July 29, 2005

Scituate levies tax on disputed church

Boston Globe

By Raja Mishra, Globe Staff | July 29, 2005

The Scituate tax board concluded this week that St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church is no longer a church and thus should pay property taxes, a decision that could cost the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston thousands of dollars in unforeseen tax bills.

The archdiocese, whose properties are exempt from taxes by state law, opposes the ruling. It has been trying to shut down St. Frances, but since October parishioners have been holding a vigil to keep it open. While the Vatican debates the church's fate, the archdiocese has paid no taxes on the 30 acres of choice South Shore real estate nestled among tony houses and seaside bungalows.

On Tuesday, the Scituate Board of Assessors voted 2 to 1 to require the archdiocese to pay $42,000 in taxes annually on St. Frances, determining that the property was worth $4.45 million.

''My feeling is if they decided they no longer want to use it as a church, I would consider it a taxable property," board chairman Fred Avila said yesterday.

The archdiocese, facing a dwindling membership and struggling with financial fallout from the clergy sexual abuse scandal, has closed 62 parishes, with another 14 slated to be closed, while six await word on appeals to the Vatican, including St. Frances. Currently, all properties still owned by the church remain tax-exempt until they are sold.

Posted by kshaw at July 29, 2005 08:04 AM