Noted Priest Canonist, Dies

Archimandrite Msgr. Victor J. Pospishil, an authority on canon law and the Eastern churches, died of natural causes on 16 February in the Raritan Bay Medical Center, Old Bridge, New Jersey. He was 91 years old.

A priest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, he served in parishes in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Msgr. Pospishil was a member of the Canon Law Society of America and participated in the publication of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated by the Holy See in 1990. The society honored him in 1995 with its prestigious Role of Law Award. He was also a charter member of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches.

A controversial advocate for divorced Catholics, he wrote a book in 1967 in favor of the reform of the laws that prevent them from receiving the sacraments. The work was printed in Great Britain and later translated into French and Spanish.

Victor J. Pospishil was born in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on 4 February 1915. Following studies at the Theological Academy and Seminary in Djakovo, Croatia (then in Yugoslavia), he was ordained a priest on 16 June 1940.

During World War II he served in parishes in Yugoslavia and Austria. After the war he studied liturgy and canon law at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, receiving his doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University. His doctoral thesis, “The Patriarch in the Serbian Orthodox Church,” was published privately in Vienna.

After completing studies in Rome, he immigrated to the United States in 1950 where he joined the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archdiocese in Philadelphia.

He was appointed a papal chamberlain, with the title of “monsignor,” in 1960 and in 1976 was named an archimandrite of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj.

A prolific writer, Msgr. Pospishil wrote several papers on the decrees of the Second Vatican Council for the John XXIII Lectures at Fordham University in New York in 1966. That year he joined the faculty at Manhattan College in the Bronx, where he served as a member of the Department of Religious Studies for 10 years.

He retired from parish work in 1981, but accepted short-term parish assignments from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Diocese of Stamford, Connecticut. Retirement allowed him more time for writing. In 1990 he completed “Eastern Catholic Marriage Law” and in 1996, a revised edition of “Eastern Catholic Church Law.” Both books were published by St. Maron Publishing Co. of the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, New York.

In 2001, Msgr. Pospishil privately published an autobiography, “Final Tally: A Report on the Unremarkable Life of a Catholic Priest in the Twentieth Century.” The book contains essays on the sacraments, sexuality, ordination of women, priesthood, ecumenism and the status of divorced and remarried Catholics.

He is survived by his sister-in-law, Josephine Pospishil, two nieces, Josephine Hartfield of Jensen Beach, Florida, and Maria Johanna “Hanni” Connolly of Old Bridge, New Jersey, three grandnieces and a grandnephew, and great-grand nephews and a great-grand niece.

Msgr. Pospishil’s funeral will be celebrated Friday, 24 February, at 11 a.m. in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the Assumption in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The Most Rev. Walter Paska, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, will be the homilist. Burial will follow at St. Gertrude Cemetery in Colonia, New Jersey.

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