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Do Bishops Have Power To Alienate Church Assets? Catholic Dioceses Move Supreme Court Against Kerala High Court Remarks

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
25 March 2022 4:42 PM GMT
Do Bishops Have Power To Alienate Church Assets? Catholic Dioceses Move Supreme Court Against Kerala High Court Remarks
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Two Catholic Dioceses from Kerala have approached the Supreme Court against a judgment of the Kerala High Court which held that Bishops have no power to alienate the church assets and that their powers are confined to religious and spiritual matters.The Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery and Eparchy of Bathery have filed the Special Leave Petitions challenging the remarks made a single bench of...

Two Catholic Dioceses from Kerala have approached the Supreme Court against a judgment of the Kerala High Court which held that Bishops have no power to alienate the church assets and that their powers are confined to religious and spiritual matters.

The Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery and Eparchy of Bathery have filed the Special Leave Petitions challenging the remarks made a single bench of the Kerala High Court in the judgment delivered in August 2021 which refused to quash the criminal cases against Cardinal Mar George Alencherry over the sale of properties belonging to Ernakulam-Angamalay Archdiocese.

A bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose on Friday(March 25) tagged the petition filed by the Diocese of Thamarassery along with the petition filed by the Eparchy of Bathery. The petition filed by the Eparchy of Bathery was earlier adjourned for two weeks on March 21.

The Kerala High Court, in its judgment delivered on August 12, 2021, observed that "the religious supremacy vested with the Bishop or apostolic succession should be understood confined to religious matters both temporal and spiritual governed by ecclesiastical law viz., the Canon law". A single bench of Justice P Somarajan observed that these powers of the Bishop will not include the right to alienate the property vested in the endowement.

The Dioceses have taken objection to these remarks made by the High Court and have contended that they are based on an erroneous understanding of the Canon Law. The petitioners argue that the erroneous remarks made by the High Court will adversely affect all Dioceses.

In the judgment, the High Court had also observed that Canon Law cannot supplant the general Civil Law and stressed the need for a legislation to regulate the Church endowments.

"It is so unfortunate that no endowment legislation has so far been enacted to address the various issues connected with the legal status of church authorities in so far as the properties which are held not as part of their religious belief, faith or observances and to even address the legal status of a charitable institution run by the church authorities", the High Court had observed.

Cases : Catholic Diocese of Thamarassery versus State of Kerala and others, SLP(Crl) Diary No.7364/2022, Eparchy of Bathery versus State of Kerala and others, SLP(Crl) No.1487/2022

Orders here and here


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