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Appeal of school closings to Vatican fails

An attempt by parents to appeal to the Vatican to reverse a decision by the Diocese of Rockville Centre to close six Catholic grammar schools on Long Island has failed, an advocate for the parents said Friday.

Peter Borre, a Boston-based canon law specialist who returned from Rome Thursday night and was assisting the parents, said the attempt faltered because the parents missed a 10-day window to file the appeal after Bishop William Murphy made the announcement Dec. 6.

"We have raised the issue" with a high-level official at the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, Borre said in a telephone interview. "I would say it would be extremely imprudent for parents to count on these schools being re-opened this fall. That's just not going to happen."

Borre said two canon lawyers who are part of an elite group accredited to present cases to the Vatican met with the high-level official at the Congregation.

"There was no opportunity to bring forward in a timely manner allegations of canonical violations" because of the missed deadline, said Borre, who stunned the Catholic world in March by persuading the Vatican to reopen 13 parishes in Cleveland. "It's just an unfortunate fact."

The Diocese of Rockville Centre had no immediate comment, but said this week that while it shared the parents' sadness over the school shutterings slated for June, declining enrollment made the move inevitable.

Parents alleged that the diocese never informed them of the appeals process, but diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said diocesan education officials met with parents in late December and gave them a chance to make their case to keep the schools open.

One parent leader, Joseph Malerba of St. Ignatius Loyola School in Hicksville, said Friday he was deeply disappointed by the failed appeal in Rome, but that he has not completely given up hope that the schools could stay open.

"Obviously it's very upsetting to hear" about the developments from Rome, he said. But "I'm going to remain hopeful that at the 11th hour there could be some change in some way" that would allow the schools to remain open.

The other schools pursuing the appeal were St. Catherine of Sienna in Franklin Square, Sacred Heart School in Merrick, St. John Baptist De LaSalle Regional School in Farmingdale and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Lindenhurst. Parents at Prince of Peace Regional School in Sayville had not decided whether to join the effort.

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