I’ve talked to a few people about my blog entry yesterday about why bishops don’t own parishes but can close them. For one thing, the apparent discrepancy between the ability of Archbishop Sean O’Malley to close parishes in the Boston archdiocese and the claim by some West Coast dioceses that they don’t own parishes and thus they shouldn’t be counted as assets under claims is not such a discrepancy.
For one thing, the Archdiocese of Boston is organized as a corporation sole under the name of the current archbishop, an arrangement expressly forbidden by canon law, partly because it does put parishes at risk in any type of claim against the diocese. So the legal name of the Archdiocese of Boston is The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, A Corporation Sole. The bishop is the diocese and the diocese (and all parishes for that matter) is the bishop.
It also explains why, when someone sued Cardinal Bernard Law, it was the archdiocese that paid out the money, since the archbishop is the archdiocese and vice-versa. So while such an arrangement gives the archbishop unprecedented legal control over every parish, it also leaves it vulnerable in many ways.
On the other hand, almost every other diocese in the country is set up as I outlined in my previous blog entry, with separate and distinct corporations for the diocese, parishes, schools, hospitals, charities, and so on.