Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish was founded by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick in 1880 and was civilly incorporated in 1891 at which time a provision was made for a Board of Directors which was obligated to follow its 1891 bylaws.We are all aware of the numerous incidents of disobedience and flagrant disrepect which have transpired during this period. Many, if not most, have been documented here. It is a situation for which all of us should earnestly pray.
The Board of Directors was to function as an advisory body to the parish priest in accordance with the norms in force at that time. Those norms included:
* the legislation of the Plenary Councils of Baltimore (1852, 1866, 1884),
* the declaration of Pope Gregory XVI of August 12, 1841, and
* the letter Non sine mango of Pope Pius VII of August 22, 1822.
The members of the Board of Directors were appointed by the Archbishop of St. Louis, and could only be removed either by him or by unanimous consent of the other members of the Board of Directors, except in the case of the parish priest who could be removed solely by the Archbishop of St. Louis.
Through an oversight, proper safeguards were not put in place at the time of the civil incorporation of the parish, which would have prevented lay members of the Board from appropriating to themselves the final authority in financial matters, and relegating the Pastor to act only in an advisory capacity.
Likewise proper safeguards were not put in place which would prevent the revision of the bylaws so that they would in any way be in conflict with the norms of the Roman Catholic Church. These irregularities placed the Board in violation of the legislation of the Church in force at the time of the civil incorporation and reaffirmed in the norms of the Code of Canon Law of 1917.
As history has demonstrated, the lack of proper safeguards made possible irregularities which would become apparent over time, and which would eventually result in a circumstance which can no longer be tolerated.
Financial irregularities began to surface as early as the episcopate of Cardinal John Glennon at the which time the then Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Monsignor John Cody, sent a letter dated March 29, 1943 to the pastor of the parish. In this letter Monsignor Cody explained that, by order of the Archbishop, only the pastor of the parish was authorized to sign checks on parish accounts.
Subsequently in the 1950’s and 1960’s Cardinal Joseph Ritter addressed other aspects of the irregular situation at the parish. At this time an adversarial attitude toward the Archdiocese became apparent when the then-Pastor Monsignor Joseph Pawlowski was publicly ridiculed at a parish meeting in the school hall and prevented from completing his presentation about the regularization of the irregular circumstance of the parish.
In 1978, 2001 and 2004 the Board of Directors, without the approval of the Archbishop of St. Louis, made revisions to the bylaws which removed the power of the Archbishop to appoint the directors of the corporation, to resolve disputes among the members of the Board of Directors and to be the recipient of the assets of the corporation upon its dissolution. By this action the revised bylaws violated directly the norms of the 1917 Code of Canon Law as well as all prior legislation.
Because of the irregular manner in which the parish was functioning, discontent arose among some parishioners such as that in 2000 over one hundred Polish born parishioners left the parish because of their dissatisfaction with the attitude and actions of the Board of Directors toward them. Not long thereafter, and following the intervention of the then-Archbishop Justin Rigali, the then-Pastor Monsignor Theodore L. Wojcicki offered a public apology to the members of the Parish.
In the fall of 2002, an Internal Financial Control Questionnaire was sent by the then-Archbishop Justin Rigali to all parishes of the Archdiocese for completion. The irregular situation at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish was evidenced yet again in the written response of the Board which stated that the parish priest is able to make financial decisions in the parish only by virtue of delegation from the Board.
Subsequently, the rejection by the lay members of the Board of the Financial Management and Control Manual for all Parishes in the spring of 2003 emphatically illustrated the irregularity of the corporate structure and financing of the Board.
As was explained in an article in the St. Louis Review of June 13, 2003, Archbishop Justin Rigali approved the recommendation of the Archdiocese Finance Council to reorganize the holding of real estate and to change the form of legal entity for the Archdiocese and its Parishes. Subsequently, on Sept 30, 2003, Cardinal Rigali met with the Board of the civil corporation which holds title to the real estate and financial holdings of the parish. During the meeting, he explained the steps which must be taken finally to bring the corporate structure of the Parish into compliance with Church Law, namely, the norms of the Canon Law of 1983, as well as the particular legislation of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. On November 14, 2003, Father Philip J. Bené, Parochial Administrator, sent a letter to all parishioners in which he explained Church law in the matter and responded to questions about the effects of the necessary change of the civil structure of the Parish.
On March 2, 2004, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke met with the Board, the members of the Parish Council, Father Bené and Father Adam Hurbańczuk who assisted Father Bené, to bring to fruitful conclusion the work begun by Cardinal Rigali. On March 19, 2004, Archbishop Burke sent a letter to the parishioners in which he expressed his pride in the Parish as a personal parish for Polish speaking faithful and faithful of Polish heritage in the Archdiocese of St. Louis; in which he thanked all who have sacrificed so much to keep Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish active and strong, and confirmed his intention to help them in every way possible; and in which he insisted that the parish comply with the norms of Church law, as does every other parish in the Archdiocese, in what pertains to its structure.
On March 20, 2004, the Board called a meeting of the parishioners to approve the bylaws of the civil corporation which it changed, in part, to remove the Archdiocese of St. Louis as the beneficiary of the temporal goods of the parish if the parish might ever be suppressed. Instead, entities promoting Polish faith and culture would be designated by the Board as the beneficiaries of the temporal goods of the parish should it ever be suppressed.
On March 28, 2004, at the request of the Board, Archbishop Burke met with the parishioners to confirm what he had written and responded to questions which they presented. In that meeting, the Archbishop explained that if the regulations of Church law are followed at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish, the parish would function in exactly the same way as every other parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Thus, it would have a Financial Council which, along with its newly structured Pastoral Council, would assist the parish priests in the pastoral activity of the parish.
However, if the Board and parishioners refused to conform the corporate structure of the parish to the norm of Canon Law, Archbishop Burke reiterated that he would have no choice but to declare that Saint Stanislaus is no longer a Roman Catholic Parish. At the same time, he would establish the Archdiocesan personal Parish for Polish-speaking parishioners and parishioners of Polish heritage at another site.
On April 7, 2004, without the approval of the Archbishop or the parochial administrator, the Board informed Father Bené that the Board had entered into a contract for the repainting of the interior of the parish church. On April 25, 2004, the Board called together parishioners in a meeting to approve the bylaws which the Board had previously changed.
In order to clarify misunderstandings regarding the intent of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop, in his May 14, 2004 column in the St. Louis Review, offered a presentation on the matter of Stanislaus Kostka Parish, in the context of the Church’s understanding of the relationship of a parish to the diocese or archdiocese, and the universal Church.
Following this reflection, the Board publicly challenged the Archbishop questioning his intentions. On June 2, 2004, the Board announced that it would be accepting nominations for two new Board members.
On July 1, 2004, the Board sent a letter to the Archbishop and Father Bené in which the Board demanded an audit of the Sunday offertory account that Father Bené had managed under the control of the Board. In response, the Archdiocese audited the account and gave the Board a report in which it explained that the parish expenses were “reasonable and not excessive” and in which it provided recommendations regarding the need for the raising of additional revenues for the parish to meet its operating expenses.
Subsequently, the president of the Board on July 20, 2004, sent a letter to Father Bené in which it announced that all authority for financial matters would be taken from him. The president of the Board stated that he suspected financial irregularities, even after the audit revealed none. The tone of the letter expressed a conspicuous lack of respect and an overt hostility which made the situation intolerable, rendering the parochial administrator no longer able to exercise his office.
In response, the Archbishop, on July 31, 2004, sent a letter to the parishioners in which he stated his decision temporarily to transfer the apostolate, and thus move the center of the parish, to the church of another parish, pending a decision by the Board to reconcile itself with Church authority.
Following the transfer, the Archbishop wrote an open letter on August 11, 2004 to the members of Stanislaus Kostka Parish in order to express his hope and prayer regarding the future of the parish.
On August 22, 2004, the Board held an election in which one new Board member was elected and another Board member was re-elected. The Archbishop of St. Louis was in no way involved.
In recent weeks a significant group of the more recent Polish Immigrants, who are members of Stanislaus Kostka Parish, have informed the Parochial Administrator of the Parish and the civil attorney for the Archdiocese of St. Louis that they fully support the efforts of the Archbishop of St. Louis to bring the parish into conformity with Church law. They are opposed to the resistance of the Board of Directors.
This group, known as New Polonia, has indicated its desire to pursue recourse against the Board of Directors through a Church or civil proceeding challenging the authority of the Board of Directors to amend the bylaws in a manner which eliminated the Archbishop’s authority with respect to the corporation, without obtaining the approval of the Archbishop.
While this is intended to put to rest questions regarding the position of the Archdiocese, one cannot help but question the positions and the motives of the Board or those who speak for the parish.
While every effort was made to avoid typographical errors in this post, it is possible that some may have eluded detection. Any such errors will be corrected when found.
This synopsis will not be found at the Post-Dispatch or at the St. Stanislaus web site.