FAQs on the Phoenix restructuring plan
PHOENIX, AZ (The Catholic Sun) - Here are some of the details of the plan in the Diocese of Phoenix to incorporate each of its parishes as separate entities. For the full story, see Catholic Online's related story, "Phoenix parishes to be separate corporations."
According to canon (church) law, every parish in the Diocese has its own unique set of rights and responsibilities, including the right to hold and administer church property. Under our current civil structure, however, parishes have no recognized legal identity, and thus no right to buy, sell, hold or administer their own property. After much study and prayer, we have determined that creating non-profit parish corporations is the most effective way to ensure that a parish’s rights regarding its property will be respected not only under church law, but also under civil law. In other words, by separately incorporating our parishes, we will be adopting a civil law structure that will most accurately reflect our ecclesiastical identity and our canonical structure.
2. Are there theological reasons supporting parish incorporation?
Yes. In every step of the restructuring process, the Diocese of Phoenix has been guided by: (1) the theology of communio, (2) the principle of subsidiarity, and (3) the responsibility of stewardship.
First, with respect to the theology of communio, we must keep in mind who we are as a church. Everything that we do, from establishing a civil structure, to taking other steps to guide the daily operations of a parish, must be connected to the mission which God has entrusted to the Church. Through parish incorporation, clergy and laity will work together in the administration of parish affairs, and in the continued outreach of parish ministries, which will enhance the communion of the parish. Parishes will continue to interact with the broader Diocese, and the Diocese will continue to provide administrative support to the parishes. In effect, the Diocese will continue to exist as a communion of communions, and the theology of communio will continue to guide everything that we do as individual parishes and as the Diocese as a whole.
Second, parish incorporation will help us order and define the rights and responsibilities of each parish, and the duties and obligations of clergy and laity, consistent with the principle of subsidiarity which has long formed the framework of the Church. By acknowledging the unique rights and responsibilities of all members of the local church (i.e., the parishes), by recognizing each individual’s particular talents within a parish, and by giving those individuals the autonomy to use those talents to fulfill the particular roles that they are given under canon law, we hope to create a framework that will allow our parishes to continue to give witness to Christ and advance the Kingdom of God in all of the work that they do.
Third, we must remember that as members of a parish, and as Catholics, we are stewards of all that has been entrusted to us – including all forms of parish property. The separate incorporation of our parishes will demand that each parish and that each member of each parish exercise proper stewardship over the parish’s temporal goods.
3. Why now?
The idea of parish incorporation has been studied by the Diocese for many years. We have watched other dioceses reorganize for various reasons. We have received inquiries from priests and laity alike, who have asked why the Diocese has not separately incorporated our parishes. We have retained outside civil and canonical counsel to analyze the Diocese’s structure and to give recommendations. After years of study and prayer, we have decided that we are now ready to move forward with this transition.
In some cases, civil courts have directed dioceses to separately incorporate their parishes to clear up the confusion between the canonical and civil identity of the parishes, and to reinforce, through civil law, the fact that parish assets belong to the parish, not the diocese. In our case, there is no such pressure from any court or other such entity, and there are no pending civil or canonical court cases against the Diocese of Phoenix that might require that we take this action. In our mind, that makes this the perfect time to take this step – on our terms, and for our own reasons.
4. Is parish incorporation something new? Have other dioceses already separately incorporated their parishes?
Parish incorporation is not a new concept in the United States. In 1911, the Holy See recommended that Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States consider separate parish incorporation. At that time, a particular model of parish incorporation was available under New York law, and the Holy See suggested that diocese follow that model if at all possible. We have been advised that the civil structure that New York adopted was probably not available in Arizona in 1969, when the Diocese of Phoenix was formed. For that reason, the Diocese of Phoenix simply adopted the model that the Diocese ...
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