Bishop Robert Hermann, Administrator of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, has issued a formal decree declaring the excommunication latae sententiae of Richard Lapinski and Janice Merzweiler, the two newest members of the renegade Board of Directors of the Polish St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation. His Excellency found them guilty of the canonical crime of schism in adhering to the St. Stanislaus sect despite admonition and repeated summonses to appear, and giving the opportunity for defense of the charges.
The decree, dated October 7, 2008, is published in the St. Louis Review for Friday.
This decree of excommunication, a medicinal penalty that calls the sinners to repentance, continues the policy of Archbishop Burke in dealing with the ongoing schism, rejection of infallible teaching, and contumacy at the former St. Stanislaus parish.
The wording of the decree (the full text of which can be found here) is similar to the decrees issued to the other board members of St. Stan’s and the ersatz pastor, Marek Bozek. However, there are some interesting points that merit comment.
The guilty parties have committed schism as per canons 751 and 1364 s. 1.
The decree affirmed that those who commit delicts within the territory of the Archdiocese or who are domiciled or quasi-domiciled in the Archdiocese are subject to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Saint Louis, and sede vacante, to his Archdiocesan Administrator, referencing canons 1408, 1412, and 427 s.1.
The decree specifically references the decision of the CDF on May 15, 2008 (affirming previous decrees of excommunication issued by Archbishop Burke) that judged that the knowing and deliberate holding of a seat on the Board of Directors of the Polish Saint Stanislaus Parish Corporation, as it is presently organized, constitutes an “evident” act of schism. In spite of repeated admonitions, Lapinski and Merzweiler willingly stood for election, were elected, accepted the results of the election, and have served as Directors “with true pertinacity”. They failed to appear to defend themselves before the Bishop despite being given opportunity to do so.
The decree also expressly states as follows: “Considering that whenever the commission of the most grave crimes of heresy, schism, or apostasy is public, and scandal has occurred, that no tractation or compromise on the part of the Roman Catholic Church is possible, ex bono et aequo, according to the norm of can. 1718, s.4.” This language affirms that measures of reconciliation short of this adjudication were not possible due to the pertinacity of those found guilty.
Due to the above, Bishop Hermann then formally declared as follows:
“that Richard Marvin Lapinski, and Janice Marie Merzweiler nee Neuman, are guilty of having committed the most grave crime of Schism (cf. can. 751).”
Because they committed this grave sin, they “have lost good standing in, full communion with, and all membership in, the One True Church of Christ, which bond each and every baptized Catholic is obliged to maintain according to the teachings of Sacred Scripture and the norms of the Sacred Canons.”
“in the most sincere hope and with the prayer that a medicinal penalty may lead them to seek once again full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, I declare and pronounce that Richard Lapinski and Janice Merzweiler, as a result of their having committed the most grave crime of schism (cf. can. 1364, s. 1), have incurred, latae sententiae, the censure of Excommunication (cf. cann. 1312, s.1, para. 1; and 1331, s. 1-2), and that, with lethal consequence, they both have thrown themselves off the path to eternal salvation.”
The decree then concludes by stating the many and serious consequences of the penalty of excommunication:
- They are forbidden to have any ministerial part whatsoever in any Mass or other rite;
- They may not receive any Sacraments or celebrate any Sacramentals;
- They may not hold any ecclesiastical office or exercise any act of governance;
- All priests of the Archdiocese are notified that Lapinski and Merzweiler may not receive valid absolution “as long as they have not had the censure of excommunication lifted from them, and until both have repented, publicly withdrawn from their contumacy in schism, and made proportionate amends for the commission of their crimes (cf. cann. 987; and 1347, s. 2)”;
- The “entire Archdiocese of Saint Louis is notified that no ordinary or extraordinary minister, under pain of grave sin, may lawfully administer Holy Communion” to them until they have publicly withdrawn from their act of public schism; and,
- They may not be buried in blessed ground or receive funeral rites.
Serious canonical crimes merit serious measures. But let us remember that the goal of this decree of Bishop Hermann, and of those of Archbishop Burke before him, is to call the sinner to repentance. Several former members of the St. Stanislaus board have already been reconciled; let us earnestly pray that these two unfortunate souls may also be so reconciled.
From Bishop Hermann’s statement on the decree:
As the Administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, it is my responsibility to safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church and protect the souls of the faithful.
I have communicated to Mr. Lapinski and Mrs. Merzweiler that the board of Saint Stanislaus Parish Corporation is in schism, that the parish has been suppressed, and that if they joined the board, they would be knowingly joining a sect that is not in communion with the Catholic Church. Because they joined the board knowing this information, they excommunicated themselves from the Catholic Church. Church law requires me to publicly declare the excommunication.
The situation of Mr. Lapinski and Mrs. Merzweiler is sad for the whole Church. It is a cause of great concern for me as bishop. Please join me in praying that both will be reconciled with the Church and that the great harm which has been caused to the Church, with the help of God’s grace, will be healed.
Other Archdiocesan materials on the decree can be found here.
Maria, Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!