Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Reader of the Post Dispatch Asks...

If Archbishop Raymond Burke is correct in ordering sanctions against the leadership of St. Stanislaus Church members, does that mean that his predecessors were wrong in taking no action for more than 100 years?

John F. Bernosky Jr.
St. Charles
This question is phrased in such a way as to confuse the different issues involved here. It would be better to view this question as two distinct questions, and look at them individually.

First, with regard to the interdict being imposed on the board members:
The directors have illegally amended the bylaws of the parish corporation and have chosen not to follow the direction of the Vatican and the Archbishop to restructure the corporation in a manner consistent with Church law. They are defying the Vatican and the Archbishop in an important matter which touches on the very nature of the Church. When the faithful are no longer in unity with their pastors, they may no longer receive Holy Communion, the sacrament of unity. The Archbishop believes that he must impose a substantial penalty on the directors so that they will understand the seriousness of what they are doing. He hopes that this will have the effect on the board of causing them to reconsider their actions and to decide to follow what the Church, through its appointed representatives, is requiring. (Questions and Answers about St. Stanislaus Parish, Answer to Question 8, [])
Second, with respect to whether Archbishop Burke's predecessors were wrong in taking no action for more than 100 years:
When the parish corporation was formed in 1891, the Archbishop and his successors had significant and necessary authority over the parish corporation. The 1891 charter and bylaws provided that the Archbishop appoint the directors and resolve disputes among the directors (which includes disputes between the pastor and the other directors because the pastor is a member of the board) and, if the Parish ever closed, that all of the property and assets became the “absolute property” of the Archbishop. The corporate documents further provided that any amendments must not be in conflict with Church law. Without consulting the Archbishop, the board has eliminated all of his authority which he had in the 1891 corporate documents. If the bylaws had not been in this way illegally modified, there would not be a controversy today because the changes which are now being made for all other parishes could also have been made for St. Stanislaus had the original bylaws been in place. (Questions and Answers about St. Stanislaus Parish, Answer to Question 1, [])
Further, about the time of the establishment of the St. Stanislaus corporation, the Pope had declared that parishes should not be under the control of civil corporations with lay boards of directors. This declaration of the Holy Father was not uniformly applied until the adoption of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. By 1951, all parishes of the Archdiocese of St. Louis which had this structure were brought into conformity with Church law, except for St. Stanislaus.

In 1943, then-Archbishop John Glennon requested changes be made to the parish structure to conform to Church law.

Then-Archbishop Joseph Ritter in 1954 and again in the mid-1960s requested the necessary steps be taken to change the structure to conform with Church law.

In the fall of 2003 then-Archbishop Justin Rigali met with the board of directors and began the current process of bringing the parish into conformity with the more than 200 other parishes of the archdiocese.

Changes to the civil corporation's bylaws were made by the lay board in 1981 and 2004. These changes eliminated all relationship of the archbishop of St. Louis to the corporation and were made without the approval of the archbishop.

So one can clearly see that the Archbishop's precedessors did try to address the issues. Perhaps they did not follow through as they should have, but there have been no reports of the details of these attempts which I have seen.

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