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St. Louis archdiocese settles lawsuit, rebel parish splits from Church

Catholic World News - February 14, 2013

After years of conflict the St. Louis archdiocese has settled a legal dispute with a rebellious parish. The archdiocese has agreed to drop a lawsuit seeking to regain control of St. Stanislaus Kostka church, provided that the parish does not present itself as a Catholic church.

A joint statement released by the archdiocese and parish leaders said that the settlement was final. “St. Stanislaus has agreed that it will not hold itself out as affiliated in any way with the Archdiocese of St. Louis or the Roman Catholic Church. Neither side made any payments to the other as part of this resolution. All other terms of the resolution are confidential. By bringing this legal dispute to an end, we pray that this will help to initiate a process of healing."

Last year a Missouri judge ruled that because of an unusual legal structure dating back to the late 19th century, the property of St. Stanislaus parish belonged to a corporation created to govern parish finances, rather than to the archdiocese. At the time of that March 2012 ruling, the archdiocese had vowed to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, if necessary, to vindicate the authority of the archdiocese over the parish. With today’s settlement, all appeals have been withdrawn. The parish, founded in 1891, had given a board of laymen control over 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.

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