Canonist Ed Peters offers another view of the implications of the bankruptcy judge’s ruling that the Portland archdiocese owns parishes and schools. Ed points out that bishops are bound to act according to canon law in the exercise of their duties. Part of canon law is that all “alienations” (or sale/transference) of property in excess of $3 million in value be approved by Rome.
If a legal judgment goes against the archdiocese and the court orders the archbishop to sell off what is likely to be tens of millions of dollars in property, what will the archbishop do is the Vatican says no?
At that point, Catholic administrators will either defy their religious responsibilities and sell-off assets for whatever they might fetch, or they will refuse to cooperate with the liquidations whereupon, presumably, federal bankruptcy courts will order the seizure of parish property, and thus align the U. S. government with a long line of powerful states that have confiscated Church property over the centuries. Both scenarios gravely threaten the free exercise guarantees of the Constitution.
Trampling the free exercise of religion