FIELD REPORT FROM A POTTED PLANT AT THE ST. STAN’S TRIAL
Recently I had the honor of being thetimman’s “plant” at the trial of the century. I walked in as Ed Florek (former Board member, reconciled to the Archbishop, and named Plaintiff) was undergoing cross-examination by the St. Stan’s attorney.
First, I think it is important to note the palpable feeling of evil as I sat in the courtroom. Compared to the average attendance for St. Louis civil court, the room was packed. Think of it as a mini-Monkey Trial, with the good guys just as likely to win.
I sat in the back, but was still only 20 or so feet from the erstwhile Father Bozek, who seemed to smirk at nearly every answer Mr. Florek gave. The rest of the audience was overwhelmingly elderly, overwhelmingly Polish. Think of the crowd as a mixture of leftist nun doppelgangers and concelebrants at an outdoor N.O.
The crowd was also overwhelmingly hostile to Mr. Florek – muted laughter (not the “with him” but the “at him” type) and head shakes abounded.
During the testimony, the St. Stan’s attorney was a bit priggish but questioned well; nevertheless, Mr. Florek acquitted himself admirably, even getting in a couple good one-liners. Throughout the cross, the lawyer for the Archdiocese peppered in objections (usually due to lack of foundation) with the all the resignation of a death row inmate (I don't know, some of those can be quite feisty), and, indeed, was overruled summarily all but once. The objections were overruled even when Florek was asked about other people’s motivations for their actions (such as Cardinals Burke and Rigali).
I was only able to observe Mr. Florek’s extensive testimony for about 45 minutes. Here are the highlights, paraphrased from my memory:
Regarding attendance at St. Stanislaus (think of the one shot from Christmas 5 years ago):
St. Stan’s Attorney (“SSA”): “Five hundred families disagree [regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church].”
Florek: “I question five hundred…[it’s] not even close to two hundred.” Florek then said something to the effect that he isn’t sure how they came up with that number.
Regarding Cardinal Burke pulling diocesan priests out of the parish:
SSA: It’s pretty difficult to have a Roman Catholic parish without priests, isn’t it?
Florek: It’s less difficult to have a Roman Catholic parish without priests than right now with Bozek. Narf! Zort! Point!
Regarding the Board’s disobedience:
Florek stated that scare tactics were used by many at St. Stan’s to convince parishioners and board members that if they did not vote against the Archdiocese, they would lose the parish. He stated that the parishioners were never told that they would “change the religion.” He stated that Bozek preached open communion, ordination of women, and other un-Catholic teachings. There was considerable back-and-forth between he and the attorney concerning the Catholicity of the parish. The attorney kept trying to phrase opposition to the above as Mr. Florek’s personal beliefs, while Mr. Florek kept reiterating that they were not merely his beliefs but teachings of the Church.
Florek also stated that he joined the Board hoping to open communications with the Archdiocese, not to further sever them. He stated that he spoke out openly against Bozek’s teachings even prior to his reconciliation with the Church through Archbishop Burke. He further stated that they could not separate the corporation and lay board from Archdiocese authority.
I wish I could have stayed through the completion of Mr. Florek’s testimony, because I really wanted to shake his hand. Despite the hostility of the crowd and the interminable grilling by the opposing attorney, he handled himself admirably. He showed courage and a good understanding of Church teaching, and responded deftly to some tricky questions.
Nevertheless, I fear the outcome of the case. The overall impression I was left with was the St. Stan’s side trying to make the case simply a matter of a lay corporation properly voting to do as it wishes with its own property, and the archdiocese trying to make the case that board members and parishioners were duped by false representations prior to the vote. A perfectly valid insight, though it would not be wise to draw conclusions from 45 minutes of cross-examination in a three week trial.
Based on pure speculation and gut feeling, it seemed to be favoring St. Stan’s. Rejoice, blue haired crowd; beware, rest of world. Hey, lay off the senior citizens, Lou! And don't paraphrase my material. But, still, I think I can join with my readers and say thanks for the peek into history.