The Diocese of Gaylord recently provided a vaguely worded update regarding the incorporation of parishes. This process has been occurring for greater than a year. This will make every parish its own corporation. The Diocese has defended this expensive legal maneuver: “…the Holy See has requested that dioceses pursue parish incorporation since 1911. This is the civil law structure that most accurately reflects ecclesiastical law and theology, and this is the best way of ensuring that the rights of parishes regarding church property are respected in both church law and civil law.” This is questionable at best; every nation has its own set of laws regarding incorporation or similar structures, and not all countries have this type of legal arrangement. Also, why is this occurring now, ie, over 100 years after the Vatican purportedly requested it?
However, incorporation has been and continues to be a strategy employed by various organizations to limit their liability if they are sued. In the case of dioceses of the Catholic Church, many feel the move to incorporation is to limit losses that occur due to lawsuits relating to sexual abuse. Whether or not incorporation will shield the Diocese from asset liability remains to be seen, as each individual parish corporation is controlled by the sole member of the corporation. That sole member is Bishop Walsh, according to the description of the incorporation procedures provided by the Diocese. So if Bishop Walsh is sued as the head of the Diocese, and he is the sole member of each of the corporations of the Diocese, is this really a way to shield the Diocese and its individual parishes from liability?
As we reported in an earlier update regarding this issue, many faithful of the Diocese have voiced concern over the cost of this endeavor. There are 75 parishes in the Diocese and each one has had to have legal documents and structures in place in order to be incorporated. The cost of this is thousands of dollars. The total cost of incorporating each parish has not been disclosed. Could diocesan dollars be better spent on other pressing needs, such as vocations, outreach to the hundreds (if not thousands) of migrant workers (many whom are Catholic) that are seasonally in the Diocese, to name a few? These and other questions remain a major concern for Catholics in the Diocese of Gaylord.