Church Project Theorem: Caveat Emptor

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This theorem refers to the buying and selling of church property. As we've seen, parishes are prone to closure when their neighborhoods decay and decline. One of the possible outcomes of church closure is the selling of the buildings to a different sect.

Caveat Emptor is significant in that it is the ultimate representation of urban recycling. One church can’t use it anymore? No problem, give it to this upstart group over here! It benefits the group, because sometimes it’s the only way they can obtain sufficient worship space. It also benefits the community because it avoids adding another abandoned property to an often already-blighted landscape.

It’s worth noting that the transactions usually take place between established and non-established sects. For example, you don’t generally see Protestants buying Catholic churches or vice versa. It’s usually Catholic or Protestant selling to fringe religious groups — the smaller, community-based faith organizations that take hold in those kind of impoverished neighborhoods.

I’m not going to dig too deeply into the idea of established groups cutting and running out of the inner city, but the reality speaks pretty starkly for itself.

One final note. You may be asking why I call this theorem Caveat Emptor, or, “Let the Buyer Beware.” I’m not implying any malice or mischief by the selling organizations, but remember that a parish is, whether you like it or not, a business, and there are often large costs associated with running and maintaining a church building — especially if it’s an ostentatious Roman Catholic one.

In inability to maintain the church structures is usually one of the driving forces behind the decision to close a parish. The buying organization, then, can end up with more than they bargained for, especially if the parish has suffered through long periods of decline and decay.

Notable Examples: