From the ever-lovely Toledo Blade :
An East Toledo parish that appealed its closing to the Vatican has won a partial victory from Rome and now plans to plead its case to the church's highest court, according to a parishioner leading the effort.
Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, however, said yesterday the ruling upholds his decision to close Holy Rosary Parish, 821 North Wheeling St., with only minor procedural changes required. The Congregation for the Clergy, one of nine governing bodies in the Vatican curia, upheld Bishop Blair's decision to close Holy Rosary Parish but said the wrong section of canon law was cited, which could affect distribution of the church's assets.
Rather than close Holy Rosary, the bishop should have merged the church with a neighboring parish or assigned it to a newly formed parish, the Vatican said. When parishes are closed, their cash savings, real estate, and other assets - or liabilities - go directly to the diocese, while the assets of parishes that are merged or assigned to new parishes become property of the merged or new parishes.
"We are partly satisfied with the decree, and partly not happy with it," said George Van Doren, a parishioner who has spearheaded Holy Rosary's appeals. The church was among 17 parishes in the 157-parish diocese closed by Bishop Blair effective July 1 in the most sweeping realignment in the history of the Toledo diocese.
Mr. Van Doren said the 200 or so members of Holy Rosary had hoped the Congregation for the Clergy would overturn Bishop Blair's decision to close their parish, but he called the assets part of the decree decision "a huge win" for churches targeted for closing.
"It's significant because it confirms our argument that the bishop can't just outright close your parish. He has to at least merge you or form a new parish," Mr. Van Doren said.
Mr. Van Doren and Bishop Blair said the Vatican issued a similar ruling for St. James Church in Kansas, Ohio, the only other closed parish in the Toledo diocese that appealed to Rome.
Holy Rosary had $200,000 in its bank account before the diocese announced its closing, said Mr. Van Doren, chairman of the church's finance council.
In his view, the Vatican decree will deter bishops from closing parishes merely to seize their assets when the U.S. Catholic Church is paying millions of dollars to victims of clerical sexual abuse and some dioceses are declaring bankruptcy.
Mr. Van Doren said Holy Rosary will take the next step and appeal its closing to the Apostolic Signatura, the church's highest-ranking court.
Bishop Blair said yesterday the assets of all closed parishes have been frozen until a decision is made on proper use of property and funds. He said the closings and mergers of a dozen parishes were the result of years of planning by a diocesan panel, and that finances had nothing to do with his decision.
The decree from the Congregation for the Clergy addressed "what is the proper canon by which the assets and liabilities of the suppressed parish are handled," Bishop Blair said. "Rome reviewed everything. … My decision on closing the parish was totally upheld."