Appeal on Church Merger Rejected

By Jay Tokasz
The Buffalo News
March 31, 2009

A second request for the Vatican to overturn a Catholic parish reconfiguration in Olean has been denied.

Members of Transfiguration Church tried for a second time to appeal Bishop Edward U. Kmiec’s decision merging the parish with nearby St. John and converting Transfiguration into an oratory, where liturgies would be held occasionally.

But the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, determined the parishioners had no grounds for appeal.

In a letter dated Feb. 21, Bishop Frans Daneels, secretary of the Apostolic Signatura, wrote that “the three reasons given in your recourse to this [tribunal] evidently lacked any foundation.”

The latest decision echoed an earlier one in November by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.

Under Catholic canon law, parishioners have the right to appeal again, this time to the “Congresso,” a larger body of the Apostolic Signatura.

They must submit a deposit of 1,550 euros ($2,045) to the Apostolic Signatura or through the Vatican’s representative in Washington, D. C., and must choose a “procurator-advocate” from a Vatican- approved list to represent them in front of the Apostolic Signatura.

The group is moving forward with the next and final part of the appeals process, Susan Fox, a parishioner, said Monday.

Fox, Mary Ann Loskey, Lori Lewicki, Julie Mikolajczyk and Noreen Cook had submitted the second appeal last December.

“We feel like we have to see it through to the end,” she said. “We’re saddened that we don’t feel the parishioners are being taken into account.”

Parishioners have been raising money for the appeal effort for more than 18 months, she added.

The Vatican is handling challenges to three other church closings in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which since 2006 has announced the closing of 71 worship sites.

Members of St. Mary Church in Lockport and St. George Church in Niagara Falls have yet to receive word about their initial challenges.

“It’s been over a year now since we sent the appeal in,” said Michael Ulrich, a longtime St. Mary parishioner. “We’re hopeful.”

Parishioners of St. Adalbert Church were rebuffed twice in challenging the closing of the East Side church, because they had submitted an appeal before Kmiec issued his formal closure decree for the church. They later were allowed to resubmit their appeal and begin the process over again. That case also hasn’t been decided.

“We haven’t heard a thing,” said Ronald Suchocki, a parishioner.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.