Archdiocese continues efforts to sell former church properties
By TOM HEINEN
Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2002
Although parishioner appeals
are pending at the Vatican, the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese is moving
ahead with efforts to sell the buildings and land from the former St.
Joseph's Parish in Cudahy and the former St. Casimir's Parish in Kenosha.
Bay View Assembly of God
reportedly has made an offer to purchase the Cudahy property for an
undisclosed amount that is acceptable to the archdiocese, according to
several sources familiar with the negotiations.
Without identifying the potential
buyer, Wayne Schneider, head of finance/administration for the
archdiocese, said the sale is progressing.
Meanwhile, the Kenosha property
still is listed among archdiocesan properties that are for sale.
Moving ahead with sales was based
partly on the opinion of archdiocesan canon attorneys that the appeals, in
effect, deal with how the parishes were incorporated and dissolved under
church law rather than the property those parishes owned.
"The property is a separate issue
from the parish," said Barbara Anne Cusack, archdiocesan chancellor. "A
parish is a community of Christian faithful, and it's that community that
was merged with other communities. The issue of property is completely
separate from the issue of a community.
"Archbishop Dolan has already
publicly stated that he has no intention to revisit these decisions, that
he concurs that the proper decisions were made, and that he stands by
them," she said of Archbishop Timothy Dolan. "And that will be something
that I'm sure the Vatican will take into consideration as we bring these
cases to conclusion."
Alan Kershaw, a canon lawyer in
Rome who handled the challenges until they reached the highest Vatican
"That's a self-serving, inexact
interpretation of canon law," Kershaw said. "The definition she gives of a
parish is true, but there is another factor she omits, that a parish has
territorial boundaries, and as such it has temporal property."
Nevertheless, Kershaw acknowledged
that the chances the appeals will succeed are not great.
"It would be unusual for the
plenary session to overturn the decision," he said of the Vatican court.
"That doesn't mean that the decision would be just if they didn't overturn
it, but that's beside the point."
The parishes were dissolved about
two years ago, as dozens of parishes were merged or closed because of
demographic changes and a priest shortage, including some parishes that
had smaller-than-average congregations but still were financially viable.
Parallel challenges from some
parishioners from St. Joseph's and St. Casimir's failed in Circuit Court
here. When challenges were filed with the Vatican, alleging that the
closings violated canon law, they lost at a departmental level and before
a panel of judges from the Apostolic Signatura, the top Vatican court.
The parishioners then appealed to
the full Signatura, an action that canon lawyers in Rome and Milwaukee
said is unlikely to succeed.
Opponents of the mergers had hoped
the challenges would delay action until former Archbishop Rembert G.
Weakland retired and his successor was installed. But Dolan has opted not
to reverse any mergers and closings.
Frank Mrnik, a leader of the group
of former St. Joseph's parishioners who opposed their merger, reacted to
the continuing efforts to sell the property, saying: "This flies in the
face of our appeal with the plenary session in Rome. We don't see it as an
appeal of the merger. We see it as an appeal of selling the church," where
the parishioners were for 95 years.
St. Joseph's was merged with two
other Cudahy parishes, Holy Family and St. Frederick's, to form Nativity
of the Lord Parish.
The site of a third closed parish
that joined in the challenges and appeals, the former St. Patrick's Parish
in the Town of Erin, is being used as a chapel and is not for sale,
A version of this story appeared
in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Nov. 2, 2002.