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ARCHBISHOP v. KARLAK ET AL. (01/19/73)

decided: January 19, 1973.

ARCHBISHOP
v.
KARLAK ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County, No. 1066 of 1971, in re Archbishop, Most Reverend Metropolitan, Ambrose Senyshyn v. Andrew Karlak et al.

COUNSEL

Paul Matzko, with him Erskine, Wolfson, Matzko & Pierson, for appellants.

Joseph N. Bongiovanni, Jr., with him S. Jay Sklar, and Speese and Kephart, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Roberts, Mr. Justice Pomeroy and Mr. Justice Nix concur in the result.

Author: Eagen

[ 450 Pa. Page 536]

This appeal is from a final decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County.

Appellants are a group of former officers of Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church, Mount Carmel. Appellee is Ambrose Senyshyn, Archbishop of Philadelphia Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in the United States, who instituted this action in equity for the purposes of restraining appellants from interfering with the operation of the church and of obtaining an accounting of certain church money allegedly held by them.

No purpose is served by recounting the history of congregational strife which has bitterly divided the members of this church. What is important to the present

[ 450 Pa. Page 537]

    appeal is the manner in which this dispute was resolved by the lower court.

At the end of the formal testimony the chancellor invited counsel to file briefs delineating their respective positions. At that juncture the crucial issue was whether or not the Mount Carmel Church was a uniate church under Archbishop Senyshyn's ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

The former counsel for appellants filed a "brief" containing, inter alia, the following curiously phrased admission: "We cannot deny that the defendants belong to the Diocese of the plaintiff (based upon the testimony of the plaintiff)." The brief went on to concede that defendants could be restrained from taking collections, serving as officers or interfering with church operations, but denied that the court could adjudicate adversely to them in the church cemetery dispute or could prohibit meetings of the parish called in the absence of the pastor.

On April 14, 1971, the chancellor handed down a decree nisi ordering appellants to account for all church money and other property in their possession, enjoining them from interfering with parish property (including the cemetery) or in other church affairs, and restraining them from ...


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