Save Our Parish Community
Vatican: Assets Belong to New Parish, Not Diocese

In a March, 2006 letter to USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos instructed that the financial assets of a newly closed parish  must be transferred to the receiving parish, not to the diocese.  Hoyos, who is head of the Congregation of the Clergy, said it was “not uncommon” for U.S. dioceses to wrongly invoke canon 123, which allows a closed parish’s assets to go to the diocese, many of which are cash strapped because of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Hoyos wants the practice to stop: "Only with great difficulty can one say that a parish becomes extinct. A parish is extinguished by the law itself only if no Catholic community any longer exists in its territory, or if no pastoral activity has taken place for a hundred years."  He noted that “In most cases "suppressions" are in reality an "amalgamation" or "merger" and as such the goods and liabilities  should go to the enlarged parish community and not to the diocese.”

Irate parishioners in the Archdioceses of Boston and elsewhere had appealed to the Vatican protesting the closing of their viable and vibrant parishes. In most cases, while the Vatican office upheld the diocese’s decision to close the parish, it ruled that the assets should go to the newly formed parish entity, not to the diocese as had occurred in Boston.

Hoyos’ letter was circulated to all U.S. Bishops in July.  It will have far reaching implications because the priest shortage will be forcing dioceses to close and cluster parishes for the foreseeable future.