ASK FATHER: Right of appeal of a diocesan Catholic school

From a reader…


I pray that you will answer this query. Under canon law, is there any right of appeal regarding the closure of a diocesan Catholic elementary school, currently under the auspices of a particular parish. There are valid objections to this closure, and it is not simply emotional or irrational. If so, would the appeal be to the diocesan bishop or to the Congregation for Catholics Education, and what are acceptable objections? (The pastor in this case is not an advocate.) Thank you Father!


Such an appeal is possible, but time is of the essence.

Canon 1734 establishes that an appeal against a singular administrative decree (which this closure would be) must be lodged within ten useful days of the notification of the decree. Useful days are generally understood to be business days, excluding weekends and holidays. So, about two weeks. The appeal should be submitted to whoever issued the decree closing the school – either the pastor, or more likely the bishop.

The process of appealing a decision can be difficult, and a happy outcome is far from guaranteed. I would strongly recommend getting the assistance of a good canonist to assist, and if there is no one immediately involved with the situation who could provide canonical assistance, the St. Joseph Foundation has done yeoman’s work for many years in providing canonical support to lay faithful in such situations.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    canon law written by man/priests and adjusted as they go along

  2. Just Some Guy says:

    There’s always the possibility of turning the school into a classical Christian academy. Most of the time, when the diocese is shutting down a school, it’s because funds, enrollment, etc. are down. Perhaps suggesting a classical Christian academy to take the place of the school could breathe new life into the place; especially if you can get multiple traditional families on board.

    Food for thought

  3. Charivari Rob says:

    It would be interesting to hear what the stated reason for closing the school is, and what canon-law grounds there might be to contest it

  4. Fr AJ says:

    In my diocese we had one elementary school appeal it’s closure with the pastor’s support, that’s been ongoing now for several years, the school has remained open and thrived during the process. We had another elementary school ordered to close, the parishioners and parents wanted to appeal but received no support from the pastor and they gave up when the pastor told them they could appeal but in meantime he would close the school and sell off what he could to ensure the school could not reopen.

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