Former St. Rita’s (pictured) and Corpus Christi parishioners are appealing a Congregation for the Clergy decision to the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura.

North Bay parishioners appeal to Vatican over closures

By 
  • March 28, 2012

Aggrieved North Bay parishioners claim their attempt to overturn a decision to close and sell their churches was turned down “on procedural grounds.”

Former St. Rita’s and Corpus Christi parishioners are appealing a Congregation for the Clergy decision to the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura. The parishioners hope to get the Apostolic Signatura to rule “on the substantive merits of our two cases,” said former Corpus Christi parishioner Phillip Penna in an email to The Catholic Register.

Decrees issued by the Congregation for the Clergy Jan. 13 disallowed the former parishioner’s attempt to overturn Sault Ste. Marie Bishop Jean Plouffe’s decision to reduce the two churches “to profane but not unbecoming use” because their petition was launched too late under the Code of Canon Law.

They had claimed the clock should have started running after an attempt at conciliation with the bishop.

The judgment found that there was no attempt at conciliation because Plouffe was very clear he would not reverse the decision. “The Ordinary (bishop) never consented to such a process or gave the slightest impression of engaging in such a process.”

“We respectfully disagree with this interpretation and characterization of what took place between the months of June 2010 and February 2011,” said Penna.

Clergy of the diocese had voted unanimously for the pastoral plan to amalgamate parishes after a long process of consultation with parish councils and the faithful throughout the diocese.

Penna believes Plouffe tripped up on canon law procedure by not reducing Corpus Christi to profane use before it was sold on Dec. 3, 2010.

“It appears that the former parochial church of Corpus Christi was sold prior to it being possible to do so as the decree of reduction to secular use which made it available for sale was not issued by Bishop Plouffe until 31 December 2010 and made effective on 3 January 2011,” Penna said.

“The appellant group from Corpus Christi will be addressing this matter in their appeal to the Apostolic Signatura.

In its review of how the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie went about deciding which parishes to close the Congregation find no fault with the process or the sale of Corpus Christi. St. Rita’s is still on the market.

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