Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Did you know that according to Canon Law a parish may not be closed? Yeah, I know...it's done all the time. Well, actually it isn't. A critical word is used to facilitate the process. Parishes are not "closed", they are "merged", which is acceptable under Canon Law and the proper Catholicspeak terminology.

“No parish is really ever closed unless there are no Catholics left there,” said Litwin. “In reality, what seem to be closings are not really closings. You’re closing buildings perhaps, but you’re merging parish boundaries.”

The Vatican clarified the issue last summer in a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a high-ranking prelate, wrote: “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,” Hoyos wrote, according to the Catholic News Service.

Over the weekend, diocesan officials announced the merger of 10 parishes into five. Four church buildings are expected to be shut down in that reconfiguration.

Confusion can result because many Catholics often use the terms “parish” and “church” interchangeably.

Some merged parishes might reflect their new status by choosing a new parish name.

So, when your parish disappears and the Methodists own the church you helped finance, don't even think about claiming that it has been "closed" lest you accuse the bishop of violating Canon Law. Get your language straight and be happy about your new parish home, don't reminisce about the old one that is gone, don't wax nostalgic about the events that you celebrated in the church that was part of the parish whose name is only a memory, because that parish still exists even if you can't find it, and being "negative" is a no-no.

(Ok, I have hot buttons.)

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