Submitted by James P. Maver, Esq., Pace University School of Law
The decision to permanently close St. Vito-Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Parish in Mamaroneck has been rescinded by Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
The cardinal’s action restores the church’s designation as a Roman Catholic sacred space and again provides the possibility for mass to be celebrated within the church.
Since May of 2018 when Cardinal Dolan ordered that Most Holy Trinity Church be “relegated to profane but not sordid use” (closed permanently,) parishioners have been working to reverse the decision with the assistance of a team of canon lawyers in the United States and Rome.
At the time Cardinal Dolan withdrew his closure decree the fate of the church was in the hands of the Supreme Court of the Holy See, the “Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.” The cardinal’s decision brings an end to the legal proceedings without a verdict being issued in the case by the court.
Most Holy Trinity Church has been a beacon of the Catholic faith in Mamaroneck for well over a century. Dedicated on August 15, 1886, the church served as the seat of Mamaroneck’s first Catholic parish. It maintained its status as a “parish church” until August of 2015 when Most Holy Trinity Parish merged with the Parish of St. Vito, also located in Mamaroneck. Following the elimination of the parish, regular religious activity ended at Most Holy Trinity Church, though the church remained available for the celebration of occasional masses. Since the time of the parish merger a group of parishioners has sought to ensure that Most Holy Trinity Church can continue to exist as a Roman Catholic sacred space in Mamaroneck in order that it may continue to draw people to the Catholic faith. The re-designation of Most Holy Trinity Church as a Roman Catholic place of worship greatly assists these efforts.
Cardinal Dolan’s action does not change the fact that the “Parish” of the most Holy Trinity has been merged with the “Parish” of St. Vito, nor does it automatically restore the celebration of regular mass at Most Holy Trinity Church. While often used interchangeably, the terms “parish” and “church” have entirely different definitions in canon (Catholic Church) law.
Cardinal Dolan’s decision entitles the faithful to the right to freely access Most Holy Trinity Church for private prayer and guarantees the celebration of at least two masses per year within the church. It also provides the possibility for additional Catholic activities to be held within the church at the discretion of the Pastor of St. Vito-Most Holy Trinity Parish, the parish of which the Church of the Most Holy Trinity is a part.
A nonprofit entity is being formed to raise all of the funds necessary to pay all future expenses associated with the care of Most Holy Trinity Church; if these expenses are not a burden to the Archdiocese of New York or St. Vito-Most Holy Trinity Parish no grounds will exist under canon law to permit the church’s permanent closure or sale in the future.
It is hoped that this effort will inspire others to take financial responsibility for other historic Catholic churches in order that the sacred spaces our ancestors built may continue to spiritually enrich the lives of future generations of Catholics.