awaiting word from the Vatican
Save St. Patrick group appealing
decision to close their church
By GAY GRIESBACH - Daily News Staff
May 31, 2001
May 31, 2001
Although the congregational opposition
to renovations of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee
has taken the spotlight, representatives of smaller parishes in the
Milwaukee Archdiocese are lined up in Rome to appeal other actions taken
by Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Maureen Fitzsimmons Vanden Heuvel,
spokeswoman for the Save St. Patrick Preservation group, said an initial
suit to reopen the church was denied about six weeks ago by the
Congregation for the Clergy, but attorney Alan Kershaw said it was typical
for the forum to deny a group claim.
Kershaw is a Rotal advocate, allowed to practice in the Vatican court. He
is currently serving as attorney in appeals filed by members opposed to
the closing of St. Patrick Church in the town of Erin, St. Casmir Church
in Kenosha and St. Joseph Church in Cudahy. The group opposed to the
renovation of St. John's got his name from members of the St. Pat's group
and he is forwarding their action.
A civil suit over the opening of records brought by former members of St.
Patrick, St. Joseph and St. Casimir Catholic churches was dismissed by a
Milwaukee County judge in July 2000, but former members of all three
parishes are appealing Archbishop Rembert Weakland's decision to close the
The July complaint asked the court whether parishioners have a right to
file a lawsuit, who has control over the properties and bank accounts, and
whether the parishes could be reopened in the same manner as they had been
operated in before Weakland implemented a plan to realign the 10-county
Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
"We believe this denial was a way to spur separate appeals to the
Apostolic Signatura (the Supreme Court of the Vatican)," said Fitzsimmons-Vanden
The initial cost of filing the appeal was $3,500, and Fitzsimmons-Vanden
Heuvel said $3,000 has already been raised.
St. Casmir and St. Joseph are up for sale, but the appeal may hold up any
transactions regarding the buildings.
The St. Patrick's group filed its appeal April 4, and was told it would
take 12 to 18 months to be heard.
The church was converted to an occasional-use chapel in 1999 and the
parish was merged with St. Kilian in Hartford.
The 146-year-old church was built by Irish immigrants and is one of the
few churches built in the shape of a cross, according to information
provided by the St. Patrick group's application to have the building
declared a county landmark.
Landmark status may also not be granted because the approval hinges on the
property owner - the Archdiocese' - permission.
Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel said she wrote to Weakland April 30, asking to
allow the historical designation. She said they have not heard back from
his office as of Wednesday.
The application was made to the county clerk's office in a Dec. 14 letter
from the non-profit group.
At that time, a spokesman for the Archdiocese said it opposes historical
status or landmark designation for any of its properties with the
exception of the Cathedral of St. John, which is undergoing a massive
renovation. Fitzismmons-Vanden Heuvel stated that other churches have been
granted Landmark status by the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
The archbishop of Milwaukee replied to the Vatican Tuesday, seeking to
resolve questions opponents have raised about the renovation. The project
calls for moving the altar about one-third of the way down the main aisle.
Chairs with kneelers would replace the cathedral's pews and surround the
altar on three sides.
Vanden Heuvel has been following the St. John situation."If his renovation
is denied, (Weakland) will learn about the appeal process - just like we
are," Fitzsimmons-Vanden Heuvel said.