Vatican rejects Boston Archdiocese seizure of parish assets

In a ruling that presents new complications for a sweeping reconfiguration plan in the Boston archdiocese, the Vatican has determined that the archdiocese cannot unilaterally claim the assets of parishes that have been closed.

Catholic World News reports that the Vatican decision affects not only the Boston Archdiocese - where it could delay parish closings - but also other US dioceses that are seeking bankruptcy protection in federal courts. It says the decision addresses the hotly disputed topic of whether parish assets belong to the diocese, suggesting that the principles could have application elsewhere in the Church.

In response to canonical protests filed by parishioners of several closed parishes, the Congregation for the Clergy said that parish assets cannot be seized by the Archdiocese, and can be turned over to the archdiocese only with the consent of the pastors and their parish finance councils.

The exact content of the Vatican ruling has not been made public, but officials at the Boston archdiocese acknowledged that the ruling from the Congregation for the Clergy would raise new difficulties for the parish-closing process.

However, Archbishop Sean O'Malley told reporters that the reconfiguration of the Archdiocese would continue. He said that the Vatican was generally supportive of the process, and required only that the changes be made in accordance with the requirements of canon law.

The Congregation for the Clergy ruled that when a geographical parish is merged into another parish, the assets of the suppressed parish become subject to the control of the new parish, rather than the Archdiocese. The properties of the old parish which has been closed can be surrendered to the archdiocese only with the consent of the new parish administration, the Vatican said.

Vatican bars Boston archdiocese seizure of parish assets (Catholic World News 11/8/05)

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Archdiocese of Boston | Parish Reconfiguration

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12 Aug 2005