Appeal, No. 186, March T., 1950, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1947, in Equity, No. 2742, in case of Louis Kraftician et al. v. St. Peter and St. Paul's Russian Greek Catholic Congregation of Carnegie et al. Decree affirmed; reargument refused January 29, 1951.
Thomas F. Garrahan, with him Gregory Zatkovich, Vincent M. Casey and Margiotti & Casey, for appellants.
Elder W. Marshall and John A. Metz, Jr., with them John A. Metz, Metz & Metz and Davied Friedman, for appellees.
Before Drew, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES
The plaintiffs and defendants (except for the defendant church and the Carnegie National Bank, its depository) are contending factions of St. Peter and St. Paul's Russian Greek Catholic Congregation of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, a corporation. Their controversy revolves around whether the church was organized as a Greek Catholic church in union with Rome or a congregational church independent of either the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome, the hierarchy of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church in union with Rome or of any ecclesiastical authority or body other than the defendant church itself. Thus, it is the plaintiffs' contention that the church was founded, organized and dedicated as a congregational church wholly independent of any outside ecclesiastical authority or body, while on the other hand, the personal defendants, being the officers of the church's corporate organization in possession and control of its property
and funds, certain other members of the congregation and the priest maintain that, from the outset, the church has been a Uniate Greek Catholic Church in union with Rome.
The plaintiffs sought by this suit in equity to enjoin the defendants from conducting, managing or carrying on the temporal or spiritual affairs of the defendant church other than as an independent or autocephalous church not under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome.The defendants answered to the merits of the bill of complaint and a lengthy trial was had. The printed record on this appeal consists of four large volumes of a total of 3130 pages whereof there are 2879 pages of testimony of the numerous witnesses called at trial. The parties are at no difference as to the law applicable to the findings. As the court en banc stated, -- "The decision turns on the question: What kind of a church is it? This question, in turn, is to be answered by discovering what kind of a church the founders intended it to be at the time they organized it." See Church of God v. Church of God, 335 Pa. 478, 485, 50 A.2d 357; Canovaro v. Brothers of The Order of Hermits of St. Augustine, 326 Pa. 76, 82, 191 A. 140. Throughout this litigation, the issue has been purely one of fact. And, the matter now actually open to review in this court lies within very narrow limits.
The learned chancellor made one hundred twenty specific findings of fact whereon he vased two legal conclusions, viz., (1) that the burden was upon the plaintiffs to establish by a fair preponderance of the evidence that St. Peter and St. Paul's Russian Greek Catholic Congregation of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, was not originally organized and dedicated as a Greek catholic church in union with Rome and (2) that the plaintiffs had failed to meet that burden. Whereupon, the chancellor entered a decree nisi dismissing the bill