The Archdiocese of Philadelphia vs. Historic Preservationists

BorromeoThe Archdiocese of Philadelphia does not want its churches designated as historical landmarks.  This is a very interesting story at the intersection of public history/preservation and religion.

Learn more at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The first time Celeste Morello succeeded in getting a Roman Catholic church mural listed on the city’s historic register, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a statement applauding the news.

Emboldened, Morello filed another nomination in December to protect a group of important paintings in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

But this time, her efforts did not go over so well.

On Jan. 7, the archdiocese responded by sending a stern letter to all parish priests warning them not to cooperate with preservationists, and to report any attempts by “independent parties” to landmark church property.


The directive, signed by Monsignor Daniel J. Kutys, a top diocesan administrator, goes on to assert that the city’s historic preservation law is an infringement on religious freedom, as well as a financial burden, and vows “to challenge the current attempts to have various church properties designated as ‘historic.’ ” The letter puts the word historic in quotation marks each time it is used.

The directive has angered and alarmed Philadelphia’s preservation community at a moment when the city’s surplus religious buildings are becoming increasingly vulnerable to sale and demolition.

“It’s very unfortunate” to see the archdiocese take this stand, said Patrick Grossi, the advocacy director for the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. The letter makes it seem that “these designations are done over the wishes of the parishioners, when in fact the parishioners are usually in favor of them.”

Read the rest here.

3 thoughts on “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia vs. Historic Preservationists

  1. This is an interesting topic. I serve a church that is listed on the historical register and run into issues all the time. For example, we would like to install solar panels on the church but because of it’s historical designation there are many more road blocks and we are having a difficult time finding a company that wants to work with us. So how do we preserve the past but leave room for the future at the same time?


  2. This is perhaps a growing issue. As the mainline Protestant churches lose membership, they are more and more faced with the issue of closing churches and selling the buildings. Designation as historic would seem likely to decrease the fair market value of the building.


  3. The same thing is happening here in Missouri with the Diocese of Jefferson City. I did the work to make our local parish cathedral a landmark and hit a roadblock with the diocese. They do not want the buildings to be listed as such because they believe they lose control of them to the government. This goes back years so it is not a recent development.


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