So this renegade Polish priest and an Episcopal bishop walk into a bar ...

OK, not really. But you know how we're always going on about stories that make people not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church seem like they are, in fact, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church? Well, here's a great example of a religion journalist doing it right. Here's the very top of St. Louis Post-Dispatch religion reporter Tim Townsend explaining part of a complicated scenario:

It has stood up to three Catholic bishops. It has weathered a decade-long legal storm. It has embraced doctrine far afield from its Roman roots.

Now St. Stanislaus Kostka Church is on the verge of aligning with a different denomination entirely, joining forces with the Episcopal church.

Awesome, right? The piece is chock full of good information, including doctrinal issues and the technicalities of a possible change. We learn that the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has announced the possibile union and what it would mean for the historically Polish church (they'd get to keep their own rites and identity or choose to use Episcopal liturgies).

We get the background on where things stand on the near-interminable legal battle between St. Stanislaus and the St. Louis Archdiocese. The latter had appealed a 2012 decision that granted St. Stanislaus control to its own lay board, but later dismissed the appeal. Here's how the tricky issue of affiliation is handled:

As part of the agreement, St. Stanislaus agreed to abstain from representing itself as affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. In the eyes of the Vatican, the church lost that affiliation in 2005, as part of a battle with then-St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke.

The Rev. Marek Bozek, the former Roman Catholic priest who has led St. Stanislaus since parishioners hired him in 2005, in violation of Roman Catholic canon law, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

But in a “September Reflection” letter posted on the parish’s website, he makes reference to the issue — posting a photo of Smith’s visit last month to the church to meet with parishioners.

Bozek said the church has lacked that kind of authority, and has been “struggling to survive without a bishop for over nine years.”

“One cannot be a Catholic without having a bishop,” he continued, citing a description of a bishop’s ministry in the “Book of Common Prayer.” “It is my hope that by the time this process is completed, we, St. Stanislaus Parish, will have a caring and wise bishop and that we will be a part of a diocese.”

I also like how we learn about St. Stanislaus' need for a bishop, although it would be nice to know the particulars of why one is necessary. We then hear from parishioners about their mixed feelings about such a move (and that the Episcopal Church is just one of the contenders for affiliation).

That gives an opportunity to discuss one tie between the Episcopal Church and St. Stanislaus -- the Union of Utrecht, a group of Old Catholic churches that do not recognize the authority of the pope. Turns out that the Anglican Communion has been in full communion with them since 1931. Really interesting stuff and some nice meaty details. Bozek, for what it's worth, recently attended a theology program affiliated with the Old Catholics in Utrecht.

One part of the story that slightly confused me was whether St. Stanislaus has changed its adherence to historic Christian doctrine on homosexuality. We learn about the Episcopal Church's approval of liturgical rites for same-sex couples and we learn about the Roman Catholic Church's doctrinal position, but other than a mention that "St. Stanislaus has moved even farther from Roman Catholic teaching under Bozek," we don't get specifics on that particular doctrinal issue. Unless I missed it.

Townsend notes the similarity of the St. Stanislaus talks to Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 creation of a "personal ordinariate" for disaffected Anglicans, a nice touch for the story.

All in all, a most interesting take on a local news story.

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