Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, March T., 1965, No. 1, in case of John Gabster, George Rebovich and John Stefan v. Father Frank Mesaros, Bishop Orestes P. Chornock and Greek Catholic Church of Clymer.
John A. Metz, Jr., with him Richard M. Sharp, Earl R. Handler, and Metz, Cook, Hanna & Kelly, and Sharp & Gilpatrick, and Handler & Malcolm, for appellants.
R. Carlyle Fee, with him Serene & Fee, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
The court below ruled that this equity action was barred by laches and entered judgment for the defendants on the pleadings. The plaintiffs appeal.
It is fundamental that judgment on the pleadings should be entered only in a clear case: Bureau of Child C. v. United Fund, 416 Pa. 617, 207 A.2d 847 (1965).
For the purpose of this appeal, these facts must be accepted as true:
The plaintiffs are members of the congregation of the Greek Catholic Church of Clymer, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The Church began as an unincorporated association prior to the year of 1907. During 1907, it was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation for the purpose of worshiping God according to the faith, doctrine and discipline of that branch of the Greek Catholic Church, which is in union with the The Holy See at Rome, and recognizes the Pope of Rome as the spiritual head of the Church. From its founding until the year 1935, the Church conducted all of its affairs, both spiritual and temporal, as a Greek Catholic Church in union with Rome, and all of its property was acquired and used for this purpose.
In 1935, the defendant, The Most Reverend Bishop Orestes P. Chornock, founded a sect or denomination known as the "Carpatho-Russian Greek Catholic Orthodox Church of North and South America", which has since been renamed the "American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese of the United States of America." This sect is not in union with Rome, but recognizes the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Eastern Patriarch in Istanbul.
In 1935, Bishop Chornock persuaded the subject Church to abandon its union with the Church of Rome and to associate itself with his denomination. Since that time continuously until 1964, the Church has been
under the spiritual leadership of Bishop Chornock who has regularly assigned and removed priests, who served the parish and administered the property ...