St. Stanislaus loses its standing as a parish!

By Aisha Sultan

St. LouisArchbishop Raymond Burke has stripped St. Stanislaus Kostka Church of its standing as a Roman Catholic parish.

In a letter Burke sent to the church's board of directors last week, the archbishop wrote that he is compelled to suppress St. Stanislaus - meaning it is no longer part of the Catholic Church - because it continues to operate independently.

Burke has clashed with the church's leaders for the last two years over how it is governed.

The move to suppress St. Stanislaus follows the excommunication of the six board members who control the church's finances. But those leaders are holding their ground.

"We will continue our Roman Catholic services," said board member Bob Zabielski.

The board hired its own priest after Burke removed the parish priest a year ago in a dispute over the financial authority of the parish, located north of downtown. The dispute between Burke and St. Stanislaus dates to a late 19th-century arrangement that originally gave the parish board control of the church property. Burke has demanded that the church conform to the same legal structure as the rest of the diocese's parishes.

Burke's action last week has a few practical implications for the church, such as obtaining separate insurance and tax-exempt status. The church has already taken steps to resolve those matters, a spokesman said.

But the larger issue is whether the decree clears the way for a suit against the board members. The original incorporation papers of St. Stanislaus stated that its purpose was to unite a church congregation of Polish Roman Catholics and maintain a Polish Roman Catholic Church.

Bernard Huger, a lawyer for the archdiocese, said St. Stanislaus is vulnerable to legal action because it is no longer a Roman Catholic parish and is violating its own bylaws. He added that the archdiocese has not planned any legal action.

Burke wrote in his letter that he issued the decree "with the greatest sadness" and prays daily for reconciliation.

The St. Stanislaus board members are appealing the decree of suppression to the Vatican, as well as the declaration of excommunication.

Tim Townsend of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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