ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A court has ruled that a predominantly Polish parish in St. Louis can control its own assets and property, giving it a long-sought victory over the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Judge Bryan Hettenbach on Thursday decided in favor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic church.
St. Stanislaus' pastor, Marek Bozek, says he hopes the decision opens the way for new dialogue with the Catholic Church. The archdiocese had declared in 2005 that St. Stanislaus was no longer Roman Catholic.
The archdiocese issued a statement saying it plans to appeal Thursday's ruling.
The dispute involves a 19th century agreement that allowed St. Stanislaus to govern its own finances. In 2003, the archdiocese asked the parish to bring its structure in line with that of every other parish, but St. Stanislaus refused.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis issued the following statement:
"The court's decision today is a disappointment for Polish American Catholics who wished to see St. Stanislaus returned to communion with the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, it brings great sadness to all in the Archdiocese of St. Louis who had hoped for reconciliation and healing in this matter.
In this opinion, the judge has agreed that the corporate purpose of the parish corporation is to maintain a Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican has determined that the corporation by revising its bylaws in 2001 and 2004 has transformed St. Stanislaus into an entity which has no resemblance to a Roman Catholic parish. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has supported the determination of the Vatican and has tried to work with the parish to bring it in communion with the Roman Catholic Church once again.
Judge Hettenbach, in the opinion issued today, has disregarded these ecclesiastical determinations and has substituted his own analysis of Church law, finding that the bylaws are not in conflict with the parish corporate purpose of maintaining a Roman Catholic Church. We plan to appeal this decision and will take this case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
We are committed in prayer and pastoral outreach to reconcile the members of St. Stanislaus to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."