Abstract

ABSTRACT:

One complex administrative controversy raised before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura concerns the reduction of a church to profane but not sordid use. Its jurisprudence in this matter offers much useful guidance to bishops in understanding what they can do and also what they ought to consider before decreeing such a reduction. Whether a bishop explicitly addresses the fate of a church or not (such as on the occasion of the suppression of a parish), the definitive decision that a church will no longer be used is equivalent to its reduction to profane but not sordid use. In regard to the procedure to be followed, among the matters that arise is the rule according to which the bishop must consult the presbyteral council prior to making his decision, not merely notify the council about a decision made. When carrying out this and other consultations, the question concerns not which churches should be retained and which discarded but whether there are grave reasons no longer to use a church for sacred worship. While the Apostolic Signatura cannot enter into questions of the fittingness of reducing a church to profane use, it examines whether there are grave reasons for doing so—that is, objective, factual, and proportionate reasons. Its jurisprudence has identified some such reasons, as well as some recurring reasons that are not grave and thus do not justify such a decision.

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