The Vatican has upheld a decision by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and the lay leaders at Our Lady of the Valley in Donora to close one of the two church buildings the parish has used since a merger in 1992.
The decision means that the former St. Dominic church building can be sold as long as its new purpose isn't contrary to church teaching.
After two years of strategic planning in May 2011, the pastor, members of the parish finance council and a majority of the parish pastoral council asked Bishop David Zubik to sell the building, which they said the parish could no longer afford to maintain. After Bishop Zubik ordered the closing in July 2011, six parishioners filed an appeal with the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy.
Jerry Magone, a member of Our Lady of the Valley who organized that petition, said he didn't know yet whether they would appeal to the Vatican's high court.
"We are in the process of evaluating what there is to do and what avenues we have left, which may be none," Mr. Magone said.
In 1992 two neighboring parishes in Donora, St. Dominic and St. Philip Neri, merged to form Our Lady of the Valley, but kept both buildings. The decision to close one of them was made because the parish could no longer afford two buildings and because a growing shortage of priests in the region makes it increasingly difficult to offer Mass at multiple neighboring buildings. The St. Philip site was chosen because it is all on one level and is fully handicap accessible for the aging parishioners, while the St. Dominic site would be expensive to upgrade for wheelchairs and walkers, according to the Rev. Pierre Falkenhan, the pastor.
The Congregation for Clergy ruled that the petition to keep St. Dominic open "does not have a canonical basis in law or in fact."
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org