Vatican asked to halt project
Canon lawyer files for opponents of St. John renovation
By TOM HEINEN of the Journal Sentinel staff Last
Updated: May 18, 2001
A canon lawyer representing some local opponents of
the renovation of Milwaukee's Catholic cathedral said he filed papers in
Italy on Friday asking Vatican officials to halt the project.
comes just a few days before the cathedral is to be closed until early
next year for the $10.5 million renovation.
"It would appear that the
renovation does not follow liturgical laws and norms, together with other
violations of canon law," lawyer Alan Kershaw said from Rome in a
Opponents of the project previously have objected to
a number of planned interior changes, including the moving of the altar
forward into the congregation, the removal of the tabernacle from the
sanctuary into a side chapel, and the replacement of pews with portable
chairs. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded pointedly Friday. "It
is an insult to the archbishop . . . and faithful Catholics of this
archdiocese to make accusations or inferences that any renovations and
changes to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist are not in line with
the liturgical documents of the Catholic Church," said archdiocesan
spokesman Jerry Topczewski.
"Archbishop (Rembert G.) Weakland was
intimately involved with the formation of these documents, so to think
that Archbishop Weakland is not familiar with these texts or that he is
ignoring these and other teaching documents of the Church is without
Asked for examples of violations, Kershaw at first
indicated there were general concerns that needed investigation.
"Right now, I'm hoping that Rome will stop this and take a close look
at it and then give some kind of instructions as to what is acceptable and
what isn't, even if that entails waiting for Weakland's successor,"
he said. Weakland retires next year.
Kershaw later said, "There are
specific violations. I'm prohibited from saying what they are by an oath
taken by advocates that practice before apostolic tribunals."
John Beal, chairman of the canon law department at the Catholic University
of America in Washington, termed Kershaw's move seeking
"recourse," and said the Vatican had 90 days to respond.
"The presumption in these cases is always that the archbishop acted
correctly, and so the burden of proof will be on the plaintiffs, which
always makes it more difficult," Beal said. "If they can find
specific violations of liturgical law, they have a fairly decent chance.
But if it's that they don't like the plans, and they don't fit with what
they think liturgical law ought to be, I doubt they would get very
Such actions must be taken on behalf of one individual, Kershaw
said. That person is Milwaukeean Jim Reiter, who has demonstrated against
the renovations at the cathedral, 812 N. Jackson St.
Reiter, who could not
be reached Friday, has expressed concern about such things as the
dismantling and possible destruction of the baldacchino - a 40-foot-high
canopy over the main altar that is supported by eight marble pillars.
Szews - who terms the renovation a Protestantization that will destroy a
physical and spiritual inheritance - said various opponents were
supporting Reiter, including Szews and his wife, Margo. Szews, of West
Allis, acknowledged that there is "no specific authority"
prohibiting the planned changes. But, he said, "I think there's a
misrepresentation being offered that somehow the documents of Vatican II
require these changes be made, and that's false."