Archbishop of St. Louis appointed to top Vatican court

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke now sits on the Roman Catholic Church's highest judicial authority.

Pope Benedict XVI named Burke to the church's supreme court Saturday. He was out of the country and not available for comment.

The Vatican's so-called Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature hears appeals of certain cases that cannot be settled in the church's lower courts.

The dozen or so judges deal with disputes between Vatican departments and appeals of other cases, such as parish closings or the removal of priests for allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

Burke, a canon lawyer, was the first American to serve as the tribunal's defender of the bond -- the equivalent of the U.S. solicitor general -- from 1990 to 1994.

Burke, 58, will remain in St. Louis but likely will travel to Rome for hearings, said Monsignor John B. Shamleffer, the St. Louis archdiocese's head canon lawyer.

Shamleffer said Benedict was "recognizing the archbishop's qualities" and believes he can help settle disputes.

One case that could come before the Supreme Tribunal is that of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in St. Louis. Late last year, Burke declared excommunicated the parish's lay board members and a priest they hired from another diocese.

"Given what happened with St. Stanislaus, this is a vindication of sorts," said Palmo. "It's a signal he's in good graces in Rome."

Shamleffer said that if the St. Stanislaus appeal ever went to the Supreme Tribunal, Burke would have to recuse himself.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

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