressed little hope that the courts would side in their favor.

But even if they lost the appeal, they said the long fight was not in vain.

“People are more aware now of how the church hierarchy deals with parishioners,” said Terry McDonough, who says he spends one night a week sleeping at the church as part of the overnight protest shift. “They encourage you to participate, and then when you try to participate, they say ‘Sit down and shut up.’ It’s not right.”

In court, Dailey, the archdiocese lawyer, argued that there would be “absolutely no harm” to protesters if they end their occupation while the appeal is decided. He promised the archdiocese has “no intent” of selling or razing the property while the appeal is pending.

Protesters after the hearing, however, said that promise wasn’t reassuring. They said they are more concerned the building will fall into disrepair if they leave.

On top of roughly $100,000 in legal costs, Jon Rogers, one of the lead organizers, said the group has also had to spend thousands of dollars more on routine upkeep and major repairs to the church building that the archdiocese has failed to do.