SSPX Deal: But Will the Fat Lady Sing? — article by Fr. Cekada
(04-20-2012, 12:02 AM)DJR Wrote:
(04-19-2012, 05:05 PM)FatherCekada Wrote: Actually, as a result of the lawsuits with SSPX, I became very familiar with how the civil law treats church property ownership in the U.S.

For the Catholic Church, the legal principle courts apply is "deference to hierarchy." If someone who represents the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (a diocesan bishop appointed by the pope or the head of a Catholic religious order) says that, under Catholic canon law, Father Smith has the right to be Pastor of St. Mary's Church or Sister Caroline has the right to be Superior of St. Felicia's Convent, the court will automatically award control of St. Mary's to Fr. Smith and of St. Felicia's to Sr. Caroline.

The pope, of course, is the head of this hierarchy, and under canon law, he can remove diocesan bishops and superiors general and appoint replacements, so he has the last say-so over who controls properties. U.S. courts respect this.

This is not an accurate synopsis of property law in the U.S. 

Real property ownership is determined by the person/persons or entity/entities named on a properly recorded deed. 

A bishop that is not on a deed does not own the property listed thereon.  Thus, even though he has the right to appoint pastors, unless the bishop is on the deed to a church property, no court in this country would award control of the property to him in the event of a dispute among parties.

In Saint Louis, Cardinal Burke found that out the hard way in the Saint Stanislaus Kostka parish dispute.  There was no deference given to his authority, and the archdiocese has no control over that parish property.

Quote:So if Benedict XVI or one of his successors decided that the head of SSPX was insufficiently cooperative, he could remove him (as JP2 did with Fr. Bisig, the FSSP Superior General). All SSPX property would then automatically come under the control of whomever the Holy See appointed to be the new Superior General.  Bp. Fellay or lay people who disagreed with the decision and wanted to go their own way could not take the properties with them.

The bolded section is not accurate either.  If,say, Father Bisig were the owner, in his own name, of all the FSSP property here in the U.S., and the pope removed him from his office, the pope's action would have no effect on the fact that Father Bisig is the owner of the property, and there is no one that could take that property from Father Bisig unless, A, it's encumbered and he stops paying on the note; B, he owes taxes on it and he stops paying the taxes; C, eminent domain; D, somebody executes on the property in order to satisfy a judgment against Father Bisig.

There are many avenues the SSPX could use to protect real estate in the event of some type of default on the part of Vatican officials, with Possibility of Reverter coming quickly to mind.

I'm an attorney.

Don't make the fatal mistake of assuming a non-attorney is an ignorant amateur.

In the early eighties, I read all the case law on church property litigation, and in fact still remember some of the titles: Serbian Orthodox Church v. Mihailovic, Presbytery of Beaver-Butler, Jones v. Wolf, Presbyterian v. Hull, etc.

The two legal doctrines these decisions laid down for resolving church disputes are the "deference to hierarchy" approach and the "neutral principles of law" approach.

Under "deference," if a local church is a member of a larger religious body, civil courts will look at the internal rules or canon law of that larger body in order to determine
Quote:(a) whether it has rules governing property ownership,
(b) whether those rules vest control of the property in the local church or the larger organization
© whether the larger organization has its own judicatory system for resolving property disputes.
(d) whether clergy who serve the local church are appointed by the larger organization
(e) whether directors of the civil corporation holding title to the local church hold their civil offices "ex officio," i.e. in virtue of being first appointed to an office in the larger religious organization.
(f) whether the language of either the local civil corporation or the larger religious organization specifies that real and personal property of local church corporations is held in trust for the larger organization.
(g) whether the internal rules of the larger religious body allow higher officials or a judicatory in that body to remove officials of the local church.
(h) whether the deeds to the local church property indicate it is to be held in trust for the larger organization.

There are probably more — but these are the only indicia I remember after twenty-five years.

So while you are correct when you say, "real property ownership is determined by the person/persons or entity/entities named on a properly recorded deed, the "deference to hierarchy" doctrine looks at the INTERNAL RULES of the larger religious body to determine who in the larger hierarchy gets to appoint the directors of the local civil corporation named on the deed.

SSPX, as a result of four years of litigation with yours truly and the rest of the Nine, has no doubt brought the provisions of its general statues and of all its civil corporations into line with the "deference" principles.

Since in the event of a deal with the Vatican, SSPX would have to conform to the principles of Canon Law, Benedict XVI and his successors would indeed have the ultimate authority over SSPX property. The SSPX Superior General and officials of his General Council sit on the various U.S. corporations ex officio, and B16 and his successors could indeed appoint others to in their place at any time whatsover.

Under "deference," US courts would recognize this, and send any potential Fr. Cekadas packing posthaste.

Regarding your other points:

1. The Burke/Polish church case has nothing in common with SSPX's actual situation. It turned on agreements signed between the church and the diocese in the 19th century, and the amendment of Bylaws. "Deference" language in SSPX's local civil corporations would undoubtedly prevent SSPX from pulling off anything like this.

2. It is unlikely that the Vatican would tolerate something like reverter, because the very notion would run directly against canon 1265, which states that while the right of ownership of temporal good belongs to the juridic entity which has lawfully acquired them, this is "under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff." The possibility of reversion would put it outside his authority.

If SSPX introduced provisions like this on the sly, moreover, the Vatican could argue that SSPX did so in violation of the general laws of the Church to which the subsidiary entities (SSPX and its local corporations) belong. "Deference" would then compel the court to abide by the decision of the Church's supreme judicatories and enforce their findings.

And after the Polish case, do you think that Burke, who's the head of the Signatura, would let reverter slide by?

Finally, Archbishop Lefebvre blew up at us and expelled us from SSPX on April 27, 1983, precisely at the point when we proposed that the civil legal documents for corporations holding church property in the U.S. be amended to incorporate language perpetually barring the use of the reformed rites and the presence of invalidly ordained clergy.

We proposed this precisely because we suspected that he or his SSPX would one day sell out.

Well guess what.....

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Re: SSPX Deal: But Will the Fat Lady Sing? — article by Fr. Cekada - by FatherCekada - 04-20-2012, 04:06 PM

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