October 16, 2005

Parishioners push to reinstate pastor

Boston Globe

By Lucas Wall, Globe Staff | October 16, 2005

NEWTON -- Parishioners of a Catholic church whose beloved pastor was recently removed over diocesan charges of financial misconduct took their petition drive to the community yesterday, hoping to demonstrate there is widespread support for his reinstatement.

Eighteen members of Our Lady's Friends, a nonprofit group founded to protest the forced resignation of the Rev. Walter Cuenin from Newton's Our Lady Help of Christians Church, gathered yesterday morning in a print shop that has become their makeshift headquarters to organize the day's work. They later headed out in small groups, some to place leaflets and petitions on front doors, others to gather signatures at places including a nearby Dunkin' Donuts and the Boston College football game.

''He's been a wonderful pastor, the reason why I go to Our Lady's," Janet Kalunian said as she collected signatures of customers waiting in line at the doughnut shop. ''I feel like I need to do whatever I can to rectify the situation."

About half of the customers signed the petition while a reporter was present. Others declined or said they were not familiar with the situation.

Cuenin, who had served as Our Lady's pastor for 12 years, was asked by the Archdiocese of Boston to resign three weeks ago. The archdiocese said Cuenin improperly accepted stipends from the church for performing baptisms, weddings, and funerals, and he drove a Honda Accord leased against church policy for him and visiting priests. Church officials have said Cuenin has agreed to repay $75,000. He has been moved to St. Julia's in Weston pending his next assignment.

Many church members say they believe Cuenin was forced out because of his embrace of divorced Catholics and gays and lesbians, as well as his outspokenness on finding prominent roles for women in the church and his call for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law over Law's role in the church's sexual abuse scandal.

Posted by kshaw at October 16, 2005 10:11 AM