Recourse for merged or closed parishes
Most dioceses and archdioceses in the United States have had to face the reality of changing demographics and the declining number of active priests available to serve the people. This has led to the unfortunate need to close and merge parishes, so to best utilize available resources and personnel.
In the Philadelphia Archdiocese the process of closing and merging existing parishes is complicated, and many steps are involved. First, the designated bishop and dean of each area consult the parish pastoral and financial councils, followed by discussions with interested parishioners.
After these meetings, the pastors of each area meet with the Strategic Planning Committee to present their proposals for their area. Then, a plan is presented to the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors. Finally, the plan is presented to the Archbishop, who can accept the plan as is, or with modifications.
As the first four Pastoral Planning Areas (PPAs), including the Manayunk and Germantown/Mount Airy sections of Philadelphia, as well as Phoenixville and Coatesville in Chester County, await Archbishop Charles Chaput’s final decisions on the possible closures and mergers of the parishes in these areas, interested parishioners may wonder what happens next.
Under canon law, parishioners do have recourse options, and the guidelines from the Chancery are listed in the box below.
Archbishop Chaput’s final decisions for the four involved PPAs is expected to be announced after Easter. Readers are invited to visit CatholicPhilly.com periodically for breaking news of the announcements. The May edition of The Catholic Standard and Times will publish the Archbishop’s final decisions.
Church law provides the opportunity for those claiming to be aggrieved by a decree to seek recourse in accord with the Code of Canon Law (canons 1732 through 1739). Before initiating formal recourse, and within ten (10) business days of the legal notification of the decree effecting the parishes (canon 1734 §2), a written petition from a person (canon 96) who considers himself or herself aggrieved by the decree effecting the parishes must be directed to:
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
222 North 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
If the Archbishop’s response leaves the person who considers himself or herself aggrieved still dissatisfied, then the author of the initial petition seeking revocation or amendment of this decree has fifteen (15) business days to initiate formal recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy (canon 1737 §2). Should the Archbishop not respond to the initial petition, the time period for the person who considers himself or herself aggrieved to initiate formal recourse begins on the thirtieth day after the petition for revocation or amendment was submitted (canon 1735).
In these instances, the recourse is addressed to the Congregation for the Clergy. This can be submitted directly to the following address:
His Eminence, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
Congregation for the Clergy
Piazza Pio XII 3
00193 Rome, Italy
Or, through the office of the Apostolic Nunciature:
United States of America
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-3610
Or, through the office of Most Reverend Charles Chaput (address above)
The person making recourse against a decree has the right to engage the services of a canon lawyer (canon 1738).