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Article
Who Owns the Local Church? A Pressing Issue for Dioceses in Bankruptcy
Seton Hall Legislative Journal
  • Catharine P. Wells, Boston College Law School
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
11-1-2005
Abstract
The recent bankruptcies of Catholic Dioceses are unprecedented. For the first time, Bankruptcy Courts must deal with the difficult question of who owns the parish church. In this paper, I will explore two possible sources of confusion about this question. The first is the non- commercial, charitable nature of the Church. The second is its organizational complexity. Resolving the confusion requires a familiarity with various different sources of law including charities law, bankruptcy law, trust law, and Canon Law. In this paper I address this issue by: 1. discussing why the equities and policies that govern charitable bankruptcies are different from those that govern commercial bankruptcies; 2. laying out a road map for determining ownership issues that indicates what sub-questions must be answered and in what order; and 3. discussing the role that each of the different sources of law plays in answering these questions. My conclusion is that, in most circumstances, individual parishes do have a significant ownership stake in assets that are given or dedicated for their use.
Citation Information
Catharine P. Wells. "Who Owns the Local Church? A Pressing Issue for Dioceses in Bankruptcy" Seton Hall Legislative Journal Vol. 29 (2005) p. 375 - 398
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/catharine_wells/3/