>>>Much like the deacon story from earlier this week, this is becoming another clear case of a lack of obedience within the Church. Pray for a good resolution here. The institution has been a beacon in New Orleans but this is growing legs of it's own.
Josephites reassert authority to remove Raphael at St. Augustine
Published: Friday, June 10, 2011, 3:08 PM Updated: Friday, June 10, 2011, 4:46 PM
By Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
The Baltimore leadership of the Josephites has amended its governing relationship with St. Augustine High School and under the new terms reasserted its removal of the Rev. John Raphael as president, sources said Friday.
The Josephite leadership also again named the Rev. Charles Andrus as Raphael’s interim replacement. It also instructed Andrus to withdraw the school’s lawsuit against a Texas educational consultant who was critical of the school’s disciplinary methods, said two sources familiar with the documents.
The moves by the Rev. Edward Chiffriller and the Josephite general council apparently seek to address the claim by the school’s local board of directors that only they have the power to hire and fire the school president.
It was that legal analysis that led the local board to ask Raphael to stay on, despite a weekend order from his Josephite superiors removing him as president and recalling him to Baltimore.
And it was in that legal context -- now apparently changed -- that Raphael told a cheering crowd of hundreds on Wednesday that he would remain at the school as president.
With the changes to the school's governing bylaws, the Josephites are asserting their authority in the civil arena to remove Raphael.
Separately, there is the matter of the canonical relationship between Raphael and his religious community.
Like other members, Raphael offered a vow of obedience to its leadership when he joined. But canon law governs such relationships in Catholic communities. Raphael has said he has been advised that Chiffriller's order recalling him to Baltimore is "unquestionably invalid" under church law.
Troy Henry, chairman of St. Augustine's board of directors, confirmed that the board received the notices about the new governing bylaws.
He said it was too early to offer a legal analysis of the Josephites' new order.
But he said it was the same use of authority the Josephites invoked last year to suspend all use of corporal punishment at St. Augustine.
The local board, which had been about to modify, but keep, the practice, objected to the Jospehites' last-minute assertion of authority, but relented.
Chiffriller did not respond to an email seeking comment, nor did Raphael, who is on vacation.
The changes in governance are among the last acts by Chiffriller and the Josephite leadership, which will change when the national order of priests and brothers elects a new leadership team on Tuesday.
Henry said a change in leadership is the school's best short-term hope for resolving the breach between the school and the religious order that founded it 60 years ago, and with cooperating parents, turned out three generations of students who have climbed to positions of influence in law, sports, government and business.
But lately, Archbishop Gregory Aymond and the national Josephite leadership have wanted St. Augustine to end corporal punishment at the school, over the objections of administrators, parents and alumni.
The dispute, at first simply over the paddle, has swelled to become about much more: St. Augustine's autonomy, respect for its record of excellence and sensitivity to the wishes of the St. Augustine community.
It was in that context that Henry said he read the new directives from Baltimore.
"We see it as yet another malicious attempt by Father Chiffriller to wrestle control away from the local board," Henry said.
"This is about how we govern the school, as opposed to any specific issue."
Josephites around the country will elect a new leadership team on Tuesday "and we're at the point now where we welcome a change," he said.
There are no announced candidates in the election, and Henry said he had no idea how the New Orleans dispute was playing out among Josephites nationally, or what role it might have in the election.
"We just hope it will produce reasonable minds who will respect the law, and respect the authority and intellect of the board," he said.
"And respect the desires of the local community."
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