A little-known policy regarding properties owned by the Catholic Archdioceses has potential buyers tied up in knots. The Church has been using deed restrictions to control how former properties — once used for religious services, education, or for housing nuns and priests — are used by new owners.

The only problem is that the restrictions may be unconstitutional. Archdioceses have recently sold underutilized properties to pay legal fees, and deed agreements on these properties could prohibit future on-site activities ranging from stem cell research to divorce and abortion counseling.

Massachusetts currently limits deed restrictions to 30 years. But many agreements are currently written to last 90 years, or in some cases, to extend into perpetuity. Some argue the Church is discriminating against buyers they disagree with.


Jack Sullivan, Senior Investigative Reporter for Commonwealth Magazine. His new piece is called, What Would Jesus Do?