Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Suppression of territorial and personal parishes, 1 July 2010, Private.


Following a study of parish reconfiguration in a large archdiocese, the Archbishop determined, after consulting the Presbyteral Council, that some parishes should be suppressed and issued decrees of suppression indicating to which neighboring parishes the pastoral care of the faithful of the suppressed parishes would be entrusted. Parishioners appealed the Archbishop’s decision to the Congregation for the Clergy and later to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. The Latin definitive decrees of the Apostolic Signatura, one concerning a territorial parish and the other concerning a personal parish, and an unofficial English translation follow.




Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal

Prot. N. ____

Suppressionis paroeciae _____

(D.na ____ et D.nus _____ - Congregatio pro Clericis)

DECRETUM DEFINITIVUM

IN NOMINE DOMINI. AMEN

BENEDICTO PP. XVI feliciter regnante, Pontificatus sui anno VI, die 7 maii 2010 Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal, videntibus Em.mis ac Rev.mis D.nis Carolo Card. Caffarra et Ioanne Card. Lajolo, Exc.misque ac Rev.mis D.nis Raimundo Leone Burke, Praefecto, Stanislao Zvolensky et Xaverio Echevarria Rodriguez, Ponente, atque intervenientibus Cl.mo D.no Carolo Gullo, utpote Recurrentium Patrono, Cl.ma D.na Martha Wegan utpote Patrona Congregationis pro Clericis, primum Rev.mo P. Francisco Daneels, o.praem., tamquam Promotore Iustitiae, et dein Rev.do Marco Graulich, S.D.B., uti Promotore Iustitiae Substituto, in causa de qua supra, hoc defmitivum tulit decretum.

I. Facti Species

1. Ab annis peractis studiis de nova ordinatione paroeciarum in Archidioecesi _____ recognoscenda et iam nonnullis paroeciis suppressis, novus Exc.mus, hodie Em.mus, Archiepiscopus die 9 ianuarii 2004, audito, inter alios, collegio consultorum, munera consilii presbyteralis implente (cf. can. 501, §2), omnibus christifidelibus Archidioecesis annuntiavit necessitatem reducendi numerum paroeciarum in tota Archidioecesi. Inter argumenta adduxit mutatam condicionem demographicam, deminutum numerum presbyterorum et pessimam condicionem oeconomicam nonnullarum paroeciarum atque ipsius Archidioecesis.

In epistola diei 13 februarii 2004, Exc.mus Episcopus auxiliaris fusius explicavit modum procedendi. Quo in processu innovationis paroeciarum in Archidioecesi applicatum est principium subsidiarietatis, i.e. decisio Exc.mi Archiepiscopi praeparata est a coetibus localibus qui indicabant paroecias supprimendas, deinde haec indicatio considerata est a Rev.mis Vicariis foraneis, Exc.mis Episcopis auxiliaribus pro diversis regionibus et coetu centrali archidioecesano; postremo consilium presbyterale de re disceptavit.

2. Paroecia _____ anno 1945 in urbe v.d _____, in suburbio v.d. _____ erecta est. Antea agebatur de "missione" a paroecia _____ pendente. Anno 1957 cum contributione fidelium ibi nova ecclesia exstructa est.

Post decisionem Exc.mi Archiepiscopi _____ reducendi numerum paroeciarum in tota archidioecesi, coetus localis, Rev.mus Vicarius foraneus, Exc.mus Episcopus auxiliaris pro illa regione et coetus centralis pro reordinatione paroeciarum suppressionem paroeciae _____ commendaverunt. Ad rem die 7 maii 2004 auditum est consilium presbyterale, quod in sat longa disceptatione de paroeciis in urbe v.d. _____ nihil obiecit adversus propositam suppressionem paroeciae, de qua Exc.mus Archiepiscopus dein die 24 maii 2004 cum Rev.do Parocho communicavit decisionem paroeciam supprimendi et tandem die 5 octobris 2004, cum effectu a die 24 octobris habendo, decrevit suppressionem paroeciae, statuens curam pastoralem fidelium paroeciae suppressae confidi viciniori paroeciae _____, ad quam transferendi essent Libri paroeciales, aliis vero eiusdem bonis et obligationibus ipsi Archidioecesi destinatis.

3. Coetus nonnullorum paroecianorum, qui iam antea se suppression opposuerat, dein de re agere perrexit, proponens ut repristinaretur praevia condicio "missionis". Attenta responsione negativa diei 18 ianuarii 2005, D.na _____ et nonnulli alii paroeciani die 31 ianuarii 2005 recursum proposuerunt coram Congregatione pro Clericis adversus suppressionem paroeciae et die 10 augusti 2005 supplementum recursus exhibuerunt relate ad bona paroeciae suppressae ipsi Archdioecesi destinata.

Interim, epistola diei 20 iulii 2005 Exc.mus Archiepiscopus Congregationem certiorem fecerat de decisione "to keep open _____ Church as a worship site. It is my intention to wait for the resolution of this recourse before bringing this about".

Congregatio pro Clericis, tandem, die 30 novembris 2005 confirmavit suppressionern paroeciae, non autem Exc.mi Archiepiscopi decisionem circa bona paroeciae suppressae, atvero simul statuit non amplius haberi materiam contentionis in re, cum interim omnia illa bona paroeciae __ tributa fuissent, cuius vero parochus ea deinde instrumento diei 9 septembris 2005Archidioecesi donaverat.

4. Quam adversus Congregationis decisionem sibi die 17 ianuarii 2006 notificatam D.na _____ et D.nus _____ diebus 7 et 8 februarii 2006 provocaverunt ad H.S.T. Re rite discussa inter Cl.mos Patronos et Rev.mum Promotorem Iustitiae, H.S.T. in Congressu die 17 maii 2008 habito recursum ad disceptationem coram Em.mis et Exc.mis Iudicibus non admisit, quipped quia quolibet fundamento manifeste careret.

Cl.mus autem Patronus Recurrentium die 7 iunii 2008 recursum rationibus suffultum proposuit adversus decretum in Congressu latum. Exarato voto pro rei veritate a Rev.do Promotore Iustitiae Substituto, nunc Nobis decidendum est: An decretum Congressus, die 17 mali 2008 latum, in casu reformandum sit.

II. In Iure

5. Quoad erectionem, suppressionem aut innovationem paroeciarum can. 515, §2 determinat: «Paroecias erigere, supprimere aut eas innovare unius est Episcopi dioecesani, qui paroecias ne erigat aut supprimat, neve eas notabiliter innovet, nisi audito consilio presbyterali». Actus suppressionis exigit iustam causam, ne sit arbitrarius: «Anche se ciò non viene detto esplicitamente nel canone, é evidentemente richiesta una giusta causa, perché l’esercizio dell’autorità pastorale non può mai essere arbitrario nella Chiesa, ma deve attenersi ai criteri di buon govemo, promuovendo la salus animarum» (F. DANEELS, Soppressione, unione di parrocchie e riduzione ad uso profane della chiesa parrocchiale, in Ius Ecclesiae 10 [1998], p. 115). Qua in ratione perpendenda, non solum condicio paroeciae consideranda est, verum etiam totius dioecesis, ut totius dioecesis saluti animarum, meliore quo fieri potest, provideatur. Ad rem verba quoque recentiora Benedicti XVI quoad bonum commune in memoriam revocari possunt: «Magni […] bonum commune est ducendum. […]. Iustitiae est et caritatis bonum commune velle et pro eo operari» (Litt. enc. Caritas in veritate, 29 iunii 2009, in AAS 101 [2009], p. 645). Ergo, suppressio paroeciarum permanet actus administrativus Episcopi, audito consilio presbyterali, prae oculis habita salute animarum omnium fidelium ei concreditorum.

6. In casu unionis paroeciarum bona paroeciae seu personae iuridicae suppressae non obveniunt personae iuridicae immediate superiori (cf. can. 123), sed, ad normam can. 121 paroeciae seu personae iuridicae ad quam aut paroeciis seu personis iuridicis ad quas.

Alienatio bonorum, quae personae iuridicae publicae, uti est paroecia, ex legitima assignatione vel ex natura rei patrimonium stabile constituunt, regitur praescriptis cann. 1291-1294, quae etiam servanda sunt relate ad negotium, «quo condicio patrimonialis personae iuridicae peior fieri possit» (can. 1295).

7. Quoad reductionem ecclesiarum ad usum profanum non sordidum can. 1222 statuit quod «§1. Si qua ecclesia nullo modo ad cultum divinum adhiberi queat et possibilitas non detur eam reficiendi, in usum profanum non sordidum ab Episcopo dioecesano redigi potest. §2. Ubi aliae graves causae suadeant ut aliqua ecclesia ad divinum cultum arnplius non adhibeatur, eam Episcopus dioecesanus, audito consilio presbyterali, in usum profanum non sordidum redigere potest, de consensu eorum qui iura in eadem sibi legitime vindicent, et dummodo animarum bonum nullum inde detrimentum capiat». Iurisprudentia Signaturae Apostolicae negat reductionem ecclesiae implicite statui posse in decreto suppressionis paroeciae.

III. In Facto

8. Suppressio paroeciae _____ respondet ad rationes motivas ab Exc.mo Archiepiscopo indicatas, quando initium dabat processui reductionis paroeciarum in tota Archidioecesi. Modus procedendi Exc.mi Archiepiscopi servavit praescripta cann. 515, §1, 50 et 51. Ipse non solum condicionem paroeciae, de qua in casu, consideravit, verum etiam totius Archidioecesis, ut totius Archidioecesis saluti animarum, meliore quo fieri potest, provideatur. Eius decretum proinde arbitrarium considerari nequit. Quam ob rem asserta violatio legis in procedendo et decernendo relate ad paroeciam _____ haud probatur.

9. Ad destinationem bonorum quod attinet, unicum obiectum recursus coram H.S.T. esse potest impugnatum Congregationis decretum, quod decisionem Exc.mi Archiepiscopi emendavit. In casu haudquaquam impugnata est eorum translatio ad paroeciam ad quam, quae, ceterum, impugnari posse non videtur. Si et quatenus, vero, habeatur legitimus recursus relate ad eorum translationem ad Archidioecesim a Rev.do Parocho ad quem peractam, haec dicenda sunt. Ante omnia non indicatur lex quae violata esset et quomodo violata esset per illam cessionem bonorum quatenus animarum saluti christifidelium paroeciae suppressae contrariam. Dein liquet inepte invocari assertum violatum praescriptum cann. 1291ss., cum haudquaquam constet illa bona patrimonio stabili paroeciae ad quam assignata fuisse vel ex natura rei ad id pertinere. Recurrentes, insuper, nullo modo probaverunt se iura acquisita in illis bonis vindicare posse, v.g. ex actu fundationis vel contractus. Subordinate, tandem, animadvertitur Congregationem competentem indirecte rem probavisse. Rebus sic stantibus, non probatur violatio legis ex parte Congregationis in casu relate ad donationem a Rev.do Parocho ad quem in casu peractam.

10. Hoc in casu ecclesia adhuc pro cultu divino adhibetur. Cl.mus autem Recurrentium Patronus ad rem adduxit documenta quae paroeciam _____ in urbe _____, non autem in urbe v.d. _____ sitam respiciunt. Idem Cl.mus Patronus Recurrentium praeterea asserit: «est factum quod Archiepiscopus, ubi recursus adversus paroeciae suppressionem propositi non sunt, numquam tulit decretum reductionis ad usum profanum; simpliciter structuras (ecclesias) alienavit». Respondendum est quod H.S.T. non est de futuris iudicare sed de legitimitate aut illegitimitate decretorum latorum. Quidquid est, salvum manet ius fidelium, quorum interest, casu quo habebitur ad rem decisio definitiva, eandem ad normam iuris impugnandi.

IV. Conclusio

11. Omnibus sive in iure sive in facto aeque rimatis, infrascripti Iudices, Christi nomine invocato, pro Tribunali sedentes et solum Deum pro oculis habentes, dubio respondendum decreverunt et facto respondent:

NEGATIVE, seu decretum Congressus, die 17 maii 2008 latum, in casu, non esse reformandum.

Retineatur pro expensis H.S.T. cautio in eius arca deposita. Partes suo quaeque Cl.mo Patrono congruum solvant honorarium.

Ita pronuntiamus ac statuimus, mandantes iis quorum interest, ut hoc Nostrum definitivum decretum exsecutioni tradant, ad omnes iuris effectus.

Quod notificetur omnibus quorum interest ad omnes iuris effectus.

Datum Romae, e sede Supremi Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunalis, die 7 maii 2010

(Signati)

Carolus Card. CAFFARRA

Ioannes Card. LAJOLO

Raimundus Leo BURKE

Praefectus

Stanislaus ZVOLENSKY

Xaverius ECHEVARRIA RODRÍGUEZ

Ponens

Et notificetur.

Die 1 iulii 2010

Franciscus DANEELS, o.praem.

Secretarius

Iosephus Femandus MEJÍA YÁNEZ, m.g.

Notarius




Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Prot. N. ____

Suppression of _____ Parish

(Ms. _____ and Mr. _____ - Congregation for the Clergy)

DEFINITIVE DECREE

In the Name of the Lord. Amen.

On 7 May 2010, in the sixth year of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, happily reigning, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, with their Eminences Carlo Caffarra and Giovanni Lajolo, and their Excellencies Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect, Stanilav Zvolensky and Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, Ponens, considering the case, and with the Honorable Carlo Gulla, as advocate of those having recourse, the Honorable Martha Wegan, as advocate of the Congregation for the Clergy, and at the beginning the Most Reverend Frans Daneels, o.praem., as Promoter of Justice, and then the Reverend Markus Graulich, S.D.B., as Substitute Promoter of Justice, taking part, rendered this definitive decree in the above-named case.

I. Facti Species

1. After years of consideration of reconfiguring the parishes in the Archdiocese of _____ and after some parishes had already been suppressed, on 9 January 2004, His Excellency the Archbishop, after having heard, among others, the College of Consultors as fulfilling the functions of the Presbyteral Council (cf. canon 501, §2), announced to all the faithful of the Archdiocese the necessity of reducing the number of parishes in the whole Archdiocese. Among the reasons he gave were changed demographics, the reduced number of priests, and the poor financial condition of some parishes and of the Archdiocese itself.

In a letter of 13 February 2004, an Auxiliary Bishop explained the procedure at length. In the process of reconfiguring the parishes of the Archdiocese the principle of subsidiarity was put into practice, i.e. the decision of the Archbishop was prepared by local clusters that indicated parishes that should be suppressed, then this recommendation was considered by the Reverend Vicars Forane, their Excellencies the Auxiliary Bishops for the different regions and a central diocesan committee; finally, the Presbyteral Council discussed the matter.

2. In 1945, _____ Parish was erected in _____, a part of the City _____. Previously, it had been a “mission” dependent on _____ Parish. In 1951 a new church was built with the contributions of the faithful.

After the decision of His Excellency the Archbishop to reduce the number of parishes in the whole Archdiocese, the local cluster, the Reverend Vicar Forane, His Excellency the Regional Bishop, and the central committee for the reconfiguration of parishes recommended the suppression of _____ Parish. On 7 May 20, the Presbyteral Council was heard on the matter, which in a sufficiently long discussion about the parishes in _____ city had no objection to the proposed suppression of this parish. Then, on 24 May 2004, His Excellency the Archbishop informed the Reverend Pastor of the decision to suppress the parish and he finally decreed on 5 October 2004 the suppression of the parish to be effective on 24 October, determining that the pastoral care of the faithful of the suppressed parish would be entrusted to the neighboring _____ Parish, to which the parish registers were to be transferred, with the other assets and liabilities of the parish being designated for the Archdiocese itself.

3. A group of some parishioners, which had opposed the suppression even before the decree, then proceeded to act, proposing that the previous status of “mission” be restored. After having become aware of the negative reply of 18 January 2005, Ms. _____ and some other parishioners had on 31 January 2005 recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy against the suppression of the parish and on 10 August 2005 submitted a supplementary recourse concerning the assets of the suppressed parish that were designated for the Archdiocese.

Meanwhile, in a letter of 20 July 2005, His Excellency the Archbishop had informed the Congregation of the decision “to keep open _____ Church as a worship site. It is my intention to wait for the resolution of this recourse before bringing this about”.

The Congregation for the Clergy, finally, on 30 November 2005, confirmed the suppression of the parish, but not the Archbishop’s determination about the assets of the suppressed parish; however, at the same ime it decided that this was no longer a matter of contention because in the meanwhile all those assets had been given to _____ Parish, whose pastor had then donated them to the Archdiocese under date of 9 September 2005.

4. Against this decree of the Congregation, made known to them on 17 January 2006, Ms. _____ and Mr. _____ appealed on 7 and 8 February 2006 to this Supreme Tribunal.

After the matter had been discussed by the Honorable Advocates and the Promoter of Justice, this Supreme Tribunal in a Congresso held on 17 May 2008 did not accept the recourse for discussion before the Most Eminent and Most Excellent Judges, since it clearly lacked any basis.

The Honorable Advocate of those having recourse proposed on 7 June 2008 a recourse supported by arguments against the decree given in the Congresso. A votum pro rei veritate having been written by the Substitute Promoter of Justice, it is now to be decided by us: Whether the decree of the Congresso, given on 17 May 2008, is to be altered in this case.

II. In Iure

5. With respect to the erection, suppression, or altering of parishes, canon 515 §2 establishes: “It is only for the diocesan bishop to erect, suppress or alter parishes. He is neither to erect, suppress, nor alter notably parishes, unless he has heard the Presbyteral Council.” An act of suppression requires a just cause. “Even if this is not stated explicitly in the canon, a just cause is clearly required, because the exercise of pastoral authority in the Church can never be arbitrary, but must adhere to the criteria of good governance, by promoting the salvation of souls” (F. Daneels, “Suppressione, unione di parrocchie e riduzione ad uso profano della chiesa parrocchiale,” in Ius Ecclesiae 10 [1998], p. 115). In evaluating this reason, not only is the condition of the parish to be considered, but also that of the whole Archdiocese in order that the good of souls of the whole Archdiocese may be provided for in the best way possible. Relevant here are recent words of Pope Benedict XVI in so far as they can bring the common good to mind: “Another important consideration is the common good ... To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity (Encyclical Letter, Caritas in veritate, 29 June 2009, in AAS 101 [2009], p. 645). Therefore, the suppression of parishes is an administrative act of a Bishop who has consulted the Presbyteral Council and kept in mind the good of the souls of all the faithful entrusted to him.

6. In the case of the uniting of parishes the goods of the suppressed parish or juridic person do not go to the juridic person immediately superior (cf. canon 123), but, in accord with the norm of canon 121, to the parish or juridic person ad quam or to the parishes or juridic persons ad quas.

The alienation of the goods which by legal assignation or by their very nature constitute the stable patrimony of a public juridic person, which a parish is, is governed by the prescriptions of canons 1291-1294, which are also to be observed in connection with any transaction “which can worsen the patrimonial condition of a juridic person” (canon 1295).

7. With respect to the reduction of churches to profane but not sordid use, canon 1222 establishes that “§1. If a church cannot be used in any way for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it to profane but not sordid use. §2. When other grave causes suggest that a church no longer be used for divine worship, the diocesan bishop, after having heard the Presbyteral Council, can relegate it to profane but not sordid use, with the consent of those who legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church and provided that the good of souls suffers no detriment thereby.” The jurisprudence of the Apostolic Signatura denies that the reduction of a church can be implicitly established in a decree of suppression of a parish.

III. In Facto

8. The suppression of the _____ Parish corresponds to the motivating causes given by His Excellency the Archbishop when he began the process of reducing the number of parishes in the whole Archdiocese. The Archbishop’s procedure followed the prescriptions of canons 515 §1, 50 and 51. He considered not only the condition of the parish involved in this case also that of the whole Archdiocese in order that the good of souls of the whole Archdiocese might be provided for in the best way possible. Hence, his decree cannot be considered arbitrary. Therefore, the alleged violation of law in procedure and in issuing the decree relative to the _____ Parish is not proved.

9. As far as the disposition of assets is concerned, the only object of the recourse before this Supreme Tribunal can be the challenged decree of the Congregation which emended the decision of His Excellency the Archbishop. In this case their transfer to the parish ad quam has not been challenged in any way, and it seems that it cannot be challenged. However, if and to whatever extent there may be legitimate recourse about their transfer to the Archdiocese by the Reverend Pastor ad quem, the following must be said. First of all, it has not been indicated what law has been violated and how it bas been violated by the transfer of the assets as contrary to the salvation of the souls of the faithful of the suppressed parish. Next, it is clear that the alleged violated prescription of canons 1291ss. is ineptly invoked, since it is in no way clear that those assets had been designated for the stable patrimony of the parish ad quam or belong to it by their very nature. In addition, those having recourse have in no way proved that they can vindicate acquired rights to those assets, v.g., by an act of foundation or by a contract. Finally, it is noted subordinately, that the Congregation has indirectly approved the disposition. Since all this is so, violation of the law on the part of the Congregation in the matter of the gift made in this case by the Reverend Pastor ad quem is not proved.

10. In this case the church is still being used for divine worship. The Honorable Advocate of those having recourse has presented documents that refer to a _____ Parish located in the city of _____, not in the city of _____. Furthermore, this Honorable Advocate of those having recourse claims: “It is a fact that, in cases in which recourse was not proposed against the suppression of a parish, the bishop never issued a decree of relegation to profane use; he simply alienated (ecclesiastical) buildings (without any decree).” It must be said that it is not the responsibility of this Supreme Tribunal to pass judgment on actions in the future but only about the legality or illegality of issued decrees. In any case, there remains intact the right of the faithful who are interested parties to bring a challenge in accord with the norms of law in the event there is a definitive decision in the matter.

IV. Conclusion

11. All matters, whether of law or fact, having been examined thoroughly and equitably, after having invoked the name of Christ, the judges, whose signatures are below, sitting as the Tribunal and having only God before their eyes, have decreed that a response is to be given to the question and in fact do respond:

NEGATIVE, or the decree of the Congresso given on 17 May 1008 is, in this case, not to be altered.

For the expenses of this Supreme Tribunal the bond deposited in its treasury is to be retained. The parties are to pay a suitable fee to their Honorable Advocate.

So do we pronounce and determine, ordering those whose task it is to execute this Our definitive decree, with all the effects of law.

That for all the effects of law, notification is to be given to the interested parties.

Given at Rome, from the office of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, on the 7th day of May 2010.

(Signed)

Carolus Card. Caffarra

Ioannes Card. Lajolo

Raimundus Leo Burke

Prefect

Stanislaus Zvolensky

Xavierius Echevarria Rodríguez

Ponens

And let notice be given.

1 July 2010

Franciscus Daneels, o.praem.

Secretary

Iosephus Fernandus Mejía Yánez, m.g.

Notary




Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal

Prot. N. ____

Suppressionis paroeciae _____

(D.nus _____ - Congregatio pro Clericis)

DECRETUM DEFINITIVUM

IN NOMINE DOMINI. AMEN

BENEDICTO PP. XVI feliciter regnante, Pontificatus sui anno VI, die 7 maii 2010 Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal, videntibus Em.mis ac Rev.mis D.nis Carolo Card. Caffarra et Ioanne Card. Lajolo, Exc.misque ac Rev.mis D.nis Raimundo Leone Burke, Praefecto, Stanislao Zvolensky et Xaverio Echevarria Rodriguez, Ponente, atque intervenientibus Cl.mo D.no Carolo Gullo, utpote Recurrentiis Patrono, Cl.ma D.na Martha Wegan utpote Patrona Congregationis pro Clericis, primum Rev.mo P. Francisco Daneels, o.praem., tamquam Promotore Iustitiae, et dein Rev.do Marco Graulich, S.D.B., uti Promotore Iustitiae Substituto, in causa de qua supra, hoc defmitivum tulit decretum.

I. Facti Species

1. Ab annis peractis studiis de nova ordinatione paroeciarum in Archidioecesi _____ recognoscenda et iam nonnullis paroeciis suppressis, novus Exc.mus, hodie Em.mus, Archiepiscopus die 9 ianuarii 2004, audito, inter alios, collegio consultorum, munera consilii presbyteralis implente (cf. can. 501, §2), omnibus christifidelibus Archidioecesis annuntiavit necessitatem reducendi numerum paroeciarum in tota Archidioecesi. Inter argumenta adduxit mutatam condicionem, demographicam, deminutum numerum presbyterorum et pessimam condicionem oeconomicam nonnullarum paroeciarum atque ipsius Archidioecesis.

In epistola diei 13 februarii 2004, Exc.mus Episcopus auxiliaris fusius explicavit modum procedendi. Quo in processu innovationis paroeciarum in Archidioecesi applicatum est principium subsidiarietatis, i.e. decisio Exc.mi Archiepiscopi praeparata est a coetibus localibus qui indicabant paroecias supprimendas, deinde haec indicatio considerata est a Rev.mis Vicariis foraneis, Exc.mis Episcopis auxiliaribus pro diversis regionibus et coetu centrali archidioecesano; postremo consilium presbyterale de re disceptavit.

2. Cum Rev.mus Superior Provincialis _____ die 14 februarii 2003 notificavisset intentionem reducendi numerum Patrum _____ in civitate v.d. _____, Exc.mus Administrator Archidiocesani iam tunc promoverat examen de ordinatione paroeciarum ibidem recognoscenda.

Audito die 24 iunii 2004 consilio presbyterali, Exc.mus Archiepiscopus die sequenti cum Rev.do Parocho paroeciae _____ in urbe v.d. _____ communicavit decisionem eandem paroeciam supprimendi et tandem die 23 augusti 2004, cum effectu a die 30 augusti habendo, decrevit suppressionem paroeciae personalis _____ pro fidelibus originis gallicae in urbe v.d. _____, statuens curam pastoralem fidelium paroeciae suppressae confidi viciniori paroeciae _____, ad quam transferentur libri paroeciales et schola, aliis vero eiusdem bonis et obligationibus ipsi Archidioecesi destinatis, atque salva facultate fidelium linguae gallicae adhaerendi alii paroeciae personali pro eiusmodi fidelibus.

3. Remonstratione die 17 septembris 2004 reiecta, D.nus _____ tamquam membrum paroeciae suppressae recurrit ad Congregationem pro Clericis, quae decreto diei 24 maii 2006 confirmavit suppressionem paroeciae atque statuit non amplius haberi materiam contentionis circa destinationem bonorum paroeciae suppressae ab Exc.mo Archiepiscopo in decreto diei 23 augusti 2004 statutam, cum interim omnia illa bona paroeciae _____ tributa fuissent, cuius vero parochus ea deinde, praeter scholam, instrumento diei 25 februarii 2006 ad normam can. 532 Archidioecesi donaverat.

4. Quam adversus Congregationis decisionem sibi die 6 iunii 2006 notificatam D.nus _____ die 22 iunii 2006 recurrit ad H.S.T.

Postea, extra terminum de quo in art. 123, §1 Const. Ap. Pastor bonus, etiam quaedam alia membra paroeciae suppressae ad H.S.T. provocaverunt.

Re rite discussa inter Cl.mos Patronos et Rev.mum Promotorem Iustitiae, H.S.T. in Congressu die 1 februarii 2008 habito recursum ad disceptationem coram Em.mis et Exc.mis Iudicibus non admisit, quippe qui quolibet fundamento manifeste careret.

Cl.mus autem Patronus Recurrentium die 10 aprilis 2008 recursum rationibus suffultum proposuit adversus decretum in Congressu latum. Exarato voto pro rei veritate a Rev.do Promotore Iustitiae Substituto, nunc Nobis decidendum est: An decretum Congressus, die 1 februarii 2008 latum, in casu reformandum sit.

II. In Iure

5. Quoad erectionem, suppressionem aut innovationem paroeciarum can. 515, §2 determinat: «Paroecias erigere, supprimere aut eas innovare unius est Episcopi dioecesani, qui paroecias ne erigat aut supprimat, neve eas notabiliter innovet, nisi audito consilio presbyterali». Actus suppressionis exigit iustam causam, ne sit arbitrarius: «Anche se ciò non viene detto esplicitamente nel canone, é evidentemente richiesta una giusta causa, perché l’esercizio dell’autorità pastorale non può mai essere arbitrario nella Chiesa, ma deve attenersi ai criteri di buon govemo, promuovendo la salus animarum» (F. DANEELS, Soppressione, unione di parrocchie e riduzione ad uso profane della chiesa parrocchiale, in Ius Ecclesiae 10 [1998], p. 115). Qua in ratione perpendenda, non solum condicio paroeciae consideranda est, verum etiam totius dioecesis, ut totius dioecesis saluti animarum, meliore quo fieri potest, provideatur. Ad rem verba quoque recentiora Benedicti XVI quoad bonum commune in memoriam revocari possunt: «Magni […] bonum commune est ducendum. […]. Iustitiae est et caritatis bonum commune velle et pro eo operari» (Litt. enc. Caritas in veritate, 29 iunii 2009, in AAS 101 [2009], p. 645). Ergo, suppressio paroeciarum permanet actus administrativus Episcopi, audito consilio presbyterali, prae oculis habita salute animarum omnium fidelium ei concreditorum.

In specie ad suppressionem paroeciae personalis quod attinet, agnoscendum est migratorum ius servandi patrimonium spiritale, immo ubi id expediat constituantur pro eis paroeciae personales (cf., inter alia, can. 518; art. 6 Instr. Erga migrantes caritas Christi). Sed sedulo animadvertendum est istud ius migratorum vinculatum non esse cum quadam determinata paroecia personali, quae est una tantum ex pluribus comprobatis rationibus et viis in pastorali cura agenda pro coetibus specialibus fidelium (cf. v.g. decreta Congressus dierum 25 ianuarii 1991, prot. n. 21896/90 CA; 3 maii 1995, prot. n. 24388/93 CA; 26 ianuarii 1996, prot. n. 26205/95 CA; 18 iulii 1996, prot. n. 26399/95 CA). Mutata autem rei condicione, Episcopus dioecesanus, iuxta iurisprudentiam H.S.T., iusta ex causa etiam eiusmodi paroeciam supprimere potest et alio modo migratorum curae pastorali providere.

6. In casu unionis paroeciarum bona paroeciae seu personae iuridicae suppressae non obveniunt personae iuridicae immediate superiori (cf. can. 123), sed, ad normam can. 121 paroeciae seu personae iuridicae ad quam aut paroeciis seu personis iuridicis ad quas.

Alienatio bonorum, quae personae iuridicae publicae, uti est paroecia, ex legitima assignatione vel ex natura rei patrimonium stabile constituunt, regitur praescriptis cann. 1291-1294, quae etiam servanda sunt relate ad negotium, «quo condicio patrimonialis personae iuridicae peior fieri possit» (can. 1295).

7. Quoad reductionem ecclesiarum ad usum profanum non sordidum can. 1222 statuit quod «§1. Si qua ecclesia nullo modo ad cultum divinum adhiberi queat et possibilitas non detur eam reficiendi, in usum profanum non sordidum ab Episcopo dioecesano redigi potest. §2. Ubi aliae graves causae suadeant ut aliqua ecclesia ad divinum cultum amplius non adhibeatur, eam Episcopus dioecesanus, audito consilio presbyterali, in usum profanum non sordidum redigere potest, de consensu eorum qui iura in eadem sibi legitime vindicent, et dummodo animarum bonum nullum inde detrimentum capiat». Iurisprudentia Signaturae Apostolicae negat reductionem ecclesiae implicite statui posse in decreto suppressionis paroeciae.

III. In Facto

8. Suppressio paroeciae _____ respondet ad rationes motivas ab Exc.mo Archiepiscopo indicatas, quando initium dabat processui reductionis paroeciarum in tota Archidioecesi. Modus procedendi Exc.mi Archiepiscopi servavit praescripta cann. 515, §1, 50 et 51. Ipse non solum condicionem paroeciae, de qua in casu, consideravit, verum etiam totius Archidioecesis, ut totius Archidioecesis saluti animarum, meliore quo fieri potest, provideatur. Eius decretum proinde arbitrarium considerari nequit. Quam ob rem asserta violatio legis in procedendo et decemendo relate ad paroeciam _____ haud probatur.

9. Ad destinationem bonorum quod attinet, unicum obiectum recursus coram H.S.T. esse potest impugnatum Congregationis decretum, quod decisionem Exc.mi Archiepiscopi emendavit. In casu haudquaquam impugnata est eorum translatio ad paroeciam ad quam, quae, ceterum, impugnari posse non videtur. Si et quatenus, vero, habeatur legitimus recursus relate ad eorum translationem ad Archidioecesim a Rev.do Parocho ad quem peractam, haec dicenda sunt. Ante omnia non indicatur lex quae violata esset et quomodo violata esset per illam cessionem bonorum quatenus animarum saluti christifidelium paroeciae suppressae contrariam. Dein liquet inepte invocari assertum violatum praescriptum cann. 1291ss., cum haudquaquam constet illa bona patrimonio stabili paroeciae ad quam assignata fuisse vel ex natura rei ad id pertinere. Recurrens, insuper, nullo modo probavit se iura acquisita in illis bonis vindicare posse, v.g. ex actu fundationis vel contractus. Subordinate, tandem, animadvertitur Congregationem competentem indirecte rem probavisse. Rebus sic stantibus, non probatur violatio legis ex parte Congregationis in casu relate ad donationem a Rev.do Parocho ad quem in casu peractam.

10. Quod attinet ad reductionem ecclesiae ad usum profanum non sordidum, hoc in casu non habetur in actis sive ex parte Exc.mi, nunc Em.mi, Archiepiscopi sive ex parte Congregationis pro Clericis decisio de ecclesiae clausura definitiva deque eius reductione ad usum profanum. Nihilominus, Cl.mus Patronus Recurrentius asserit: «Factum est quod Archiepiscopus, ubi recursus adversus paroeciae suppressionem propositi non sunt, numquam tulit decretum reductionis ecclesiae ad usum profanum; simpliciter structuras (ecclesiasias) alienavit (sine ullo decreto).» Respondendum est quod H.S.T. non est de futuris iudicare sed de legitimitate aut illegitimitate decretorum latorum. Quidquid est, impugnatum Congressus decretum ad rem statuit: «salvo iure fidelium, quorum interest, casu quo habebitur ad rem decision defmitiva, eandem ad normam iuris impugnandi».

IV. Conclusio

11. Omnibus sive in iure sive in facto aeque rimatis, infrascripti Iudices, Christi nomine invocato, pro Tribunali sedentes et solum Deum pro oculis habentes, dubio respondendum decreverunt et facto respondent:

NEGATIVE, seu decretum Congressus, die 1 februarii 2008 latum, in casu, non esse reformandum.

Retineatur pro expensis H.S.T. cautio in eius arca deposita. Partes suo quaeque Cl.mo Patrono congruum solvant honorarium.

Ita pronuntiamus ac statuimus, mandantes iis quorum interest, ut hoc Nostrum definitivum decretum exsecutioni tradant, ad omnes iuris effectus.

Quod notificetur omnibus quorum interest ad omnes iuris effectus.

Datum Romae, e sede Supremi Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunalis, die 7 maii 2010

(Signati)

Carolus Card. CAFFARRA

Ioannes Card. LAJOLO

Raimundus Leo BURKE

Praefectus

Stanislaus ZVOLENSKY

Xaverius ECHEVARRIA RODRIGUEZ

Ponens

Franciscus DANEELS, o.praem.

Secretarius

Iosephus Fernandus MEJIA YANEZ, m.g.

Notarius

Et notificetur.

Die 1 iulii 2010

Franciscus DANEELS, o.praem.

Secretarius

Iosephus Femandus MEJÍA YÁNEZ, m.g.

Notarius




Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Prot. N. ____

Suppression of the Parish of _____

(Mr. _____ – Congregation for the Clergy)

DEFINITIVE DECREE

In the name of the Lord. Amen.

On 7 May 2010, in the sixth year of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, happily reigning, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, with their Eminences Carlo Caffarra and Giovanni Lajolo, and their Excellencies Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect, Stanilav Zvolensky and Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, Ponens, considering the case, and with the Honorable Carlo Gulla, as advocate of those having recourse, the Honorable Martha Wegan, as advocate of the Congregation for the Clergy, and at the beginning the Most Reverend Frans Daneels, o.praem., as Promoter of Justice, and then the Reverend Markus Graulich, S.D.B., as Substitute Promoter of Justice, taking part, rendered this definitive decree in the case named above.

I. Facti Species

1. After years of consideration of reconfiguring the parishes in the _____ Archdiocese and after some parishes had already been suppressed, on 9 January 2004, His Excellency the Archbishop, after having heard, among others, the College of Consultors as fulfilling the functions of the Presbyteral Council (c. canon 501, §2), announced to all the faithful of the Archdiocese the necessity of reducing the number of parishes in the whole Archdiocese. Among the reasons he gave were changed demographics, there reduced number of priests, and the poor financial condition of some parishes and of the Archdiocese itself.

In a letter of 13 February 2004, an Auxiliary Bishop explained the procedure at length. In the process of reconfiguring the parishes of the Archdiocese the principle of subsidiarity was put into practice, i.e. the decision of the Archbishop was prepared by local clusters that indicated parishes that should be suppressed, then this recommendation was considered by the Reverend Vicars Forane, their Excellencies the Auxiliary Bishops for the different regions and a central archdiocesan committee; finally, the Presbyteral Council discussed the matter.

2. When the Very Reverend Provincial Superior of _____ had, under date of 14 February 2003, given notice of his intention to reduce the number of _____ priests in _____, His Excellency the Administrator of the Archdiocese advanced the study on the reorganizing of the parishes in that city.

Having heard the Presbyteral Council on 24 June 2004, His Excellency the Archbishop on the following day informed the Pastor _____ Parish in _____ of the decision to suppress that parish and finally on 23 August 2004 issued a decree, effective on 30 August 2004, suppressing the personal parish of _____ for French-language faithful in _____ and determining that the pastoral care of the members of the suppressed parish be entrusted to the neighboring parish of _____, that the parish registers and the school be transferred to the same parish, while the other property and obligations of _____ parish would belong to the Archdiocese, and that the French-language faithful had permission to belong to another French-language personal parish.

3. His remonstrance having been rejected under date of 17 September 2004, Mr. _____, as a member of the suppressed parish, had recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy, which by a decree of 24 May 2006 confirmed the suppression of the parish and decided that there was no longer any basis for dispute over the disposition of the goods of the suppressed parish determined by His Excellency the Archbishop in the decree of 23 August 2004, because in the meantime all those goods had been given to the parish of _____, and its pastor afterwards on 25 February 2006 had given them, with the exception of the school, to the Archdiocese in accord with canon 532.

4. Against this decision of the Congregation, which he was notified of on 6 June 2006, Mr. _____ under date of 22 June 2006 had recourse to this Supreme Tribunal.

Later, beyond the time provided for in art. 123. §1 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, some other members of the suppressed parish appealed to this Supreme Tribunal.

After the matter had been discussed by the Honorable Advocates and the Promoter of Justice, this Supreme Tribunal in a Congresso held on 1 February 2008 did not accept the recourse for discussion before the Most Eminent and Most Excellent Judges, since it clearly lacked any basis.

The Honorable Advocate of those having recourse proposed on 10 April 2008 a recourse supported by arguments against the decree given in the Congresso. A votum pro rei veritate having been written by the Substitute Promoter of Justice, it is now to be decided by us: Whether the decree of the Congresso, given on 1 February 2008, is to be altered in this case.

II. In Iure

5. With respect to the erection, suppression, or altering of parishes, canon 515 §2 establishes: “It is only for the diocesan bishop to erect, suppress or alter parishes. He is neither to erect, suppress, nor alter notably parishes, unless he has heard the Presbyteral Council.” An act of suppression requires a just cause. “Even if this is not stated explicitly in the canon, a just cause is clearly required, because the exercise of pastoral authority in the Church can never be arbitrary, but must adhere to the criteria of good governance, by promoting the salvation of souls” (F. Daneels, “Suppressione, unione di parrocchie e riduzione ad uso profano della chiesa parrocchiale,” in Ius Ecclesiae 10 [1998], p. 115). In evaluating this reason, not only is the condition of the parish to be considered, but also that of the whole Archdiocese in order that the good of souls of the whole Archdiocese may be provided for in the best way possible. Relevant here are recent words of Pope Benedict XVI in so far as they can bring the common good to mind: “Another important consideration is the common good ... To desire the common good and strive towards it is a is a requirement of justice and charity (Encyclical Letter, Caritas in veritate, 29 June 2009, in AAS 101 [2009], p. 645). Therefore, the suppression of parishes is an administrative act of a Bishop who has heard the Presbyteral Council and kept in mind the good of the souls of all the faithful entrusted to him.

In particular, concerning what pertains to the suppression of a personal parish, the right of migrants to preserve their spiritual patrimony has to be acknowledged; in fact, when it is expedient personal parishes may be established for them (cf. inter alia, canon 516; article 6 of the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi). But, it is to be carefully noted that this right is not tied to any particular personal parish, which is only one of the many approved ways of providing pastoral care for special groups of the faithful (cf. v.g. the decrees of the Congresso of 25 January 1991, prot. n. 21896190 CA; 3 May 1995, prot. n. 24388193 CA; 26 January 1996, prot. n. 26205195 CA; 18 July 1996. prot. n. 26399195 CA). Moreover, when the realities have changed, the Archbishop, in accord with the jurisprudence of this Supreme Tribunal, can for a just reason suppress a parish of this type and provide for the pastoral care of migrants in another way.

6. In the case of the uniting of parishes the goods of the suppressed parish or juridic person do not go to the juridic person immediately superior (cf. canon 123), but, in accord with the norm of canon 121 to the parish or juridic person ad quam or to the parishes or juridic persons ad quas.

The alienation of the goods which by legal assignation or by their very nature constitute the stable patrimony of a public juridic person, which a parish is, is governed by the prescriptions of canons 1291-1294, which are also to be observed in connection with any transaction “which can worsen the patrimonial condition of a juridic person” (canon 1295).

7. With respect to the reduction of churches to profane but not sordid use, canon 1222 establishes that “§1. If a church cannot be used in any way for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it to profane but not sordid use. §2. When other grave causes suggest that a church no longer be used for divine worship, the diocesan bishop, after having heard the Presbyteral Council, can relegate it to profane but not sordid use, with the consent of those who legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church and provided that the good of souls suffers no detriment thereby.” The jurisprudence of the Apostolic Signatura denies that the reduction of a church can be implicitly established in a decree of suppression of a parish.

III. In Facto

8. The suppression of the parish _____ corresponds to the motivating causes given by His Excellency when he began the process of cutting back parishes in the whole Archdiocese. The mode of proceeding of His Excellency the Archbishop followed the prescriptions of canons 515 §1, 50 and 51. He considered not only the condition of the parish involved in this case but also that of the whole Archdiocese in order that the good of souls of the whole Archdiocese might be provided for in the best way possible. Hence, his decree cannot be considered arbitrary. Therefore, the alleged violation of law in procedure and in issuing the decree relative to the parish of _____ is not proved.

9. As far as the disposition of assets is concerned, the only object of the recourse before this Supreme Tribunal can be the challenged decree of the Congregation which emended the decision of His Excellency the Archbishop. In this case their transfer to the parish ad quam has not been challenged in any way, and it seems that it cannot be challenged. However, if and to whatever extent there may be legitimate recourse about their transfer to the Archdiocese by the Reverend Pastor ad quem, the following must be said. First of all, it has not been indicated what law has been violated and how it has been violated by the transfer of assets as contrary to the salvation of the souls of the faithful of the suppressed parish. Next, it is clear that the alleged violated prescription of canons 1291ss. is ineptly invoked, since it is in no way clear that those assets had been designated for the stable patrimony of the parish ad quam or belong to it by their very nature. In addition, the party having recourse has in no way proved that he can vindicate acquired rights to those assets, v.g., by an act of foundation or by a contract. Finally, it is noted subordinately, that the Congregation has indirectly approved the disposition. Since all this is so, violation of the law on the part of the Congregation in the matter of the gift made in this case by the Reverend Pastor ad quem is not proved.

10. With regard to the relegation of the church to profane but not sordid use, in this case there is nothing in the acts on the part of either His Excellency the Archbishop, or of the Congregation for Clergy about a decision in regard to the definitive closing of the church and its relegation to profane use. Nonetheless, the Honorable Advocate for the one having recourse claims: “It is a fact that, in cases in which recourse was not proposed against the suppression of a parish, the bishop never issued a decree of relegation to profane use; he simply alienated (ecclesiastical) buildings (without any decree).” It must be said that it is not the responsibility of this Supreme Tribunal to pass judgment on actions in the future but only about the legality or illegality of issued decrees. In any case, the challenged decree of the Congregation has stated on this point: "preserving the right of the faithful, who have an interest, to bring a challenge in accord with the norms of law in the event there is a definitive decision in the matter."

IV. Conclusion

11. All matters, whether of law or fact, having been examined thoroughly and equitably, after having invoked the name of Christ, the Judges, whose signatures are below, sitting as the Tribunal and having only God before their eyes, have decreed that a response is to be given to the question and in fact do respond:

NEGATIVE, or the decree of the Congresso given on 1 February 2008 is, in this case, not to be altered.

For the expenses of this Supreme Tribunal the bond deposited in its treasury is to be retained. The parties are to pay a suitable fee to their Honorable Advocate.

So do we pronounce and determine, ordering those whose task it is to execute this Our definitive decree, with all the effects of law.

That for all the effects of law, notification is to be given to the interested parties.

Given at Rome, from the office of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, on the 7th day of May 2010.

(Signed)

Carolus Card. Caffarra

Ioannes Card. Lajolo

Raimundus Leo Burke

Prefect

Stanislaus Zvolensky

Xavierius Echevarria Rodríguez

Ponens

And let notice be given.

1 July 2010

Franciscus Daneels, o.praem.

Secretary

Iosephus Fernandus Mejía Yánez, m.g.

Notary




Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Suppression of territorial and personal parishes, 1 July 2010, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2010, 11-32.