Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Jan. T., 1965, No. 5, in re Saint John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church of Allentown, Pa. et al. v. Andrew C. Musko.
George J. Joseph, with him Richard J. Makoul, for appellants.
W. Hamlin Neely, with him Henry L. Snyder, William E. Schantz, and Snyder, Doll & Schantz, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Nix and Mr. Justice Manderino join in this concurring opinion.
The appellants, members of St. John The Baptist Greek Catholic Church of Allentown [St. John's], instituted this action in equity seeking to restrain the appellee, the Reverend Andrew C. Musko, from conducting services in St. John's religious edifice, using the rectory, or interfering with the performance of
pastoral duties at St. John's by any duly appointed Orthodox priest. After extended hearings, the chancellor entered an adjudication and decree nisi dismissing the complaint. Subsequently, a court en banc dismissed exceptions to the chancellor's adjudication and made the decree nisi final. This appeal followed.
The facts critical to an understanding of this dispute between rival factions of St. John's find their genesis in events which occurred over three decades ago. Immediately prior to 1941, Father Musko, a married priest, was the pastor of St. Michael's Greek Catholic Church in Allentown, a church united with the Holy Roman See.*fn1 Discord arose in that congregation causing Father Musko and his adherents to disassociate themselves from St. Michael's and later to build the present church and rectory of St. John's.
On March 31, 1941, St. John's obtained a charter as a nonprofit corporation which was granted by a decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County to No. 140, April Term, 1941. The purpose clause of the Articles of Incorporation declared as follows: "The purpose or purposes of the proposed corporation are the establishment and maintenance of a place of worship, a rectory, school, cemetery, and the establishment and maintenance of a congregation for the purpose of worshipping Almighty God in accordance with the teachings, rules, customs, laws and regulations of the Greek Catholic Church free and independent of and from any higher church authority or any larger or higher church body ; said congregation shall own and regulate and through its elected officers and priests acquire, maintain and dispose of any and all property real or personal as may be determined by the members." [Emphasis supplied.]
Precipitating this dispute was the fact that Father Musko, an ordained Eastern Orthodox priest, after several meetings with Archbishop John Krol of Philadelphia, converted to the Roman Catholic Church some time in August of 1965.
On August 24th of that year, the Most Rev. Orestes P. Chornock, Titular Bishop of Agathonikeia and Bishop of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese of the United States directed a letter to Father Musko undertaking to depose him as pastor of St. John's, ordering him to cease conducting services and to leave the ...