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Judge Settles Nasty Church Spat

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A state judge ruled for St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic church, settling a decade-long dispute with the St. Louis Archdiocese over the historic church's money and property.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Bryan Hettenbach on Thursday granted St. Stanislaus control of its assets and property. The ruling settles a 10-year dispute that often turned ugly, culminating in a 2-week trial the ended more than a year ago.

Central to the case is a 19th century agreement that allowed the parish to govern its own finances. In September 2001, the church's board amended its bylaws for the first time since 1891, removing from the archbishop the power to fire the pastor or appoint board members.

Two years later, the archdiocese asked St. Stanislaus to change its legal structure to conform to every other church in the archdiocese. St. Stanislaus leaders responded with another change in the church's bylaws, which eliminated the archbishop's authority over the church.

The archbishop then pulled the parish pastor, excommunicated several board members and declared the church no longer Roman Catholic.

St. Stanislaus' board responded by hiring its own pastor, who was subsequently excommunicated and defrocked.

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