Canon Law infraction leads Archbishop to deprive congregation of priestly ministry


In an effort to enforce Canon Law and educate the faithful about the role of the pastor and his parish board, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has temporarily removed two priests from a local parish.

In a letter to the parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church Tuesday, the Archbishop explained that regular Sunday masses will not be celebrated in the church "until a reconciliation has taken place" between the archdiocese and St. Stanislaus' board of directors.

He also said he would not assign another priest to the parish until the board "conforms to Church discipline."

The archdiocese states that St. Stanislaus' structure as a nonprofit group, run by a lay board is contrary to Church canon law, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Some parishioners see the bishop’s actions as a way for the archdiocese to take control of the parish's $9 million in assets and retain title to its property. But the archdiocese says it has nothing to do with money or control and everything to do with Church law.

The St. Louis parish has taken on a structure similar to that in Protestant congregations, which gives authority of the church to a lay committee and effectively turns the pastor into an employee.

However, according to canon law and Catholic doctrine, Catholic parishes cannot be organized in this way, since ordained priests do not recive their authority from the community, but rather from the bishops –the successors of the Apostles.

Bill Bialczak, chairman of the parish's board, wrote last week to St. Stanislaus' parochial administrator, Fr. Philip J. Bene, that the board "had reclaimed its authority over all funds and expenditures of the Parish." The letter included instructions on how Fr. Bene should proceed in processing bills, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In response, Archbishop Burke wrote to members of St. Stanislaus: "The orders which Mr. Bialczak gives to Fr. Bene are in direct violation of universal Church discipline and show a profound lack of respect for legitimate Church authority, neither of which may be permitted to continue.”

"I cannot permit your parish priests to be treated in a manner which is an affront not only to the dignity of the pastoral office in the Church but to common decency," wrote the bishop.

Beginning Tuesday at noon "and until the civil corporation of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish conforms to Church law," Fr. Bene and Fr. Adam Hurbanczuk will be in residence at St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, about a mile away.

The Polish Sunday mass, normally held at St. Stanislaus, will he held at St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.

Previously scheduled weddings and funeral masses will be allowed to continue at St. Stanislaus, but no priest may celebrate Mass in the church without the bishop’s consent.

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