1983 Codex Iuris Canonici
1214 By the term church is understood a sacred building designated for divine worship to which the faithful have the right of entry for the exercise, especially the public exercise, of divine worship.The Latin Church's last Code was promulgated (established) in 1983. It abrogated the Code of 1917. The current code has 1752 canons. Now, the average layman or prelate is not a student of the Code. So, we are not apt to quote canons; but we are not illiterate, nor devoid of discernment. One can understand canon law. Relatively few sit down, and read the whole thing; or had cause to. Yet, the words mean what they mean.
1214 Ecclesiae nomine intellegitur aedes sacra divino cultui destinata, ad quam fidelibus ius est adeundi ad divinum cultum praesertim publice exercendum.
1218 Each church is to have its own title which cannot be changed after the church has been dedicated.
1218 Unaquaeque ecclesia suum habeat titulum qui, peracta ecclesiae dedicatione, mutari nequit.
§1. If a church cannot be used in any way for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it to profane but not sordid use.
§2. Where other grave causes suggest that a church no longer be used for divine worship, the diocesan bishop, after having heard the presbyteral council, can relegate it to profane but not sordid use, with the consent of those who legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church and provided that the good of souls suffers no detriment thereby.
1222 1. Si qua ecclesia nullo modo ad cultum divinum adhiberi queat et possibilitas non detur eam reficiendi, in usum profanum non sordidum ab Episcopo dioecesano redigi potest.
2. Ubi aliae graves causae suadeant ut aliqua ecclesia ad divinum cultum amplius non adhibeatur, eam Episcopus dioecesanus, audito consilio presbyterali, in usum profanum non sordidum redigere potest, de consensu eorum qui iura in eadem sibi legitime vindicent, et dummodo animarum bonum nullum inde detrimentum capiat.
Locally, here in Lennongrad (formerly the Diocese of Cleveland), the Code has been ignored. People have been removed from churches by the police on order of the bishop. This activity is contrary to the spirit and letter of the law.
Now, we have many parishes and churches of the Latin Church suppressed or merged, and sold. All Catholics have the right to appeal to the Bishop of Rome (the pope). Rome has its bureaucracy. These cases first come to the Congregation for the Clergy.
I suppose, most of the people argued on and for their parish necessity. Appeal after appeal from different decisions failed. Now they are succeeding on the necessity of the church building.
Now, it seems a local bishop, John Barres, is appealing to Rome to overturn the successful appeals of the parishes closed by his predecessor, Edward Cullen. Many Catholics expect 100% total and uncritical support of the bishop as a sign of faithfulness. They confuse, or conflate, obedience with faith. They have accepted an one way hierarchical flow. Does not the Pope for Catholics (outside of the Eastern Orthodox Churches) hold a higher position of authority than any local bishop? This direction of obedience, apparently, only moves one way for certain local Catholics. If this be the case, as it is in Allentown, then people should be free to say, "My bishop does not listen to the Roman bishop". Now, some of these episcopal supporters will demand obedience of the laity and local clergy to the ordinary. Are they now making the claim that Rome can not (or should not) correct offending, and recalcitrant bishops?
People in the pews have little to gauge on how Rome will rule. The tide may be turning in favor of the parishioners. In the recent decisions the Curia is allowing the bishops to close parishes. Bureaucrats have a prejudice in favor of similar bureaucrats, and Rome is reluctant to correct too much episcopal misrule. There are many canons that can apply, and be successfully argued against the bishops in parish and church cases. But now they are giving judgments which give a mixed message. Yes, a bishop can [at whim] close a parish, but he cannot close the church. This ultimately would make parish closings less likely.
In particular, the rationale in Canon 1222 says two things: the church building has to be a ruin; and there is a social contract, even amongst Christians. The bishop needs the consent of his flock. Now this is a great condemnation of episcopal tyranny. Bishops are not absolute sovereigns akin to the calvinist Leviathan of Hobbes' creation. And that was the bedrock of their support, and only apt rationale for their programme.
All the reasons that were used, in Cleveland, in support of Richard Lennon's 'Reconfiguration' were faulty. They did not pertain canonically as 'grave reasons' or proper reasons, nor were many applicable to the particular closures chosen. The only rationalisation was the unrestrained will of Lennon must be done — bishop as pharoa. As in oriental despotism, there is only to be one voice. For all those who say, "the Church is not a Democracy", they must now add, "nor is it a Despotism; the laity has unalienable rights".