It took a bunch of lawyers' fees, and an ill-advised bankruptcy filing, but the Bishop of Tuscon is finally doing something right with respect to his administration of the temporal goods of the church there. He's separately incorporated parishes, and their property will be administered by 5-member boards of directors, with two independent laymen on each board. The result is that the parishes will be recognized in civil law and protected from diocesan creditors as separate legal entities--just as they are recognized in canon law as separate juridic persons (Can. 515). In each parish, the property is still under the ultimate control of the Bishop, who by membership on the board and appointment of two other members, controls the board (as is clear from the whining of progressives in this article), but with a minority of independent directors (as finance and bankruptcy folks'll tell you) the parishes get much more protection from a civil law perspective, and from a canonical perspective as well. So, Tuscon's Ordinary is finally fulfilling his obligations under Can 1284. It's not good that it took the Scandal and the fleecing of parishioners by scoundrel plaintiff's lawyers to get it done, but at least it's done.
There are some Catholics I know of who are appalled at the thought that an Ordinary would have anything less than autocratic powers with respect to parish property within his diocese, and can't imagine any layman or parishioner having any say whatsoever with respect to parish property. Among those Catholics we can number at least two Archbishops: Burke (reneging on the St. Stanislaus deal) and O'Malley (putting the Church out of business in Boston). I would disagree, as would some canonists I've read, whose work I'm going to grossly oversimply. In Europe, I understand, the separate ownership of parish property is, and always has been, much more clear (at least until the secular state intervened). Parishes were, while still being under the jurisdiction of the local ordinary, of course, given far more practical and legal/canonical protection and prerogatives in the administration of their property than in the United States. In Europe, historically, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity seems to have been followed in this respect. In the United States, however, Bishops started from scratch, so to speak, and with typically-American contempt for custom and the wisdom of the ages, from the Council of Baltimore on, generally kept that power in their own hands through the administration of their dioceses as corporations sole. They also practically eliminated any autonomy of parishes by making pastoral appointments for a limited term of a half-dozen years, or, practically (with the power of removal by almost-unappealable administative process) at the Bishop's pleasure. European pastorships were historically for life, with removal for cause by juridic process, of course. Pastors in the American system can't afford to represent their parish's interests properly, because they've got a conflict of interest--they depend on the Bishop for the next job.
Funny how the American Bishops, as a body, throw fits about collegiality and subsidiarity when Rome corrects them for forcing crappy Mass translations on us and whatnot, but they can't seem to apply that same principle of subsidiarity to their own local Churches, eh?
Well, hopefully other dioceses will follow suit and straighten out their own messes before the black-robed enemies of the Church get their vile hands in the basket as they have in Portland and Spokane.
I need to get on line and see how the local dioceses have their property titled. For articles on this and other topics, I do suggest you visit St. Joseph's Foundation online. This group has a number of very interesting articles on parish property issues which can be downloaded.