In some cases, the decisions made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in the past two months have sparked more questions, according to Matt Kerr, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, the Republican Herald reports.
“I just got this information and it’s going to be very confusing,” Kerr said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The congregation ruled in four cases that the closure and merger decisions were upheld, meaning that the closed churches could be used for secular purposes. However, the congregation ruled in the other five cases that the closed church buildings are still considered “sacred space,” and diocesan officials are still waiting to have that part of the decision clarified.
“In every case, the suppression of the parishes and their merger to form other parishes or consolidations into existing parishes has been upheld. The question is about the buildings,” Kerr said. “We are seeking clarification from the Vatican on what that means exactly in going forward. It’s now a question of the use of the buildings.”
In 2008, Bishop Edward P. Cullen, closed 47 parishes in the diocese. Afterward, parishioners of 14 churches in the five-county diocese filed appeals with the Congregation for the Clergy hoping to have the decisions reversed so the churches could reopen.
Of the 14 appeals, the diocese has officially received 12 decisions from the Vatican, with copies for the two other churches received from the appellants.