Grutka v. Clifford, 3-482A76

Decision Date24 February 1983
Docket NumberNo. 3-482A76,3-482A76
Citation445 N.E.2d 1015
PartiesAndrew G. GRUTKA, as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana, Appellant (Plaintiff Below), v. Leo J. CLIFFORD, Joseph Clifford, Clarence Flitter, Clarence Ailes, Edward Gannon, individually and as members of the Board of Lay Trustees of St. Paul's Cemetery Association, Valparaiso, Indiana, St. Paul's Cemetery Endowment Association, Inc., an Indiana not-for-profit Corporation, the First National Bank of Valparaiso, Indiana, a national banking corporation, Appellees (Defendants Below).
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

William J. O'Connor, O'Connor & Weigle, Hammond, for appellant.

Leo J. Clifford, Clifford, Claudon & Alexa, James H. Douglas, Douglas, Douglas & Douglas, Valparaiso, William M. Evans, Bose, McKinney & Evans, Indianapolis, for appellees.

STATON, Judge.

Bishop Grutka of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana, sought to dissolve an irrevocable trust established by St. Paul's Catholic Church of Valparaiso, Indiana for the care of its cemetery. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, St. Paul's Cemetery Association (Association) and St. Paul's Cemetery Endowment Association (Corporation). Bishop Grutka contends that the trust is invalid because it was established without his consent. He raises three issues on appeal which we have consolidated into the determination of whether the trial court erred in granting the summary judgment and in refusing to dissolve the trust and transfer the trust funds back to St. Paul's Cemetery Association and to Pastor Charlebois, Pastor of St. Paul's Catholic Church.

We reverse and remand to the trial court for a determination of whether Bishop Grutka consented to the creation of the Corporation's trust and for further determinations consistent with this opinion.

Trial courts grant summary judgments pursuant to Ind.Rules of Procedure, Trial Rule 56, to terminate cases without factual dispute and which may be determined as a matter of law. Although TR. 56 helps expose spurious cases and eliminate undue burdens on litigants, the courts must exercise caution to ensure a party of his right to a fair determination of a genuine issue. Improbability of recovery by one party does not justify summary judgment for the opposition. Bassett v. Glock (1977), 174 Ind.App. 439, 368 N.E.2d 18, 20-21.

Summary judgments result when the court applies the law to undisputed facts. It may consider affidavits, depositions, admissions, interrogatories, and testimony. Bassett, supra. In addition, the court must consider as true the facts set forth in the opposition's affidavits and liberally construe the discovery in his favor. Poxon v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. (1980), Ind.App., 407 N.E.2d 1181, 1184.

On review of a grant of summary judgment this Court must determine if there exists any genuine issue of material fact and whether the law was correctly applied. Hale v. Peabody Coal Co. (1976), 168 Ind.App. 336, 343 N.E.2d 316, 320. Any doubt about the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party. Moreover, even if the facts are undisputed, summary judgments are inappropriate when the evidence before the court reveals a good faith dispute as to the inferences to be drawn from those facts. Id.

The record reveals that St. Paul's Catholic Church of Valparaiso, Indiana, is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana headed by Bishop Grutka. St. Paul's Catholic Church created the Cemetery Association in 1903 to care for its cemetery. The Association transferred its responsibility over St. Paul's Cemetery to the Corporation which it established in 1966. It supplied the Corporation with part of the Association's funds. Pastor Charlebois and the Association's trustees constitute the Corporation's board of directors. In 1974, the Corporation presented to Bishop Grutka a draft of a trust agreement between the Corporation and the First National Bank of Valparaiso, Indiana (trustee bank). Bishop Grutka requested several modifications to the trust agreement. However, he stipulated that even if the Corporation adopted the requested modifications, he would not guarantee his consent to the trust as required by Indiana trust law and Canon 1516(4) of the Roman Catholic Church. On May 30, 1974 after the Corporation made modifications to the trust, it established an irrevocable trust with trustee bank to derive investment income for the care of St. Paul's cemetery.

Pastor Charlebois protested the creation of the Corporation's trust for the care of St. Paul's Cemetery. After failure to compel access to the trust records and to participate in the control of St. Paul's Cemetery, he asked Bishop Grutka to resolve the matter because Bishop Grutka was legal title holder of St. Paul's Cemetery and head of the Gary Diocese. Bishop Grutka sought at trial to dissolve the Corporation's trust, to require the trustee bank to deliver to pastor Charlebois and the Association the trust principal and income, and to require the Association and the Corporation to transfer to Pastor Charlebois their control over St. Paul's Cemetery.

In their joint affidavit accompanying their motion for summary judgment, the Association and the Corporation made three contentions. First, they asserted that the question of control over church property is an ecclesiastical matter outside secular court jurisdiction pursuant to the first amendment of the United States Constitution. 1 Second, they asserted that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Third, they asserted that the Indiana General Cemetery Act prevented any transfer of funds from the Corporation's trust. 2 The trial court granted summary judgment for the Association and the Corporation.

Bishop Grutka contends on appeal that his position as head of the Gary Diocese gives him the authority to require the Association and the Corporation to dissolve the Corporation's trust. All parties agree that as the head of the Gary Diocese, Bishop Grutka is the legal title holder and trustee of St. Paul's Cemetery. Bishop Grutka contends that his status as legal title holder of St. Paul's Cemetery requires the Corporation to obtain his consent for the valid creation of an irrevocable trust for the care of St. Paul's Cemetery. Under these two theories, he urged the trial court to dissolve the Corporation's trust and to require the Corporation and the Association to transfer to Pastor Charlebois control over St. Paul's Cemetery. He asserted that these two theories establish him as the hierarchial authority over the Corporation and the Association. These theories are commonly known as the Neutral Principles of Law Approach and the Polity Analysis.

The Association and the Corporation assert that the determination of Bishop Grutka's authority over St. Paul's Cemetery is an ecclesiastical matter outside the scope of secular review pursuant to the first amendment of the United States Constitution. Application of the Neutral Principles of Law Approach and the Polity Analysis indicates a contrary result. Because each theory reveals that the determination of Bishop Grutka's authority over St. Paul's Cemetery requires no interpretation of ecclesiastical matters, the first amendment does not proscribe our resolution of this church property dispute. Jones v. Wolf (1978), 443 U.S. 595, 604, 99 S.Ct. 3020, 3026, 61 L.Ed.2d 775. Therefore, we will first use the Neutral Principles of Law Approach to determine whether the trial court can dissolve the Corporation's trust. Second, application of the Polity Analysis will determine whether the trial court must require the Association and the Corporation to transfer to Pastor Charlebois their control over St. Paul's Cemetery.

The State has a legitimate interest in providing civil forums for resolution of church property disputes. Jones, supra at 602, 99 S.Ct. at 3024-25; Presbyterian Church of the United States v. Mary Elizabeth Blue Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church (1969), 393 U.S. 440, 445, 89 S.Ct. 601, 604, 21 L.Ed.2d 658; Marich v. Kragulac (1981), Ind.App., 415 N.E.2d 91, 96. The first amendment of the United States Constitution only proscribes secular resolution of those church property disputes which necessitate interpretation of ecclesiastical matters. Jones, supra 443 U.S. at 602, 99 S.Ct. at 3024-25; Hull Memorial, supra 393 U.S. at 449, 89 S.Ct. at 606; Marich, supra at 96; United Methodist Church v. St. Louis Crossing Independent Methodist Church (1971), 150 Ind.App. 574, 580-81, 276 N.E.2d 916, 920. Indiana defines ecclesiastical matters as those matters which concern

"doctrine, creed, or form of worship of the church, or the adoption and enforcement within a religious association of needful laws and regulations for the government of membership, and the power of excluding from such associations those deemed unworthy of membership by the legally constituted authorities of the church."

St. Louis Crossing, supra at 920, citing Olear v. Haniak (1939), 235 Mo.App. 249, 131 S.W.2d 375, 380-381; Western Conf. of Original Free Will Baptists v. Miles (1963), 259 N.C. 1, 129 S.E.2d 600, 606. However, the first amendment allows the courts freedom of analytical approach when a church matter is properly before them. Hull Memorial, supra 393 U.S. at 449, 89 S.Ct. at 606; Marich, supra at 98; St. Louis Crossing, supra at 921.

Recently, this Court applied the Neutral Principles of Law Approach to resolve church property disputes. Marich, supra; Draskovich v. Pasalich (1972), 151 Ind.App. 397, 411-414, 280 N.E.2d 69, 77-79. The policy of the Neutral Principles of Law Approach is to allow secular courts to resolve church property disputes without violating the first amendment's prohibition of interpreting religious documents. 3 The Neutral Principles of Law Approach requires courts to examine certain documents for language of a trust in favor of the General Church. Jones, supra 443 U.S. at...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • Bishop and Diocese of Colorado v. Mote, 83SC104
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • January 13, 1986
    ...Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church v. Fisher, 182 Conn. 272, 438 A.2d 62, 68 (1980) (polity approach); Grutka v. Clifford, 445 N.E.2d 1015, 1019 (Ind.App.1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1006, 104 S.Ct. 998, 79 L.Ed.2d 231 (1984) (neutral principles); Fluker Community Church v. H......
  • Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc. v. OPC, Inc.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • October 23, 2012
    ...Hinkle Creek Friends Church v. W. Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, 469 N.E.2d 40 (Ind.Ct.App.1984), trans. denied; Grutka v. Clifford, 445 N.E.2d 1015 (Ind.Ct.App.1983), trans. denied; Marich v. Kragulac, 415 N.E.2d 91 (Ind.Ct.App.1981), trans. denied; Draskovich v. Pasalich, 151 Ind.App. ......
  • Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc. v. OPC, Inc.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • July 31, 2012
    ...Creek Friends Church v. W. Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, 469 N.E.2d 40 (Ind. Ct. App. 1984), trans. denied; Grutka v. Clifford, 445 N.E.2d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983), trans. denied; Marich v. Kragulac, 415 N.E.2d 91 (Ind. Ct. App. 1981), trans. denied; Draskovich v. Pasalich, 151 Ind. Ap......
  • Hafner v. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • August 27, 1985
    ...Methodist Church, 150 Ind.App. 574, 276 N.E.2d 916 (1971); March v. Kragulac, Ind.App., 415 N.E.2d 91 (1981), and Grutka v. Clifford, Ind.App., 445 N.E.2d 1015 (1983). For an application of the First Amendment in the area of teacher employment in church-related schools see NLRB v. Catholic ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT