Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=845624
 


 



Who Owns the Local Church? A Pressing Issue for Dioceses in Bankruptcy


Catharine P. Wells


Boston College - Law School


Seton Hall Legislative Journal, Symposium Issue: Bankruptcy in the Religious Non-Profit Context, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2005
Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 85

Abstract:     
The recent bankruptcies of Catholic Dioceses are unprecedented. For the first time, Bankruptcy Courts must deal with the difficult question of who owns the parish church. In this paper, I will explore two possible sources of confusion about this question. The first is the non-commercial, charitable nature of the Church. The second is its organizational complexity. Resolving the confusion requires a familiarity with various different sources of law including charities law, bankruptcy law, trust law, and Canon Law. In this paper I address this issue by: 1. discussing why the equities and policies that govern charitable bankruptcies are different from those that govern commercial bankruptcies; 2. laying out a road map for determining ownership issues that indicates what sub-questions must be answered and in what order; and 3. discussing the role that each of the different sources of law plays in answering these questions. My conclusion is that, in most circumstances, individual parishes do have a significant ownership stake in assets that are given or dedicated for their use.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Catholic Church, Catholic Dioceses, Bankruptcy Court, charities law, bankruptcy law, trust law, Canon Law, charitable bankruptcies, commercial bankruptcies, ownership, parish church

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Date posted: November 14, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Wells, Catharine P., Who Owns the Local Church? A Pressing Issue for Dioceses in Bankruptcy. Seton Hall Legislative Journal, Symposium Issue: Bankruptcy in the Religious Non-Profit Context, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2005; Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 85. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=845624

Contact Information

Catharine P. Wells (Contact Author)
Boston College - Law School ( email )
885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
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