A number of churches in the diocese of Allentown that were ordered closed because of consolidations took their case to the Apostolic Signatura. In nine of those cases, the Vatican court overruled the diocesan decision to close the buildings, even though the decision to close the parishes was upheld. The buildings, the court ruled, enjoy sacred status, even though the parishes “were suppressed.”
Diocesan communications director Matt Kerr, quoted in the Standard Speaker, said “What that means going forward is unclear to the diocese. The Congregation for the Clergy based its decision to uphold the sacred nature of the churches based on a canon (church law), which requires the diocesan bishop to present a ‘grave cause’ for closing a church building. The Congregation holds that the grave cause was not present even though the parish is suppressed.” The diocese is appealing the ruling.
This case is one to watch, as more dioceses are seeking to consolidate parishes and maintain fewer church buildings for worship.