Archbishop wants St. Stan priest defrocked.


By Tim Townsend
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
01/15/2008.

ST. LOUIS Archbishop Raymond Burke has begun the process of defrocking the pastor at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church.

Rev. Marek Bozek, 32 and a native of Poland, said Monday that he received a letter from Burke last week, informing him that he should present himself before the archbishop for "canonical admonition."

In the letter, Burke said he's begun the process of laicization, or being "dismissed from the clerical state," for Bozek. The letter cited Bozek's participation in schism at the church that has been locked in a battle with the archdiocese over control of its assets and his public support for, and participation in, an ordination ceremony of two Catholic women last year.

Bozek was one of the clerical celebrants at a ceremony at Central Reform Congregation in the Central West End in November when two women were ordained as priests of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

The two women who were ordained received letters from Burke before their ordinations stating that if they went through with the ordination, they would be automatically excommunicated. The Roman Catholic church does not ordain women as priests.

In the letter to Bozek, Burke said the priest must repent, apologize, do public penance and return to his own diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

Burke declared Bozek excommunicated in late 2005, after Bozek left his parish in Springfield and agreed to pastor St. Stanislaus. Burke and the Polish-heritage parishioners of St. Stanislaus had been in a legal battle over control of the church for nearly two years when the church's lay board of directors hired Bozek as pastor. Burke had removed St. Stanislaus' two priests 18 months earlier.

The archbishop subsequently declared all six of the church's board members excommunicated, and in January 2006, Burke suppressed the parish itself, meaning St. Stanislaus was stripped of its standing as a Roman Catholic church.

All of the board members have appealed the excommunications to the Vatican, which is still considering their cases. In November Burke told two new board members that they would be declared excommunicated if they joined the church's leadership.

Burke was on a retreat, but a spokeswoman cited an archdiocesan policy that the archbishop does not comment on private correspondence.

Bozek said his canon lawyer was "looking for options," but said he was "very open to conversation and dialogue with the archbishop. I'm willing to hear what he has to say."

"My definition of compromise is that I move two steps and he move two steps and we meet in the middle," Bozek said. "But his definition is that I move four steps and he stands immovable like a rock."

The final decision on a defrocking rests with the Vatican. Many priests request laicization in order to return to civilian life, but few are forced out of the priesthood for anything other than sexual abuse. In the six years since the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke nationwide, the Vatican has returned scores of men to lay status.

About 10 priests in the archdiocese have been laicized for sexual abuse. Bozek would seem to be the first priest involuntarily laicized for something other than sexually abusing children.

ttownsend@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8221

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