by Cristina Odone A BILL to curb the Church of England's right to demolish churches is not likely to affect the Catholic Church if it passes", according to Archbishop Michael Bowen of Southwark, a member of the Churches Main Committee, the ecumenical group which deals with secular matters common to all churches.
Conservative MP Roger Freeman introduced a bill this week to abolish the Church of England's exemption from seeking official consent before demolishing listed buildings. In introducing the proposed legislation, Mr Freeman noted that since 1969 48 Anglican Churches have been pulled down, including a grade one listed building.
Although Bishop Mervyn Alexander, Chairman of the Catholic bishops' Committee for Church Art and Architecture, told the, Catholic Herald that he was opposed to Mr Freeman's bill, he pointed out that the Catholic and Free Churches have a different relationship with Parliament from that of the Established Church: whereas until now the Anglican Church has benefited from ecclesiastical exemption, the same has not been true of
either the Catholic or the Free Churches.
It a Catholic church is to be If a Catholic church is to be partially demolished, or reordered, the parish need not consult with the area's planning committee. But when total demolition is sought, the Catholic parish must receive the approval for its plans from the planning council.
According to the Architectural Adviser to the Vatican Society, Mary Miers, the Society's records show that there are far fewer cases of Catholic churches being pulled down than of Anglican Churches — "usually, the Catholic churches are reordered, or partially demolished rather than destroyed".
The reason for this, according to Bishop Alexander, is that the issue of redundant churches, though a very real one for the Anglican Church, is not really a pressing cqncern for Catholic parishes. "There are far more Anglican churches than Catholic ones, thus many more are likely to be found redundant. This is particularly true with regards to the inner city areas.
Even in those cases where the local parish authorities decide to demolish or partially pull down a Catholic church, however, parishioners and historicpreservation associations often fight the plans.