.- The Diocese of Tucson plans to incorporate its 74 parishes and missions as independent nonprofit corporations by April.
The move is part of the diocese’s bankruptcy plan that was approved by federal bankruptcy Judge James Marlar this summer. It would protect parishes from having to pay diocesan debt or from being sold to pay off settlements in sexual-abuse cases.
Incorporating the parish, which simply involves registering the name of the entity with the state as a public person, is actually closer to diocesan organization stipulated in canon law.
"We will now recognize in civil law what has been in canon law from the beginning — that parishes are separate entities," parish incorporation committee member Bob Scala told Associated Press.
Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, which separately incorporated 60 parishes and missions in 2002, concurred.
"Making them individual corporations gives them a structure that's external and legal and much closer to the canonical world," the canon lawyer was quoted as saying.
Six other U.S. dioceses have reportedly incorporated their parishes, including New York, Milwaukee, Rhode Island, Davenport, Stockton and Lincoln.
The Diocese of Tucson had filed for bankruptcy protection last year when faced with potentially expensive lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by priests.