Thursday, June 09, 2005

Who Owns The Church?

In the midst of sexual abuse cases and church closings, Catholics in Boston are raising this question. It's a good one.

Here's the story, from yesterday's Boston Herald:
A group of local Catholics plans to ask the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops how the Archdiocese of Boston can close more than a quarter of its parishes by claiming it owns the properties while the conference's own president is trying to fend off lawsuits by clergy-abuse victims by claiming church assets belong to parishioners.
"To us, this is just a glaring inconsistency,'' said Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes. "We're going to . . . demand that this issue be resolved.''
The Bishops' Conference is scheduled to meet next week in Chicago. The council wants it to clarify how church law defines ownership of parish assets.
Last May, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley announced plans to close more than 80 of the archdiocese's 357 parishes. Parishioners at a half-dozen churches continue to hold sit-ins to try to keep them open, with some arguing church assets belong to parishioners.
Last month, meanwhile, the conference's president, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., filed documents in U.S. Bankruptcy Court claiming his diocese cannot sell churches and other buildings to settle sexual-abuse claims because it does not own the property; it merely holds them in trust. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December.
Yesterday, Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said, "The circumstances of a diocese in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings differ from those of a diocese that needs to reconfigure.''
Under civil law, the vast majority of the churches in the archdiocese are owned by a corporation controlled exclusively by the archbishop.
I'll admit I've never thought about this before. But, it is an interesting question. And, whatever the answer, the inconsistency in Boston is even more interesting.

Who do you think owns the Church?


At 10:16 AM, June 09, 2005, Blogger ma01432 said...

It got worse today.

At 2:27 PM, June 09, 2005, Blogger Steve Bogner said...

Christ owns the church ;)

What I find so ironic is how the church is so concerned with the material things - buildings, money. Personally, I am convinced that when we focus on spiritual matters first, everything else will fall into place.

I do think parishioners have a right to keep their churches. They paid for them, they pay to maintain them, they worship there, they are part of the parish and the parish is part of the community. At some point, it may be good stewardship to close a church, or merge it with another. But, that has to be done with the parish, not *to* the parish.

At 10:25 AM, June 11, 2005, Blogger CafeCath said... so many of these stories the parish seems to have been "done to".
It's very sad.

Spiritual matters first! I need to remember that. Thanks!


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