Process to appeal Irondequoit decision spelled out in canon law - Catholic Courier

Process to appeal Irondequoit decision spelled out in canon law

Is it possible under church law to appeal Bishop Matthew H. Clark’s consolidation decree for five Irondequoit parishes?

A group of parishioners from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish intend to do just that.

At the end of last month, Bishop Clark accepted the Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group’s recommendation to consolidate Christ the King, St. Cecilia, St. Margaret Mary, St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome churches into one parish with three worship sites and close St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome. The bishop’s decision to accept the plan was announced in a letter read during Masses at the five parishes May 29-30.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Rochester, the bishop’s office has received an appeal from a group of St. Thomas the Apostle parishioners, who were guided in the appeal process by a canon lawyer.

"Bishop Clark will give the appeal careful study and prayerful consideration before making his decision," according to a diocesan statement regarding the receipt of the appeal. "Out of respect for that process, the diocese declines further comment."

Canon law sets out a path that aggrieved people can follow to appeal such a decision, according to Father Daniel Condon, chancellor and director of legal services for the Diocese of Rochester.

According to canon law, those appealing would first have to formally ask Bishop Clark to revoke or emend his administrative decree. That request would have to be made within 10 working days of when parishioners were notified of Bishop Clark’s decree, and Bishop Clark would then have 30 days to respond, Father Condon said.

"If the bishop was of the mind not to revoke or emend that decree, then they would appeal to the (Congregation for Clergy)," Father Condon said, noting that petitioners would have 15 working days to petition the congregation.

If the petition to the Congregation for Clergy were denied, an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature — an ecclesiastical court that is the highest authority at the Vatican for many administrative issues — may be possible, although this court limits its reviews to procedural issues, Father Condon noted.

The Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature was recently in the news for a similar review. On May 7, 2010, the court denied the appeals of parishioners in the Archdiocese of Boston who were fighting to reopen 10 out of 64 Boston-area parishes closed in 2004.

According to Catholic News Service, the court’s ruling meant that the procedure used by the Archdiocese of Boston during the closing process was in compliance with canon law.

Although processes for appeals have been established, canon law also recommends that parties in disagreement work together to resolve their differences.

"Whenever a person considers himself or herself aggrieved by a decree, it is particularly desirable that the person and the author of the decree avoid any contention and take care to seek an equitable solution by common counsel, possibly using the mediation and effort of wise persons to avoid or settle the controversy in a suitable way," states the first paragraph of Canon 1733.

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