Archbishop ends St. Stanislaus' status as parish in archdiocese!
Kansas City Star
Posted on Fri, Jan. 06, 2006.
St. Louis' Roman Catholic archbishop has issued a "decree of suppression" of St. Stanislaus Kostka church, ending the historic church's standing as a Catholic parish in the St. Louis archdiocese.
The traditional Polish parish, which is at odds with the archdiocese over control of the parish's property and assets, is appealing the suppression, along with last year's interdict and last month's excommunication of its lay board of directors and priest.
"We saw it coming," parish spokesman Roger Krasnicki said, adding that St. Stanislaus has retained a canon lawyer. "We're doing as much as we can as fast as we can."
According to church law, a move to "suppress" a parish ends its affiliation with the larger Catholic church.
The decree, dated Dec. 29 but announced in the archdiocesan newspaper on Friday, was delivered Wednesday to the parish's lay board along with a cover letter from Burke.
The archbishop wrote that he was obligated to suppress the parish because it operates independently of the archdiocese. "I have issued the decree with the greatest sadness," Burke added, "considering the long history of the parish, which has remained obedient to the Apostolic See until these recent times."
The move to "suppress" the parish was the latest development in a two-year dispute between Burke and the parish's lay board of directors over control of St. Stanislaus' $9.5 million in assets.
The church's property and finances have been managed by a lay board of directors since its founding 126 years ago.
Since Burke arrived here in January 2004, he has sought to make the parish conform to the same legal structure as other parishes in the diocese and hand over control of its assets. As the parish resisted, Burke responded with increasing pressure - removing its two parish priests, issuing an interdict denying sacraments to the parish's board, and establishing another parish as the official home for Polish Roman Catholics.
Last month, Burke declared the board and a Polish priest it had hired to serve the parish excommunicated.
Krasnicki, an attorney, said it's possible that suppression might be used as a prelude to a civil attempt to get back the property, but he doubted such a move would succeed.
Archdiocesan attorney Bernie Huger said that since St. Stanislaus is no longer affiliated with the Catholic church, the board that was chartered to run the parish now could be seen as not following its corporate purpose. "It puts (the board) in jeopardy," he said. "Someone, an interested person, the attorney general, may call them to task on that."
He said Burke is not interested in pursuing a lawsuit against the parish board.
For more than a century, St. Stanislaus has been the religious, cultural and historical home of Polish Americans in St. Louis. The tradition of self-governance in matters of property and assets dates back to the European immigrants who brought the church to America in the 19th century. But that model has faded over the years as the nation's bishops have asserted control.
The Rev. William Barnaby Faherty, official archdiocesan historian, said late last month that many of St. Louis' immigrant parishes closed after descendants of the founders moved to the suburbs. "But enough of the Polish people stayed to keep St. Stanislaus alive," Faherty said. "The thought was, 'Who cares about those Poles down there?' No one bothered about them. They went on their way, kept things alive and spent money on their church."