Jewish World Review June 18, 2002 / 8 Tamuz, 5762

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Consumer Reports


Suit against a Catholic church ... by members not living up to its ideals

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | WHEATON, Ill. A suburban Chicago family is suing its church over a policy that bases admission to the church's school on the parents attendance at mass, contributions to the collection plate and how much time is volunteered to the church.

Bill Bruss and his family have been a part of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Winfield for more than 30 years and three of his five children graduated from the church's elementary school.

"I support the school," Bruss told Monday's Arlington Heights Daily Herald. "I was head of the building and grounds committee and I've contributed a lot of physical and financial resources."

Bruss said the new church policy threatens the readmission of his two youngest children, ages 8 and 12 and contends it unfairly penalizes children for the actions of their parents.

The church school charges no admission.

Bruss and his wife have issues with the way the mass is conducted at St. John's, preferring a more orthodox service, though they still occasionally attend the church. Bruss also said he has had disagreements with church officials, including the pastor, the Rev. Guy Vaccaro, whom he criticizes for buying a $300,000 home near the church.

"This is really about the use of power," Bruss said. "It violates state law and canon law. He (Vaccaro) is putting unreasonable demands on parents to qualify their children for school."

Church business manager Aaron Simpson said the stewardship program is common at Catholic churches and the Joliet Diocese approves of the practice.

The policy requires parents to contribute 8 percent of their gross incomes to qualify their children for admission. Simpson acknowledged that figure likely is higher for most than what tuition used to be.

Simpson said the program was implemented to strengthen ties to the church and to get parishioners to increase their religious commitment.

Bruss filed his suit last week against the church, Vaccaro, the diocese and school Principal Julie Tobin.

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