Tom Beaudoin, who teaches at Fordham University has written an extremely insightful essay about the impasse between Trinity Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street on one of the blogs maintained by America, the Jesuit magazine.
He says, in part:
Often Trinity’s defenders phrase their defense of their space as a defense of the church’s private property. I think, however, that Occupy is challenging (mostly implicitly) the assumption that one can speak of the “private property” of a church in the same way one uses that phrase more generally in Western society. (It is similar to (though of course not the same as) the theological (and legal) challenge that those who occupy Catholic churches that are slated for closing make about who “owns” church property.)
At the risk of sacrificing nuance, and for the sake of brevity, let me be succinct: I think we have a very important theological matter before us when Occupy, through its religious-leader allies, is saying to Trinity Wall Street: We in Occupy — as a multifaith, interreligious, spiritually pluralistic movement that is also and equally a nonreligious, secular movement — can better meet your mission as a Christian church in this particular time, and this particular place, with negligible negative financial impact (Trinity is a very wealthy community), and with a rare and time-sensitive influence, by using this particular private property to host the next stage of Occupy Wall Street, and let’s meet to talk about the liability issues and any other concerns you have, let’s have that dialogue starting immediately, but in principle we have a substantial theological point worthy of your consideration.
The presumption in this theological claim, which I think is correct, is that no Christian church is – on the very terms of its theological existence – permitted to fall back on the mere invocation of “private property” without also a theological conversation about the spiritual significance of what that concept means and how it is being used.
Beaudoin’s essay is the most theologically sophisticated writing I have seen on this topic, and is well worth reading in its entirety.