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The recent bankruptcies of Catholic Dioceses are unprecedented. For the first time, Bankruptcy Courts must deal with the difficult question of who owns the parish church. In this paper, I will explore two possible sources of confusion about this question. The first is the non- commercial, charitable nature of the Church. The second is its organizational complexity. Resolving the confusion requires a familiarity with various different sources of law including charities law, bankruptcy law, trust law, and Canon Law. In this paper I address this issue by: 1. discussing why the equities and policies that govern charitable bankruptcies are different from those that govern commercial bankruptcies; 2. laying out a road map for determining ownership issues that indicates what sub-questions must be answered and in what order; and 3. discussing the role that each of the different sources of law plays in answering these questions. My conclusion is that, in most circumstances, individual parishes do have a significant ownership stake in assets that are given or dedicated for their use.


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6 Sep 2022
305 kB



  • Subject
    • Accounting Law

    • Banking and Finance Law

    • Bankruptcy Law

    • Economics

    • Law and Economics

  • Journal title
    • Seton Hall Legislative Journal

  • Volume
    • 29

  • Pagination
    • 375-398

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022

  • Keywords