St. Louis archdiocese, breakaway parish end legal fight

St. Louis archdiocese, breakaway parish end legal fight February 20, 2013

St. Louis, Mo., Feb 20, 2013 / 12:02 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of St. Louis and a breakaway Polish-American church have ended a decade-long legal dispute that has led to the community's official split from the Catholic Church.

“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,” the archdiocese and St. Stanislaus Corporation said in a joint Jan. 13 statement.

“By bringing this legal dispute to an end, we pray that this will help to initiate a process of healing,” the statement said.

No financial transactions were part of the resolution, which was announced Feb. 13.

The north St. Louis church of St. Stanislaus Kostka was first founded by Polish immigrants. It was governed under an 1891 agreement in which a lay trustee board controlled parish finances and owned the St. Stanislaus Parish corporation, while the archbishop had the authority to appoint board members and the pastor.

In 2003 the archdiocese tried to persuade the board to transfer property ownership to the archdiocese to bring it into agreement with canon law. Then-Archbishop Raymond Burke played a large role in these efforts when he took over the archdiocese in January 2004.

Some of the parishioners were concerned that the archdiocese intended to close the church or seize its funds. The corporation bylaws were rewritten in 2001 and 2004 to eliminate the archbishop’s authority.

The archdiocese made continued efforts to reconcile with the church. It also filed suit against the parish corporation on the grounds that it revised its bylaws in conflict with the original articles of agreement.

The corporation’s original mission was to unite Polish Roman Catholics in a church congregation, to maintain a Polish Roman Catholic Church, and to encourage attendance at Roman Catholic religious services. Some former parishioners joined in the suit.

In March 2012, St. Louis Circuit Judge Bryan Hettenbach sided with the St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation. At the time of the decision, the archdiocese said it planned to appeal.

The parish was declared schismatic in December 2005 after it appointed its own pastor, the Poland-born Fr. Marek Bozek. Its pastor and the corporation board’s six directors were declared excommunicated, though some board members have since reconciled with the Catholic Church and four former board members joined the archdiocese’s lawsuit against the corporation.

Bozek had left his previous position without the permission of his bishop and is known for his support of ordaining women to the priesthood. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI dismissed him from the clerical state. The former priest said last year that parish membership has doubled to 550 members since 2005, the Associated Press reported.

In 2012 Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said the archdiocese intended to provide St. Stanislaus Kostka parishioners “a way to return to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”

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