Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for U.S. of America and Canada v. Milivojevich, 50639

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation387 N.E.2d 285,74 Ill.2d 574,25 Ill.Dec. 629
Docket NumberNo. 50639,50639
Parties, 25 Ill.Dec. 629 The SERBIAN EASTERN ORTHODOX DIOCESE FOR the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND CANADA et al., Appellees, v. Dionisije MILIVOJEVICH et al., Appellants.
Decision Date12 January 1979

Page 285

387 N.E.2d 285
74 Ill.2d 574, 25 Ill.Dec. 629
OF AMERICA AND CANADA et al., Appellees,
Dionisije MILIVOJEVICH et al., Appellants.
No. 50639.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
Jan. 12, 1979.
Rehearing Denied March 30, 1979.

[74 Ill.2d 576]

Page 286

[25 Ill.Dec. 630] Leo J. Sullivan, III, Richard J. Smith, and Michael K. Noonan, Waukegan, and Jerome H. Torshen, Chicago (Sullivan, Smith & Hauser, Ltd., Waukegan, and Jerome H. Torshen, Ltd., Chicago, of counsel), for appellants.

Albert E. Jenner, Jr., Keith F. Bode, Robert L. Graham, Leland J. Badger, and Eugene R. Wedoff, of Jenner & Block, Chicago, Thomas J. Karacic, of Katz, Karacic & Helmin, Chicago, and Henry D. Fisher, of Hall, Meyer, Fisher, Holmberg, Snook & May, Waukegan, for appellees.

WARD, Justice:

This appeal is the sequel to an earlier appeal in this case reported at 60 Ill.2d 477, 328 N.E.2d 268 (1975), Rev'd, 426 U.S. 696, 96 S.Ct. 2372, 49 L.Ed.2d 151 (1976). The plaintiffs are the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the United States of America and Canada, the religious body of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in this country ("American-Canadian Diocese"), and Bishops Firmilian Ocokoljich, ("Firmilian"), Gregory Udicki and Sava Vukovich. The defendants, who are the appellants here, are former Bishop Dionisije Milivojevich ("Dionisije"), the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the United States of America and [74 Ill.2d 577] Canada, a corporation organized in 1937 under the provisions of the Illinois act relating to religious corporations (Ill.Rev.Stat.1937, ch. 32, pars. 164 to 188), referred to in this opinion as the "religious corporation," and the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the St. Sava, a corporation organized

Page 287

[25 Ill.Dec. 631] in 1945 under the provisions of the Illinois General Not for Profit Corporation Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1945, ch. 32, pars. 163a to 163a100), referred to as the "monastery corporation."

This litigation had its origin on May 10, 1963, when the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church suspended Dionisije, the then bishop of the American-Canadian Diocese. On July 23 the Holy Assembly of the Serbian church removed Dionisije from office, and on March 5, 1974, the Assembly unfrocked him. At the time when Bishop Dionisije was suspended from office the Holy Synod appointed Firmilian as administrator of the Diocese. At the same time, the Holy Assembly dissolved the American-Canadian Diocese and replaced it with three new dioceses. With Dionisije's suspension Firmilian was also made administrator of one of the new dioceses, and when Dionisije was removed, Firmilian became its bishop. Administrators, and later bishops, were also named for the other two new dioceses.

On July 26, 1963, a complaint was filed in the circuit court of Lake County against Firmilian in the names of the religious corporation and the monastery corporation seeking to enjoin interference with the affairs and the assets of these corporations. Thereafter, on October 14, 1963, Firmilian and the other plaintiffs brought suit against Dionisije seeking to enjoin him from assuming or retaining control of the property belonging to the religious corporation or to the monastery corporation, and to direct him to turn over to the plaintiffs all assets of the two corporations. Each case involved the same issues regarding the control of the Diocese and its property, and [74 Ill.2d 578] they were consolidated. As noted previously, Firmilian and his adherents are denominated here as the plaintiffs, and Dionisije and his supporters are referred to as the defendants.

After a bench trial the circuit court held that the suspension, removal, and unfrocking of Bishop Dionisije were valid, but that the reorganization of the Diocese was not. On direct appeal this court affirmed the latter part of the judgment, but reversed as to Dionisije's removal and defrockment, which we held improper because done in violation of the prescribed procedures of the Serbian Church (60 Ill.2d 477, 501-03, 328 N.E.2d 268). As to Dionisije's suspension we held that it was no longer effective since he had not been tried within a year of his ecclesiastical indictment as required by church law.

The Supreme Court of the United States in turn reversed with regard to the suspension and the removal of Dionisije because our decision was considered as undertaking to resolve "religious controversies whose resolution the First Amendment commits exclusively to the highest ecclesiastical tribunals of this hierarchial church" (426 U.S. 696, 720, 96 S.Ct. 2372, 2385, 49 L.Ed.2d 151, 169). Following the remand of the cause to us for further proceedings, we reversed the judgment, in part. (66 Ill.2d...

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