St. Stanislaus steps back from unification.....

By Michele Munz

Reconciling with the Archdiocese of St. Louis was pushed further from reach Sunday as a majority of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church members said they opposed a proposed resolution.

In what attorneys called a 'survey," 257 parishioners voted that they "do not agree with the direction the Board is pursuing toward settling the lawsuit," while 185 agreed with the direction of negotiations.

While the vote is a setback, it doesn't mean the long dispute over the Polish church's assets and property will end up in court, said George von Stamwitz, an attorney for St. Stanislaus.

"Negotiations will not cease. It's not over because of this," von Stamwitz said. "We have to get a sense of whether the vote would move to the majority if the details of the settlement changed."

In 2004, former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke demanded that St. Stanislaus conform to the same legal and financial structures of all other parishes, despite having managed its own finances and property since its founding in 1891.

The church's lay board refused, and Burke pulled the church's priests. A year later, the lay board named Rev. Marek Bozek its pastor. Burke declared Bozek excommunicated and stripped the church of its standing as a Roman Catholic parish.

The archdiocese, along with some former St. Stanislaus board members, filed a lawsuit in July 2008. If it wins, the Roman Catholic Church will regain the authority to assign the church's pastor and approve its board. A trial date in St. Louis Circuit Court has not been set.

The proposed resolution would have allowed St. Stanislaus to continue to own its property and financial assets. However, the church would have to lease its building and rectory to a "Parish Corporation" organized and staffed by the archdiocese. The Parish Corporation would be run by a priest selected by the archbishop.

Some parishioners voted against the resolution because they do not want to lose Bozek, while others fear the archdiocese would use the agreement to shutter the church, which is just north of downtown.

Mick Kenney, 61, of St. Louis, and his wife, Nancy Wendover, are among many new members attached to Bozek, who supports gays in the church and ordination of women. The divorced and remarried Catholic couple said they never felt welcome at Mass until coming to St. Stanislaus. Rather than pursuing re-establishment as a Roman Catholic parish, they want the church to continue its less exclusionary stance as an independent Catholic church.

"We have an opportunity to do something very, very special, and we've been doing it for the past several years," Kenney said.

Patty Piwowarczyk, 70, of St. Charles County, is resentful of the new members. They "believe it is their church, and those people who took care of it for years mean nothing," she said.

But Bozek's supporters alone did not appear to produce the majority of votes against the resolution. Many parishioners said it was vague and gave too much control to the archdiocese.

"Clearly, there's an issue of trust we have not overcome," von Stamwitz said. 314-340-8263

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