Parish at odds with archdiocese brings in priest for Holy Week

KMOV-TV  04:06 PM CST on Wednesday, March 23, 2005

By JIM SALTER, Associated Press Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A Polish parish that lost its priests in a dispute with the St. Louis archdiocese is bringing in an anonymous priest to preside over Holy Week services, a spokesman for the parish board said Wednesday.

St. Stanislaus Church

The St. Stanislaus Kostka parish near downtown is at odds with Archbishop Raymond Burke over control of the parish and its assets. In addition to removing both priests in August, Burke in February issued an interdict denying Communion and other Roman Catholic sacraments to St. Stanislaus' six-member board.

Sanctions aside, parishioners have continued to meet for regular services led by lay members. But for Easter, two parish members secretly used connections to bring in a priest, said Roger Krasnicki, spokesman for the parish board. He would not identify the priest out of concern that the priest could face sanctions for violating the will of the archdiocese, but said he is of Polish descent.

"All I know is he's Father John," Krasnicki said. "I have no idea where he's from. It's a very secretive process."

Krasnicki said the priest will stay only through Easter Sunday. He is scheduled to preside Thursday night in a Mass of Eucharist Adoration, and also at Good Friday services, and Mass on Saturday and Easter Sunday. All services will be conducted in English and Polish.

"Easter is the most important Catholic holiday of the year," Krasnicki said. "Polish people have especially been known to have strong traditions. We couldn't have the Eucharist with just lay people."

Archdiocese spokesman Jamie Allman would not say if the archdiocese would seek discipline of the priest.

"The archbishop is not going to be lured into a fight during (Holy Week), and he continues to pray for reconciliation," Allman said.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Catholic magazine America and a Vatican expert, said the priest is taking a risk.

"He's in trouble" unless the archdiocese decides not to pursue action against him, Reese said.

Also of concern is the fact that, since his name is not known, parishioners can't be sure of his legitimacy, Reese said.

"The additional questions are, is this guy a legitimate priest? Does he have faculties in any diocese to say Mass and do the sacraments?" Reese asked.

St. Stanislaus made a similar move in December, when an unnamed priest presided over Christmas Masses. The priest officiating at Easter services is not the same man, Krasnicki said.

St. Stanislaus was established by Polish immigrants. In 1891, an archbishop deeded the property to a civic corporation of parishioners. The way the property and assets are governed by the laity and not church leaders created the on-going dispute that began under previous Archbishop Justin Rigali.

The dispute has escalated under Burke, who took over last year after Rigali became the cardinal of Philadelphia.

St. Louis archdiocese: www.archstl.org

St. Stanislaus: http://www.saveststans.com/

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