More St. Stanislaus members reconcile with Catholic Church
Group files lawsuit to return church to the archdiocese.

July 25, A.D. 2008.
by Joseph Kenny, Review Staff Writer

Three more St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation board members have reconciled themselves with the Catholic Church.

Bernice Krauze, Stanley Rozanski and Robert Zabielski met privately and individually with Archbishop Raymond L. Burke in June and are now in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Those three and another member, who also recently reconciled with the Catholic Church, are part of a lawsuit they hope will lead to the re-establishment of the Northside parish as a parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

They hope a court ruling will nullify changes made by the St. Stanislaus board in recent years in the 1891 agreement between the civil corporation and Archbishop Peter Kenrick that established St. Stanislaus Kostka as a parish serving primarily Roman Catholics of Polish heritage.

Four years ago Archbishop Raymond L. Burke suppressed St. Stanislaus as a parish when the civil corporation’s board hired its own pastor, a suspended Catholic priest, which was contrary to Church law. The suit also precedes an election for new board members and possible further changes in the mission of the church, those involved in the suit said.

Also joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs are two other St. Stanislaus parishioners and Bishop Robert J. Hermann, administrator of the archdiocese. The suit was filed July 23 in St. Louis.

In June, Krauze, Rozanski and Zabielski, who had excommunicated themselves for being part of the corporation board that hired a suspensed priest, privately met with Archbishop Burke and were reconciled and welcomed back into full communion with the Church. Earlier, a former board member, Edward Florek, was reconciled.

"We’re very, very happy they had the courage to come forward and say, ‘We want to be reconciled with the Church,’" Bishop Hermann told the Review.

The individuals also wanted help "in reconciling the parish with the Church so St. Stanislaus Church can once again be a place where Catholics can validly receive the sacraments," Bishop Hermann said.

The others who are part of the suit are Eugene Brzyski and Joseph Skudrzyk.

The original articles of agreement and paperwork filed with the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis forming the Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation state that among its purposes is to be a Polish Roman Catholic church.

On Dec. 29, 2005, the parish, which had been administered from 1891 to 2005 by the St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation, was declared to be no longer a part of the Roman Catholic Church because its board committed the delict of schism, or self-separation from the Catholic Church. The six directors of the board, along with their pastor were declared to have excommunicated themselves from the Church after the directors offered the job of pastor to him. Once a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Marek Bozek already was not in good standing with the Catholic Church and committed schism by accepting the offer. In the Catholic Church only a bishop can appoint priests to parishes.

Bernard Huger, attorney for the archdiocese, said, "The point we’re trying to make here with the court is a simple one. The St. Stanislaus Corporation was structured as a corporation to own the property of and operate a Roman Catholic parish in accord with Church requirements as Archbishop (Peter) Kenrick agreed. It has ... moved away from that in a way that it is no longer recognizable as a corporation to operate a Roman Catholic parish, and we’re asking the court to step in and say the board has violated the corporate purposes and violated the restriction in how the bylaws can be amended."

The court is asked to nullify the bylaw changes and restore the 1891 bylaws.

It is important for people to know that the court is not being asked to require the parish corporation to be structured as all other parish corporations in the archdiocese, which was the request originally made by Archbishop Justin Rigali, Huger said.

"We’re just asking the court to take it back to the way it was approved originally by Archbishop Kenrick and by the parish so that it once again is a corporation structured to operate a Roman Catholic parish."

Zabielski, one of the board members who has reconciled with the Church, noted that a Vatican decision on May 15 upholding the excommunications, the "wayward direction" of St. Stanislaus and agreements with the archdiocese to seek a return to the 1891 bylaws all added up. "The fight is over. It’s time to shake hands and make amends."

The adherence to the 1891 bylaws is a "win-win" situation for all, he added.

"I started out as a Roman Catholic and want to end up as a Roman Catholic and St. Stanislaus parishioner," Zabielski said.

Florek, the former board member, said people at St. Stanislaus are uneasy with the direction it has taken under Bozek. He said, "The only direction is to obey the law and stay within the original intention of our ancestors. No one has doubt that our ancestors built this church and provided for this church to be a Polish Roman Catholic Church."

In June, dissention arose among members of the board of directors regarding the proposed removal of Bozek as pastor, according to the lawsuit. As a result, Bozek moved for and cast the deciding vote for dissolution of the board and for election of a new board, set for Aug. 9 and 10. At that time new bylaws will be set for a vote that if approved would, according to the lawsuit, further eliminate the original purpose of maintaining a Polish Roman Catholic Church.

The lawsuit seeks a prohibition of any future amendments that conflict with the 1891 documents.

According to the lawsuit, the 2004 bylaws did not provide that the pastor is subject to removal by the archbishop, did not grant the archbishop authority to resolve disputes among the board, did not provide that the board be appointed by the archbishop and did not require bylaw amendments to be consistent with requirements of the archdiocese — all of which conflicts with the 1891 documents, the requirements of the archdiocese and of the universal Church.

These requirements assure that the corporation continues to maintain a Roman Catholic Church, the lawsuit notes.

The suit also states that if the court grants the request, Bishop Hermann intends to restore the parish as a personal parish for Roman Catholics in the archdiocese who are of Polish language or heritage.

Msgr. John Shamleffer, judicial vicar of the archdiocese and pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Clayton, said the Church’s canon law defines what is a parish in the Roman Catholic Church and what are the duties of a bishop and pastor.

"Right now St. Stanislaus has gone in opposition of what the Church defines as what makes a parish in the Church and has been in opposition to the bishop’s authority and to the role of a pastor in the Church," he said.

The lawsuit "is trying to re-establish that unity for St. Stanislaus within the archdiocese and the universal Church and bring the parish and pastor back in union with the teachings and beliefs of the Church," Msgr. Shamleffer said.

He noted that the other plaintiffs in the suit want to be members of the parish and follow the beliefs and practices of what it means to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Hermann said the board members who have reconciled with the Church "want a place where all the Polish people in St. Louis can receive valid sacraments. It’s very courageous on their part, and it’s very heartwarming on our part."

He said the work of Archbishop Burke, who has been appointed to a position at the Vatican, "is doing what it was intended to do, and that is to bring about healing and unity."

Archbishop Burke’s concern was the pastoral care of the Catholics of the archdiocese, he said. The situation with St. Stanislaus had nothing to do with money as it was portrayed, he added. The Code of Canon law (Canon 127, paragraph 3), Bishop Hermann said, which guided Archbishop Burke, has restrictions that would ensure that St. Stanislaus’ funds always would be used for that apostolate for people of Polish heritage.

The archdiocese’s website, www.archstl.org includes various St. Stanislaus documents, including the original articles of agreement, the charter, and the 1891 bylaws. . 

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