The Roman Catholic Boston Archdiocese wants to resolve the dispute over about $3 million held by closed parishes by distributing the money to 58 churches that took in parishioners displaced by closings.
The money could be used by financially struggling parishes to pay for scholarships, building repairs and other needs, church officials said.
The amount given to each parish could range from several hundred dollars to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on how much the closed parish held in unspent restricted donations.
The plan requires approval of the state Supreme Judicial Court.
The money involved here s from “restricted funds,” that is money given for a specific purpose. The law says that when a donor specifies a purpose for his donation—e.g. a new organ for his parish—that intent must be respected in perpetuity. However, if the parish closes and the money is still being held—e.g. they hadn’t bought the organ yet because they hadn’t raised the full amount of money—that donation could go into limbo. The parish for which the organ was intended no longer exists so it can’t be spent.
So what the archdiocese is planning is to ask the state Supreme Judicial Court to allow those funds to be made unrestricted because of the special circumstances, at which point it will follow parishioners of closed parishes to their designated “welcoming” parishes. (The money is not going into the archdiocese’s general fund.) Admirably, the archdiocese is seeking the opinion of the laity on this plan.