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Polish church responds to offer to settle dispute over control of parish assets

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The board of a Catholic church locked in a long-running dispute with the Archdiocese of St. Louis over control of parish assets has responded to an offer to settle the dispute with a request for written agreements on some sticking points.

In a letter sent to Archbishop Robert Carlson on Friday, the president of the board at St. Stanislaus Kostka church, Richard Lapinski, said he was pleased that talks have made such progress. But the letter demands a written commitment from the Archdiocese and Archbishop Carlson to keep the parish open. Parishioners also want to limit the power of a new priest to pick the members of a board that would oversee the church's property, and a guarantee that any priest would be fluent in Polish and English.

A spokeswoman said Archbishop Carlson had not seen the letter and therefore could not comment.

Since 1891, a lay board of directors has managed the parish's property. But in 2004, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke demanded that St. Stanislaus follow conventional Roman Catholic parish governance practices, which give the archdiocese more control.

Members of the church, worried that the archdiocese wanted to sell the property, refused.

In 2005, Burke officially removed the church from the Archdiocese, saying leaders had led the parish into schism, or direct conflict with the Vatican. Several board members and a priest they hired, the Rev. Marek Bozek, were declared excommunicated, however several board members have since reconciled.

Archbishop Carlson's offer would allow St. Stanislaus to continue owning all its property, including the church, rectory, and Polish Heritage Center. The parish would lease the church and rectory to the Archdiocese. Carlson also promised that the Archdiocese would pay the salary of a new priest for the first year, and provide funding for a consultant that would help raise money for the parish.