Bad news for parishes fighting closure

Bad news for parishes fighting closure

A parish in the Greensburg, PA, diocese lost a court fight to stay open. The 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals refused their second appeal and all they have left is the Supreme Court, which is very unlikely to take it. What it says is that the courts are very reluctant to get into internal church matters such as the disposition of parishes. The legal situation is generally very clear. Parishes are in the name of the diocese or the bishop, not the parishioners, and so it is very difficult to get a court to side with the parishioners against the legal “owner.” Add to that separation of church and state issues and you’ll see why court fights are a long shot and only serve to make the lawyers richer.

  • What I find disturbing is that Catholics were suing their bishop, in secular court, trying to get the court to second guess the bishop’s decision about the internal administration of the Church.  St. Paul pretty clearly said (1 Cor. 6:1-8) that Christians should not be suing one another at all in the courts of the ungodly.  It’s even worse when they sue their own bishop in at attempt to compel him in matters of church government.  That’s the sort of thing that, in the Middle Ages, got kings excommunicated, because it shows disregard for the proper autonomy of the Church, which is.  The state has no more business telling the Church not to close some parishes than the Church has telling the state that it may not close some local motor vehicle offices or abolish some government agencies.  Maybe it was wrong of the bishop to try to close the parish, but that’s not something that should be second-guessed by any authority outside of the Church herself.

  • Correction:  Strike the comma and the words “which is” at the end of the third sentence of my 11:01 am post.  (Sorry about that.  Next time, I’ll use the “Preview” feature to edit my work.)