This letter is posted at STLToday’s religion blog– it is purportedly from Fr. Thomas Doyle, the canon lawyer who is the subject of the recent disciplinary decree of the Archbishop.  I cannot confirm yet that he in fact wrote this, but it is a detailed attempt at refutation of the Archbishop’s findings.  As such, I wanted to address it.  My comments in green:

Good morning. I am presently in Dallas for a meeting and a deposition. I will return home on Wednesday. I was in Memphis last week when Raymond Burke (um, Father, that’s ARCHBISHOP Burke) issued his latest decree. I started to write a response to his decree but have not yet finished it. In the meantime I want to share with you my initial observations and would ask that you share these with anyone from the parish (which parish could that be?) who may be interested.

1. Archbishop Burke has refused to acknowledge me as the canonical advocate for Father Bozek, Bernice Krauze and Stan Rozanski (As is his right under canon law because of your dissent from infallible Church teaching).

2. His latest decree (latest, like he makes them every day before breakfast– is this relevant?) seems to state (it seems to state so, because it does in fact state so) that he has found me guilty of a canonical crime related to certain steps that he believes were essential in the process whereby I represented these three people  (The decree mentioned Krauze and Rozanski; presumably Fr. Doyle refers to Fr. Bozek here). Rather than clarify what were misunderstandings, he chose to infer that I had intended to commit some sort of crime (Fr. Doyle, as a canon lawyer, knows that intent to “commit a crime” is not necessary.  Intent to do, or culpable negligence in failing to do, acts that constitute a canonical crime are relevant).

3. The steps upon which he has based his accusations (you can call them conclusions) are, I believe, these:

a) My intentional failure (or culpably negligent failure) to file a notice of intention to appeal within the time limits that he believes (because the time limits are denoted in canon law, in which field Fr. Doyle practices, and has appeared as “expert” witness) were clearly set forth.

b) My failure to ask his permission to represent the three persons in question (he is required to submit his credentials to the Archbishop pursuant to canon law).

4. I believe that my notices to the archbishop were sent in a timely fashion although one of them might have been a few days late (the notices, according to the decree, were several weeks late, and only filed after the failure to file them, and the failure of Krauze and Rozanski to show as directed, caused them to forfeit their right to defense), due to the fact that I was away from home dealing with some urgent family business involving serious illness (I don’t know about this, but Fr. Doyle, according to the decree, never gave proof of a proportionate reason to excuse his failure to file). In general however the time limits were never clear to me insofar as the decrees and notices the archbishop was issuing were never completely clear to me (that sentence isn’t clear to me.  Huh?).

5. I did not seek his specific permission to represent anyone because this is not required for validity (validity means what, in the canon law context– as opposed to licitness?) and can be presumed with the initial notification of nomination by the parties (what about the late filing, and the issue of the accurate dating of these forms?).

6. I did not appear in person on any of the three dates to which I was summoned because I believed then and believe now that this step was unnecessary, inconvenient and punitive in nature (so?). In my 30 years of functioning as a canon lawyer I have never seen canon law used in such a way (In other words, Archbishop Burke doesn’t act like Cardinal Mahoney). I refused then and refuse now to enable Archbishop Burke in his misuse (which is to say, use) of the Church’s legal system for vindictive (read, appropriate) purposes.

7. Archbishop Burke stated that he would not allow me to represent Fr. Bozek because I had refused to heed his summons (sounds vindictive) and because I disagree or dissent from infallible church teaching (which makes his actions exactly just under canon law).

8. He based his judgment about my disagreement on news stories I presume because he and I have never had any form of communication (maybe you would have had some form of communication if you answered His Grace’s summons) about my beliefs or opinions. He is not a mind reader (recourse to the occult is a mortal sin, Father). My personal opinions on Church teaching, theology, custom or practice are not a valid reason to exclude me from advocacy for anyone (but your public advocacy against them…). There are canon lawyers who practice before Church courts who are not even Roman Catholics (let the reader insert the punch line of his choice here).

9. Archbishop Burke has stated that the members of the board of St. Stanislaus are placing their souls in peril by not obeying him. He has stated that persons who receive sacraments from Fr. Bozek commit mortal sins. He has no canonical or theological basis or justification for making these statements (wow, this is not even close to a statement based on reality). He has no power or authority to determine who does or does not commit a sin (He is stating the constant teaching of the Church– does the Church have the authority to define serious matter necessary for mortal sin?).

10. I will continue to assist, advise and counsel the members of the board and Fr. Bozek (like his friends, he has no intention of obeying the Church if it is at all inconvenient). Archbishop Burke’s decrees have no practical meaning for me (I think Fr. Doyle will find in time that they do), for the board or for Fr Bozek. The excommunications are on appeal before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (good luck with that). Any further action against Fr. Bozek will be likewise appealed to the appropriate Vatican congregation.

11. Finally, the center and source of our faith as Catholics is not Canon Law, the Vatican or the local Archbishop. It is Jesus Christ (You may, may have studied in Matthew 16 in the seminary, Father– where Christ founded a Church and gave Peter the power of the keys, to bind and loose.  Ring any bells?). The core of our obligations as Catholics is found in His message and mission. There is no valid foundation in scripture or Catholic theology for the assertion that a disagreement with the archbishop or even the pope is the same as disobedience to Our Lord (This statement is so obviously false as to strain one’s ability to accept it as being made in good faith.  Luke 10:16:  “He who hears you, hears Me.”  Or how about Ignatius of Antioch:  Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]).)

12. There is no absolute requirement in Canon Law or current papal teaching that the property, resources and funds of St. Stanislaus parish be held in the name of the archbishop (ah, the money thing– pay no attention to that man behind the curtain). There is likewise no reason to assume that those who disagree with his insistence on complete control are in schism or heresy (Red. Herring.). This entire dispute is not about loyalty to the Church or to the pope or to Catholic tradition. It is all about money and temporal goods (wrong–but now we know they all have the same playbook). Basically, Archbishop Burke is apparently upset because his perception of the limits of his power has been challenged by the parishioners and board of St. Stanislaus (that’s one take, certainly).

13. The Canonical process has been used by the Archbishop as a weapon (let’s see…maybe Fr. Doyle can use even more original imagery and say His Grace is “full of hate”.) and not as a means to resolve a dispute or find justice. He is, according to Canon Law, the primary judge of the archdiocese. As such he has preferred the charges. He determines what the Promoter of Justice does and he has decided that he will also appoint and control the canon lawyers who will represent the accused defendants. So, in effect, he is trying to control the entire process and everyone involved in it and at the same time he is trying to insist that this is a just and fair process (This is Fr. Doyle’s way of saying that Archbishop Burke has acted in accord with canon law at all points of the proceeding).

14. In my case he has issued an “Extra-judicial” decree which is something I have never heard of in my years of experience (Well, you have now.). Apparently by way of this decree he has decided that I am guilty of the crimes he has accused me of in spite of the fact that he has no objective basis upon which to base this finding (or he does have an objective basis). He has assumed that he knows what happened and why it happened. He is incorrect in his methodology and in his conclusions (Try that argument on appeal and get back to us).

15. I believe it is essential that all of us keep in mind that the Church is the Body of Christ and not the personal kingdom of the pope  (Did he write Fr. Bozek’s press releases?). Similarly the Archdiocese of St. Louis is not the personal possession of Raymond Burke. Although we, as Catholics, have been raised in a Church that reveres bishops and places them in extraordinarily exalted positions (hard to believe if we take our cue from the Stanislaus and womenchurch crowd), the fact is that they are members of the Christian community just as we are and are as susceptible to mistakes just as we are. I believe this dispute has gotten way out of hand (it didn’t have to, if you and your clients and cohorts would have acted as Catholic adults). not because of any intentions (intent again) of schism or heresy on the part of the people of St. Stanislaus, but because of the misuse and abuse of power by the archbishop (The writer should be ashamed to say this). I do not believe that any one of us has to feel guilty about any decisions we have made or opinions we have held (–Bill Clinton). We ultimately answer to the Lord for the charity we practice in our lives and not for the opinions we hold (WRONG). The ultimate orthodoxy is not to man-made rules and regulations but to the way of Christ (, man!).