Tom Doyle Responds to Archbishop Burke’s “Extra-Judical Decree”

Received via email from Tom Doyle, 4.30.2008.

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Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C

I. Background

I believe it is necessary that I present a response to Archbishop Burke’s “extrajudicial decree” which was published in the Catholic paper in St. Louis. In doing so I will not get into detail about the various canonical issues involved. I do not intend this response to be part of any form of debate with the archbishop or the archdiocese nor do I intend it to be a personal attack on him.

I was approached in 2006 by members of the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Parish in St. Louis and asked to serve as their canonical advisor. At that time I learned that Archbishop Raymond Burke had imposed the canonical penalty of interdict on board members. Several months later he declared that they had been automatically excommunicated. I assisted the board members in preparing their appeals from these penalties, using the procedures provided by the Code of Canon Law. After first appealing to the archbishop to amend his decrees, the board then directed their appeal to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I cannot serve as their appointed advocate before this Vatican congregation because their procedural rules require that any advocate be first accredited to the Congregation and also, that the advocate reside in Rome. However I have continued to act as advocate on the local level and have assisted the board members in preparing the various documents required.

The core issue has been the refusal of the board of St. Stanislaus, acting according to the wishes of the majority of parish members, to transfer ownership of the parish properties and other material resources to the archbishop. At the end of the 19th century Archbishop Kenrick gave direct ownership to the parish. This arrangement worked well until the present archbishop insisted that the board turn these resources over to him.

The board has consistently refused, believing that ownership should be held in the name of those who actually donate funds for the support of the parish. As a result of their refusal Archbishop Burke decided that the board members had committed the canonical crime of Schism. The basic argument of the board is that neither they nor the parishioners intend to sever ties with the Roman Catholic Church. They are in disagreement with Archbishop Burke which, they argue, does not constitute schism. Catholic Church law does not require the archbishop to hold title or own the parish property and its resources. There are parishes in the US and in other countries with arrangements similar to St. Stanislaus. I know of no other parish or diocese wherein a parish board has been forced to transfer ownership under a threat of excommunication.

The archbishop terminated sacramental services at the parish in July of 2004 and officially suppressed the parish on December 29, 2005. On January 3, 2005 he informed the board of the parish that if they did not conform to his requests and to the response received from the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican, that they would incur the canonical penalty of interdict. On February 10, 2005 he imposed the penalty of interdict. On December 15, 2005 he excommunicated the parish board because they had hired Fr. Marek Bozek.

In March, 2006 I wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on behalf of the board members. The Congregation responded to my inquiry. They did not inform me that I could not continue to serve as a canonical consultant and they did not ask about my personal opinions on any theological or doctrinal matters.

The parish elected two new members to replace two members whose terms had ended. After their election, Archbishop Burke informed them that unless they resigned from the board they would be excommunicated. They then asked me to serve as their advocate before the Archdiocese of St. Louis. I agreed and they presented mandates of appointment to the archbishop. They each received a summons to appear on September 4, 2007 in which they were told to respond within 21 “useful days.” The letter did not explain to them what the term “useful days” meant. They then contacted me and asked for assistance.

II. The canonical process against me

I wrote to Archbishop Burke on Oct. 6, 2007 and informed him that I had been asked to represent Mrs. Krauze and Mr. Rozanski. I also explained that I had been unable to respond earlier because of serious family obligations. I did not see a need to go into detail about the nature of these obligations since I expected enough good will on the part of the archbishop that he would not consider the delay to be a major problem. I also did not elaborate on the serious nature of the family problems for reasons of confidentiality. On October 15, 2007 I received the first of three summonses’ to appear in St. Louis to be informed of the details of canonical charges being brought against me by the archbishop. I responded by letter on November 9, 2007. On December 12, 2007 a second summons was sent to my home ordering me to appear in St. Louis.

I responded to the second summons on December 12, 2007 and informed the archbishop that I was unable to respond earlier or to send detailed rebuttals to his statements to Mrs. Krauze and to Mr. Rozanki. I informed him that I was experiencing some serious personal health issues that required testing, evaluation and therapy. Again, I did not go into detail because I did not believe that it was necessary.

On February 3, 2008 I received a “Decree of Contumacy” from Archbishop Burke to which I did not respond. On April 9, 2008 I received the “Decree of Extra-judicial Adjudication” from Archbishop Burke. This decree was published in the Archdiocesan newspaper.

The summons and other decrees are part of a process that has been carried out within the context of Canon Law and not civil law. I found all of the Archbishop’s letters and decrees, especially his final decree to me, to be written in a convoluted, legalistic style which made it very difficult to follow the texts and to comprehend what the archbishop was trying to say. In 30 years of practice as a canonist I don’t ever recall seeing decrees from any source which were as confusing as these.

Archbishop Burke has accused me of committing two canonical crimes. The decree states what these crimes are:

a. “Abuse of ecclesiastical function by an act or omission and this by malice”

b. “illegitimate placing and omitting of an act of ecclesiastical function with harm to another and this by reason of culpable negligence.”

I believe that what he has done is this: he has reacted to the fact that I failed to answer the initial summons sent to Mrs. Krauze and Mr. Rozanski within the period of 21 useful days. He has also reacted to the fact that I did not explicitly ask his permission to act as their advocate. The letters which I sent in response were apparently not sufficient so he reacted by charging me with a canonical crime.

Archbishop Burke has taken these two sets of facts and presumed that they amount to criminal behavior and that my actions were maliciously intended to bring harm to the board members of St. Stanislaus Parish. In the decree of adjudication he also explicitly states that I have committed “very grievous sins” in addition to canonical delicts.

The penalty which I apparently incurred is this:

a. I am deprived of any office of canonical advocate and procurator within the archdiocese of St. Louis

b. I am to return the funds received from Mrs. Krauze and Mr. Rozanski in payment for my services.

III. My Response

I have never heard of a “Decree of Extrajudicial Adjudication.” I have searched through canonical commentaries for examples or even mention of such a decree and find none. As near as I can figure what it amounts to is this: Archbishop Burke has decided that the delay in my response, explained in two letters to him, and my failure to explicitly ask his permission, amount to malicious and harmful behavior on my part which is so bad that it amounts to a “very grievous sin” which I presume he means to be a mortal sin in traditional Catholic moral theology.

Archbishop Burke’s decree was the culmination of a purely subjective process that contained none of the required elements for due process of law. He has acted as the judge and prosecutor and has presumed the authority to reject the plaintiffs’ choice of defense attorney and appointed a substitute from his own staff. For a legal system or legal action to fulfill what it is intended for, there must not only be justice, but the appearance of justice. In the case of Archbishop Burke’s version of canon law there is neither.

Furthermore he equates failure to obey his rendition of Canon Law with mortal sin. He has no authority or power to do this or to threaten anyone who disagrees with him with mortal sin. Furthermore that process, which he claims is a canonical process, is actually no process at all.

The “penalty” which he imposed on me means nothing to me and has no effect on my relationship with the board members or pastor of St. Stanislaus. No one from St. Stanislaus has a case before the St. Louis tribunal. Although Archbishop Burke has excluded me from formal advocacy, I will continue to support the people of St. Stanislaus, the members of the board and Fr. Bozek and will continue to act as their canonical advisor. Secondly, I never accepted any payment from Mrs. Krauze or Mr. Rozanski. No payment was requested or expected.

Archbishop Burke used courier services to deliver at least three of his decrees to me. He could just as easily have used the U.S. mail or FedEx. I’m not sure if the use of a courier was intended to impress me or intimidate me. It did not work either way. The canonical process is not a civil process and therefore civilian process servers are clearly inappropriate. They are also a scandalous waste of the money donated to the Church by the people of St. Louis.

Archbishop Burke stated that “the accused has, in an habitual manner, publicly committed objective denials of definitive truths of the faith.” He used this same line of argument in his justification for not allowing me to serve as Fr. Bozek’s advocate. First, my theological opinions have nothing to do with my capability to serve objectively and competently as an advocate before a church tribunal. In fact, the Code of Canon Law does not include membership in the Catholic Church as an absolute requirement to serve as an advocate. It is recommended that advocates be Catholic but in fact there are canon lawyers in several countries who are not Catholics. I have never heard of canonical advocates being subjected to a test or evaluation of their theological “orthodoxy” as a prerequisite for acting in this capacity.

What is most unfortunate about the archbishop’s subjective judgment of me in regard to having publicly denied truths of the faith is that it is an unfounded and slanderous accusation. He failed to cite anything specific nor did he specify any particular sources. He and I have never spoken to each other much less engaged in any form of conversation about my theological opinions.

I have spoken publicly many times about the bishops’ lack of adequate response in the clergy abuse crisis. The many civil trials and grand jury reports have supported my criticism. This is not heresy. It is truth. Archbishop Burke may believe that everyone must agree with the bishop of their diocese in all things and he may include this as a definitive truth of the faith. This however, is not the official doctrine of the Catholic Church.

It seems clear that I committed one of the regional crimes in Archbishop Burke’s personal version of canon law and moral theology: I aided and abetted people who openly disagreed with him. Therefore I am considered to be in disagreement with him. So be it. I am!

Archbishop Burke has used Canon Law in a highly subjective manner. He has employed the canonical process as ammunition in his vendetta against those who refuse to bow to his version of authority and to lash out at those who disagree with him or at those who publicly disagree with certain aspects of Catholic Church discipline. He has no idea what my opinions are on any matter of Church doctrine or practice including such issues as ordination of women, married priesthood or the source of episcopal authority. In any case, the present official positions on these issues are not definitive or infallible church teaching. There is no such thing as “creeping infallibility” which amounts to claiming that something becomes infallible simply because a pope or bishop stated it several times in a row. In any case, none of this has anything to do with my ability to serve as an advocate for people from St. Stanislaus Parish. In such a role the only consideration is whether or not the process of Canon Law was objectively followed.

This entire issue is not about justice or the good of the Catholic Church. It is about ownership of the material goods of St. Stanislaus parish and it is about an archbishop who cannot tolerate any disagreement or questioning of his actions or policies, whether he is right or wrong. The office of bishop has been demeaned and the widespread impression of the Catholic Church’s legal system as ineffective and even counterproductive to justice has been confirmed.

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