Parishioners at the breakaway parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in St. Louis will elect six new board members this weekend after a circuit court judge brokered a compromise between the church and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Under the agreement, the church will cancel a second vote to amend its bylaws while the archdiocese has dropped a court motion to stop the vote, which could have further distanced the church from the archdiocese, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
On Wednesday Mary Ann Wymore, an attorney for the archdiocese, told St. Louis Circuit Judge Bryan L. Hettenbach that if the bylaw vote were to proceed, the church could “potentially affiliate somewhere else” with a non-Catholic church which would then acquire the parish’s assets.
Richard Scherrer, arguing on behalf of the church, claimed an injunction on the vote would violate both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s free exercise clause and the Missouri Constitution.
The new bylaws would have made it more difficult to fire the church’s pastor, Father Marek Bozek.
The priest had left his previous position without the permission of his bishop to become the church’s pastor in December 2005. Archbishop Raymond Burke declared Father Bozek and the parish board members to be excommunicated and the parish to be schismatic, though some board members have since reconciled with the Catholic Church.
Out of compliance with canon law, the church is owned and governed by a secular corporation. The church and the Archdiocese of St. Louis became divided over the archdiocese’s attempts to bring the church into compliance.
Last month the archdiocese and former parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka, who included half of the church’s board of directors, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the church’s pre-2001 bylaws restored. The church’s board rewrote the bylaws in 2001 and again in 2004, eventually eliminating the archbishop’s authority.
In the original bylaws, the lay board controlled the church’s property and assets while the archbishop appointed its board members and its pastor.
St. Stanislaus Kostka parishioners had intended to vote on new board members and on new bylaws in the upcoming vote, but under the compromise agreed to on Wednesday only the board member election will take place.
The parish board was dissolved after it deadlocked twice on the question of whether to fire Father Bozek. At the third meeting the priest dissolved the church’s board.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Father Bozek claims most of the twelve parishioners standing for election to the parish board are his supporters.
St. Stanislaus Kostka’s attorneys in a statement said the parish hoped “to elect a board to manage our affairs as an independent Polish Roman Catholic parish until an agreement can be reached with the archdiocese.”
Both the church and the archdiocese have agreed to meet again in court on September 2, where a possible trial date will be one of the subjects of discussion.