Within the article published about the potential sale of SS. Cosmas & Damian last week was a mention of a Letter of Relegation submitted to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in regards to a potential sale of St. Getrude Church in West Conshohocken. The information was taken from this past week’s bulletin at Saint Matthew Parish in Conshohocken. It reads:
On July 1, 2015 a letter of relegation was sent to Archbishop Chaput for St. Gertrude Church. This is the first step to the sale of that property. Archbishop Chaput responded July 10, 2015. He has passed the request to Msgr. Mesure who will develop a canonical response for the Archbishop.
So what does that mean and how does it work? The Archdiocese of Boston has a solid description of what it all means on its website:
What does relegation to profane use mean?
This term is used in Church law for when a Church building will no longer be used for Catholic liturgical worship. Once a property has been relegated, any remaining sacred items are removed and the building can be sold for use in an appropriate and dignified manner.
Before he can consider selling a church, does not the Cardinal have to relegate it to profane use?
If a church building is to be sold to a group that will not use it for sacred worship, yes, the Cardinal follows the canons on “relegation of the Church to profane but not sordid use” (canon 1222 §2). This means a secular use, but one that is not unbecoming, immoral, or offensive to Catholics. If it is sold to a group that will use it for sacred worship, no, the Cardinal does not need to relegate it to profane use. The process used for considering the possible sale of a church follows both Church law and civil law, taking into account that the church must be relegated to profane use prior to a sale for purposes other than sacred worship.
What happens to these Church buildings once they have been relegated?
The buildings will be appraised and likely marketed for sale. Prospective buyers will be invited to contact the Archdiocese. For each building there will be a specific way in which their memory and the important place they have in the lives, hearts and minds of our Catholic faithful will be memorialized and preserved for future generations. Whether through the relocating of stained glass windows, or religious statues or other sacred objects, the legacy of closed Church will live on in other parishes of the Archdiocese.
You can read the full description from the Archdiocese of Boston by clicking here.