NY High Court Rules against Parishioners in Catholic Church Property Dispute

Another state high-court ruling highlighting the importance of the neutral principles of law doctrine in church property disputes. This week, the New York Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit that parishioners of Our Lady of Vilnius Roman Catholic Church in downtown New York City (left) had brought against the church’s board of trustees, seeking to overturn a decision to dissolve the parish and demolish the church building. In 2007, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, citing the parish’s declining membership and the decayed state of the church building, directed that the parish be dissolved; shortly thereafter, the church’s board of trustees voted to demolish the church building. A group of parishioners then sued, arguing that as members of the parish they, not the board of trustees, had the ultimate say. Applying the neutral principles of law doctrine, the Court of Appeals examined the relevant legal instruments and rejected the parishioners’ argument. The church held the deed, the court explained, and the church’s bylaws gave the board of trustees, not the parishioners, control of the property, to be exercised in conformity with archdiocesan directives.  Our Lady of Vilnius Church, about 100 years old, was the traditional Lithuanian Catholic parish in New York City. The case is Blaudziunas v. Egan (N.Y. 2011).

2 responses

  1. This seems, at a minimum, architecturally tragic. Like many drivers rolling slowly into the Holland Tunnel, I’ve gazed at this church exterior with admiration and interest. I guess I should hurry if I want to try to see the interior.

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