Such Mixed Feelings When An Empty Church Building Is Sold To A Sect

I know the diocese needs the money, but . . . For the third time in recent months, our diocese announced that an empty church building resulting from a parish merger has been sold to a Protestant sect. In each case, the buyer was not a “mainline” denomination but an ethnic evangelical or fundamentalist group. Every time this happens the diocese comes out with a pro-forma announcement about how happy they are that the building will continue to be used for “religious purposes.”

Well, yes I suppose, but: In a strange way, this seems to me to almost be a type of “intercommunion” in that it almost seems that the diocese is saying “One church is as good as another.” I know they’re not really saying that, but to my of thinking that impression is what gets fostered. To say nothing of the fact that inquiring minds may wonder how many Catholics may be drawn into that sect.

Some people are uncomfortable when former church buildings are converted into nightclubs or bed-and-breakfasts or whatever, but at least that’s a clean break with its past, and not this blurry it’s-still-a-church kind of thinking.

Or am I overthinking all this?

First I share with your feelings of sadness and loss. The Eastern Chruch I take part in also recently had to close and sell a parish.

But yes, you may be overthinking it. As long as the parish is properly “decommissioned” then its just a building. I guess that is what the Bishop meant, that he’s happy it wasn’t made into a restaurant, or worse a strip club. There is no other intention here but to recover losses financially.

Several churches in my area have been torn down in recent years. They had been disused for a long time and I don’t recall them actually being churches and don’t even know what denomination they were. Nevertheless it is sad to see church architecture erased from the face of the town and replaced by nondescript secular buildings. Seeing well executed church architecture always gives me a special feeling of joy, and so it sad that that aspect is gone, and so in a way I would prefer these churches to have been made into restaurants or appartments or sold to protestant denominations than torn down completely. Like that there is always some vague hope they could one day be restored.

If the church authorities knowingly sell a church building to somebody who wants to turn it into a strip club, I think that’s pretty sick and I hope that no bishop would allow that.

If you haven’t read it, the deconsecration ritual is really beautiful.

If for some reason that ceremony hasn’t been carried out? Does it remain a church even if used for another purpose or demolished? I am think especially of church buildings that are desecrated or destroyed in war or that were made into protestant churches in the reformation and then destoyed at some point later without due ceremony. My local library was converted from a protestant church that was Catholic before the reformation. Some of the frescos and other decorations are still visible on the walls. When I enter the library, am I entering a church?

Sometimes you just don’t know. What if they buyer didn’t say what they will do with the building? I don’t think thats a requirement for purchase of a property for sale.

Well, as I drive past an old Congregational Church in my old neighborhood, I can only wonder how the former members of that church feel when they see the large statue of Buddha in front of their old church, which is now a Buddhist meditation temple.


Assuming it was a Catholic Church, it would still be a consecrated building because they are consecrated prior to use. I am unfamiliar with non-Catholic practices regarding their buildings.

Can. 1212 Sacred places lose their dedication or blessing if they have been destroyed in large part, or have been turned over permanently to profane use by decree of the competent ordinary or in fact.

Can. 1238 §1. An altar loses its dedication or blessing according to the norm of Canon 1212.

I think this probably varies from diocese to diocese, but I know some dioceses have procedures in place to insure that former churches aren’t used for purposes that are directly contrary to the Catholic faith, such as a strip club or an abortion clinic. Of course this can only be enforced upon the immediate sale of the property, but at least at that point diocesan officials could say they knew for sure what its use would be, however if the subsequent owners sold the property then there is nothing the church can do.


While no doubt the fact about altars is true, I thought they were generally destroyed in order to prevent obscene or sacrilegious use.

Maybe sometimes they are.

There is a SSPX community in my town. They are very small and don’t have much money. They rent a room in an old warehouse which they use as church. The room, however, has a baroque altar which to me at least looks very old and must have come from another church, probably one that was demolished. Likewise, the stations of the cross are also definitely very old and must have come from some other church. Also the baptismal font and some other items (which I can’t all recall as I hven’t been there for a long time). Our bishop/diocese is rather liberal and doesn’t like the SSPX and I don’t think he they have donated any of that to the SSPX so they must have bought it on the market, ie, somebody else must have sold it.

I can’t confirm the practice, but that seems sensible, if the altar can’t in fact be removed from the church in one piece.

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