Wedding Mass in a closed Catholic church

Q.I am having a hard time understanding why a Catholic church closed by a bishop can no longer be used for Masses, weddings and funerals. For more than 100 years, this particular church - built by my great-great-grandparents - was considered sacred ground. Now my grandson wants to get married in that beautiful little building, and he's not allowed to. A Mass can be held in a cemetery or even a home. Why not in this church? (Iowa)

A. Without knowing the specifics of the church building in question, I need to speak of possibilities rather than facts. It may be that the building in question has already been sold for a secular use, in which case it automatically would lose its consecration as a sacred space. (See Canon 1212 of the church's Code of Canon Law. Note, too, that Canon 1222 provides that the new use for which the building is sold may not be "sordid," i.e., unseemly or unbecoming.)

The church is obligated to be a good steward of the donations it receives, and so a fair number of Catholic parishes have merged in recent years, due to population shifts and the decline in the number of priests available to staff them. When parishes do merge, the goal is always to create a new unified community of Catholic worship and of Christian charity.

So even if the church building you speak of has not yet been sold, your bishop may be exercising his pastoral judgment: He may have concluded that to continue to allow occasional Masses in that building would delay the desired unification.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015