Boston-area communities taxing closed Catholic properties

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BOSTON, MA. – Nine cities and towns have forced the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to pay property taxes on closed churches, schools, convents, and parish halls, contending that the buildings no longer qualify as tax-exempt because the archdiocese is not using them.

Two of the taxed churches — St. Frances X. Cabrini in Scituate and St. Jeremiah in Framingham — have been occupied for years by former parishioners protesting their closure. But local assessors insist the church buildings are now taxable because the vigils are not sanctioned by the archdiocese.

The archdiocese has fought back, arguing that its closed churches should remain exempt from taxation, but has had little success. In Belmont, Danvers, Lowell, Lynn, and Revere, the archdiocese has withdrawn appeals of tax bills for closed churches, reluctantly agreeing to pay reduced levies totaling about $280,000. This year, for example, it will pay the city of Lowell about $19,400 in property taxes on Sacred Heart Church, which was closed in 2003.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars remain in dispute before the state Appellate Tax Board, where the archdiocese hopes to fend off tax collectors in Framingham, Natick, and Scituate, and where it is also challenging Revere’s decision to tax a convent that still houses a small number of nuns.

The tax disputes have come to a head at a time of financial duress for both the archdio cese and cities and towns.

Full story: Boston-area communities taxing closed Catholic properties – The Boston Globe