Friday, December 10, 2004

An open letter from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parishoners

I received this email this morning. It helps to bring many things into perspective, especially since this has not, to my knowledge, been printed in the press. I thank Mr. Czernikiewicz for forwarding this to me.

Here is an open letter from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parishoners, which was released two months ago. Those who follow this case will be interested to see somewhat broader perspective,

Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish
at Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist Church
15 Plaza Square Saint Louis, Missouri 63103-2318
Contact: (314) 781 4486

October 3, 2004

Open Letter to Parishioners and Supporters of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish

Over the last several months the Polish community of the St. Louis metropolitan area has been largely divided over a disagreement between the Archdiocese of St. Louis and members of the Board of Directors of the parish corporation regarding the future of the parish. The purpose of this letter is to outline the position of the St. Stanislaus Parish faithful parishioners who are supportive to the changes proposed by the Archbishop of St. Louis. Our prime objective is to reunite our community of faith and to resume religious services at St. Stanislaus Church.

In order to understand what is currently occurring in the St. Stanislaus Parish community we need to take a closer look not only at events which occurred earlier this year, but also at the circumstances surrounding changes of corporate by-laws by the Board of Directors of the St. Stanislaus corporation. This conflict has many underlying issues which have developed over many years, and unfortunately they have not been explored enough by the media and therefore are not known to the public. To further explain our position, it seems useful to clarify some terms in regard to St. Stanislaus Parish community vs. Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation.

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish is a faith-based community of people who subscribe to the discipline and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The parish was established by Archbishop Kenrick in 1880. As a parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka is required to function in accordance with the norms of Roman Catholic Church law.

The "Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish" is a Missouri not-for-profit corporation established in 1891 to enable the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish community to more easily function within civil law. As Article 1 of the original by-laws states, "The corporate power of the corporation shall under the laws of the State of Missouri be exercised in conformity with the principles and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church, and in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be established from time to time, for the government of said church, by the Roman Catholic Archbishop in the Diocese of St. Louis, or by his authority."

Unfortunately, for some time the values and goals of both entities have been very different. As a result, the needs of many members of our parish community have not been properly represented and attended. Over the past several years, the St. Stanislaus Parish corporation has been managed in such a way that it has resembled more of a small family business, rather than a Roman Catholic parish community which functions according to the norms of Roman Catholic Church law.

The original by-laws were adopted by the first Board of Directors of the St. Stanislaus Corporation in 1891. The first President and Treasurer of the Board was the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Fr. Urban Stanowski. In 1891, Archbishop Kenrick, as trustee for the Congregation of St. Stanislaus, signed a deed conveying a property from the archdiocese to the civil corporation – "Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish". While the deed conveyed the property to the civil corporation, it did not transfer financial control of the parish. When the property was conveyed, the parish corporation was structured so that all directors, including the pastor, were appointed by the Archbishop who could also remove the directors in case of disagreement. The Archbishop also had final decision-making authority in any disagreement among the directors.

Article 5 of the original by-laws states that "The Treasurer of said corporation shall collect all moneys due or coming to said corporation and pay out of funds in his hands, only such claims and demands as he may be directed to pay by resolution of said Board of Directors. Whenever the money in his hands belonging to said corporation shall exceed sum of Five Thousand dollars, he shall deposit the same, in the name of said corporation, in a depository to be designated by said Board: and monies thus deposited can be withdrawn only by check signed by such Treasurer and countersigned by acting President of said corporation. He shall keep in a book for that purpose, a just, true and full account of all receipts and disbursements of said corporation, and said books at all times be open to the inspection of any member of said Board of Directors and to the Archbishop of Diocese of St. Louis or his representative. He shall on the first Monday after the Feast of Pentecost, in each year (or oftener if required by resolution of said Board) make out, in duplicate a full, true and detailed account of all said receipts and disbursements, together with a full and true statement of all assets and liabilities of said corporation, and shall transmit, without delay, one of said duplicates to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of said Diocese, and shall submit the other to said Board of Directors at its next regular meeting. He shall prepare and cause to be published in such manner as the President of said corporation may direct, a synopsis of said account and statement for the benefit of the members of said corporation.[..]

Article 8 states that "If any dispute or controversy arise between the members of said Board of Directors which they cannot settle, they shall submit same, without delay, to the decision of said Archbishop of said Diocese of St. Louis, and if he be absent to the Vicar-General, and in his absence to the Administrator of said diocese of St. Louis, and the decision of said Archbishop, Vicar-General or Administrator, shall be final and binding on all parties. Either party refusing to abide by said decision, after being duly notified in writing thereof, shall forthwith cease to be a director of said corporation and his place shall be declared vacant by other members of said Board of Directors".

Article 12 states, in part, that "Those by-laws cannot be changed or modified, nor […] shall any amendment be made at any time which shall in anywise be in conflict with any law of the State of Missouri, or with any rule , regulation or requirement of the said Diocese of St. Louis in force at the time of such proposed change".

The St. Stanislaus Corporation functioned in its role in accordance with the original charter until the lay members of the Board of Directors revised the original by-laws in 1978, then adopted new by-laws in 2001, and most recently in 2004. Through these illegal changes of the original by-laws, the lay Board of Directors took away the authority of the Archbishop over the parish corporation. Through these revisions, the Board of Directors secured its own autonomy by removing the power of the Archbishop to remove them from office. By revising the by-laws in this manner, the members of the Board violated the original purpose of the St. Stanislaus Corporation and its relationship to Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish and thus the Roman Catholic Church.

After assuming a position of authority over the parish corporation, the Board of Directors focused their attention primarily on the financial management of the parish funds and so disregarded many relationships with active parish members. Despite several requests by many parishioners over the course of many years, and although required by the original by-laws, the Board refused to provide a complete detailed written report of all the financial accounts of the parish. As far as we know, the Corporation has never gone through an independent audit of all financial accounts it holds.

In the summer of 2003, Archbishop Rigali initiated the process of bringing the parish into conformity with the more than 200 other parishes of the archdiocese. In response to the Archbishop’s request, the Board of Directors initiated an intense, large scale, hostile campaign crafted to discredit Archbishop Burke, the successor to Archbishop Rigali, who has worked to bring to completion the work begun by Archbishop Rigali. The vindictive language and tone used in Board of Directors communications to parishioners and on their internet site is despicable and disgraceful and should have no place in any parish community. We find such tactics deeply troubling and unacceptable, particularly if they are used in the name of all parishioners.

The current conflict between the Archdiocese and the Board of Directors clearly demonstrates that the Board is defending its own position of power, which was attained through illegal modifications of the original corporate by-laws and which for the first time is being seriously challenged. In a desperate attempt to retain final authority over the parish assets, the Board wrote on its internet web site that it is currently considering the parish assets "to be deeded to another Polish organization not related to the Archdiocese and possibly not related to the Roman Catholic Church, or to join another (non Roman) Catholic Church." By appealing to the passions and prejudices of many unaware parishioners, members of the Board created an illusion of a potential danger of closing the parish.

The St. Stanislaus corporation currently owns multiple bank accounts with considerable assets, which have been generated through the hard work and generous donations of money, time and talents of countless individuals who believed that their work benefited the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish community and thus the Roman Catholic Church. Many supporters providing financial contributions to the current campaign do not realize that they actually support actions which remain in direct contradiction with principles of Roman Catholic morality. The "Save St. Stans" campaign, filled with hostility towards the Roman Catholic Church, exploits the vulnerability of many faithful parishioners and supporters of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish who have been led to believe that donating money to the campaign, will help to save the parish from closing. Unfortunately, these donations are used to fuel aggression and hostility towards the Roman Catholic Church.

The changes the Archdiocese is requiring in the structure of the St. Stanislaus Corporation will allow St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish to be faithful to its original mission. These changes will also ensure that parish assets will be managed in accordance with both the spirit and the law of the Roman Catholic Church. In this way the required changes will benefit the entire parish community.

We are asking our fellow parishioners who have previously taken a position opposing Archbishop Burke to reconsider and join us in our support of making the changes the Archbishop is requiring. St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish has been given his assurance that as long as we continue to gather at St. Stanislaus Church and continue to support our parish it will never be closed. This is a unique commitment that no other parish has been given. He has also assured us that, in accordance with Roman Catholic Church law, the funds of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish will never be used for any other purposes.

It is up to us as faithful parishioners to follow our Archbishop instead of separating our parish from the Roman Catholic Church as has been suggested by the Board members as an alternative. The signers of this letter are not prepared to stand by idle to watch the Board of Directors either turn our parish assets over to some organization which is not part of the Roman Catholic Church or to force the Archbishop to close the Parish because of the obstinacy of the lay Board in refusing to accept the reasonable requirements of Roman Catholic Church law. This conflict is a test of our judgment and ability to exist and function as a religious community within the Roman Catholic Church. How we emerge from here is dependent on our ability to comprehend the complexity of the situation, and on our courage to make a conscientious choice. We truly hope and pray that this conflict will be resolved in the best interest of the parish community. We accept the fact that every Roman Catholic parish, in order to remain a part of the Roman Catholic Church, must function in accordance with Church law.

You are always welcome to join us at our Sunday Polish Mass at 9am and coffee-and-donuts meetings at Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist Church.

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Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish at Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist Church

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