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Court ruling favors rebellious St. Louis parish

Catholic World News - March 15, 2012

A Missouri judge has ruled against a bid by the St. Louis archdiocese to regain control over the rebellious parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka.

In a ruling released more than a year after a lengthy trial, Judge Bryan Hettenbach said: “The Archbishop may own the souls of wayward St. Stanislaus parishioners, but the St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation owns its own property.”

The parish, founded in 1891, had an unusual corporate structure in which a board of laymen controlled the parish finances while the Archbishop of St Louis appointed the pastor. In 2001 the board amended those bylaws, stripping the archbishop of his right to remove the pastor. That move put the parish at odds with the laws of the Church. When archdiocesan officials pressed the board to bring its bylaws back into conformity with Church law, the board responded by removing the archbishop’s legal authority entirely. In 2004, after the parish board ignored further appeals, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke stripped the parish of its recognition as a Catholic church and excommunicated the board-appointed pastor, Father Marek Bozek.

Finally, in 2008, the archdiocese brought suit in a local circuit court in an attempt to regain control over the parish, which was now in full-scale rebellion. At the trial in early 2011, Archbishop Robert Carlson testified that he was only seeking to restore the legal structure of the parish as it had existed from 1891 until 2001. Judge Hettenbach ruled that despite the archdiocesan complaints, the parish board had not exceeded the authority established in 1891, and as a matter of secular law the archdiocese had no legal claim on the parish property.

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  • Posted by: unum - Mar. 16, 2012 12:01 PM ET USA

    Mistakes happen, but it is not reasonable to blame a past (or present) bishop for the actions of clergy and lay persons who are rebelling against Christ's Church. The members of St. Stanislaus may have won a legal battle, but "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?"

  • Posted by: ColmCille - Mar. 15, 2012 8:27 PM ET USA

    Why on earth did the Archdiocese ever allow such a structure in 1891, which has allowed this to happen 100 plus years later? I guess it was never imagined that a whole parish would go into schism. Oh well, the parish--the buildings, the finances, etc.--can be written off. It's the loss of the souls that is utterly tragic. They are not rebelling against men, but against God.

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