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  • Writer's pictureThomas De Seno, Esq.

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Holy Spirit Church in Asbury Park, As Well As a Vatican Appeal

Thomas De Seno, Esq. is pleased to announce that a lawsuit has been filed to stop the destruction of Holy Spirit Church in Asbury Park.

Named in the suit is Bishop David O'Connell and the Trenton Diocese, Father Miguel Virella and the Mother of Mercy Parish as well as the proposed developer JLD Investors, who seeks to demolish the century old Gothic Revival church and erect expensive condominiums.

Parishioners have been deeply hurt by the decision to sell the church which came as a surprise. Other buyers who would maintain the structure have been ignored by the Bishop.

Last year the Asbury Park Planning Board denied the developer's application to subdivide the property and replace the existing Church, after four days of hearings. Thomas De Seno, Esq., was honored to have been sworn in as an expert witness on Asbury Park History at that hearing.

The developer filed suit to overturn the Planning Board. Mr. De Seno has moved to intervene in that suit to protect the Planning Board's decision. He has also filed new claims.

The new claims indicate that Bishop O'Connell and Father Virella had no legal authority from the Vatican to make a contract. In order to have that authority, Canon Law requires a Bishop must first have hearings with aggrieved parishioners, which he failed to do. He must then issue a formal decree delineating his reasonings and the results of his meeting with the parishioners. No such decree was ever issued, denying him and Father Virella the legal capacity to enter the contract.

The contract being illegal, JLD Investors had no standing to make an application before the Planning Board, so the denial of their application was legal.

Additional claims include:

- Failure of JLD to submit required documents in the application process, allowing the Planning Board to deny the application.

- Failure of JLD to disclose information at the hearing that would have proved their application moot. Had they provided that information instead of concealing it, the Planning Board could have summarily denied their application.

A second legal pleading has been filed by Mr. De Seno, which is an Emergent application seeking a Temporary Restraining Order stopping the Diocese, the Parish and the Developer from selling, damaging, destroying or altering the Church. He is awaiting a court decision on hearing that application, which he hopes will be in the next 24 hours.

A petition has been filed with the Catholic Dicastery in Rome, which is essentially a Canon Law court. That complaint seeks a ruling that Bishop O'Connell and Father Virella did not have the contractual authority from the Vatican to sell the Church.

Mr. De Seno notes that shortly after the Planning Board ruled against the developer last year, the Parish ripped out the entire, beautiful altar as seen in the attached picture. They did that knowing the community was still actively seeking a resolution to save the Church.

To Mr. De Seno, that felt like an act of revenge on the part of the Bishop and Priest. It was wholly unnecessary and could have awaited the resolution of the matter.

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