Incorporating the parishes

Incorporating the parishes

Seeing what is happening in Portland, Oregon, every American diocese organized as a corporation sole should be following the lead of the Diocese of Tucson and reorganizing the parishes as separate corporations.

The formal incorporation of all 74 parishes in the Diocese of Tucson is in process following the filing of signed articles of incorporation for each parish with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).

Attorney Gerry O’Meara, who serves as the statutory agent for parish incorporation and who is the Diocese of Tucson attorney, Father Al Schifano, diocesan Moderator of the Curia, and Kathy Rhinehart, executive assistant for corporate affairs, hand delivered the documents to the ACC’s Tucson office and watched as ACC staff member Nanette Brantly stamped each set of articles with the filing date of Nov. 15.

Each parish and school will be a separate corporation under the laws of the state of Arizona, and the officers of the corporations will be the pastor, the bishop, the moderator of the curia, a lay treasurer, and a lay secretary. The lay members will initially be appointed by the pastor, but after their initial terms expire they will be elected by the parish.

Assuming everyone acts according to certain self-interest, two of the five members will act according to the bishops’ wishes (the bishop and the moderator), two will act according to the parishioners’ wishes (the two lay members) and the pastor will do as he sees fit (being appointed by the bishop, but having a pastoral responsibility to the parish). Under canon law, the bishop still retains all his authority over the parish, but in civil law he will be slightly encumbered if he attempts to do something against the wishes of the parishioners.

A board of “yes men”?

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  • Or how about the first time the bishop decides to suppress a parish? In Tucson that isn’t likely to happen for a long time since it’s growing by leaps and bounds, but how about in another, older diocese?

    Well, it would mean that a situation like the one that occured in Boston, where parishes were suppressed contrary to Canon Law, and were the only recourse that parishioners had was to stage sit-ins would be unlikely. Instead, the bishop will have to pause and discuss the situation with each parish.

    As the Vatican rulings have made clear in the aftermath of the first batch of Boston parish suppressions, parishes cannot be suppressed if they still have an ongoing life and sufficient parishioners and the fabric of the parish’s buildings are in decent shape; they can be merged if the diocese is unable to support the parish (primarily in the area of supplying priests), but in the case of such mergers (or assignment of parishioners to another parish) the assets of the parish follow the parishioners.

    The setup going on in Tucson is similar to how Episcopal parishes are set up, although it seems that the Catholic bishops will continue to exercise greater control than an Episcopal bishop does. In Episcopal parishes, the vestry calls the priest (he is not assigned to the parish), although selection of men to be ordained is still up to the bishop, and he has to agree to the vestry’s decision. But in the Tucson setup, the bishop will continue to assign the pastor and curates, who all have vowed obedience to him and his successors.

  • Steve,

    That is not what the Vatican said about Boston. The Vatican said nothing about ongoing life, sufficient parishioners, or the status of the buildings.

    In fact, the Vatican only said that parishes that were merged in fact, must be treated as merged under canon law. You should keep in mind that the Vatican has not reversed a single parish closing in Boston.