Priest at St. Stanislaus Kostka creates more turmoil for St. Louis parish.
By Tim Townsend
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Since last spring, the Rev. Marek Bozek, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, has been telling his lay board, his congregation and reporters that his interest in aligning himself with bishops outside the Roman Catholic Church was merely research for a hypothetical future in which the pope strips him of his priesthood.
But according to documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch, Bozek a year ago requested — and was granted — priesthood in two Catholic organizations independent from the Vatican.
One of them, Married Priests Now!, is funded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and is led by an excommunicated former Roman Catholic archbishop from Zambia.
The documents also show that Bozek also was granted priestly authority in the Reformed Catholic Church on Jan. 16, 2008. The church describes itself as "an open, affirming, progressive community, alternative to the rigid structure and doctrines of the Roman church."
In the vernacular of the church, Bozek was "incardinated" into both organizations, with the authority to perform his religious functions under the supervision of their bishops.
But as recently as last summer, Bozek disparaged independent Catholic groups that, as it turns out, he was a member of at the time. "With all due respect for the independent Catholic movement, it's full of weirdoes," he told the Post-Dispatch in a July interview.
On Tuesday, Bozek said he's been transparent with his board and congregation all along — although board members now dispute that.
Both organizations exist outside the vast infrastructure and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and typically attract Catholics who disagree with one or another of their church's doctrine or laws.
Bozek was incardinated into the Married Priests Now! Catholic Prelature on Feb. 28, 2008. In 2002, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo married a Korean acupuncturist, chosen for him by Moon, in a mass wedding run by Moon's Unification Church. Milingo was excommunicated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 after consecrating married priests as bishops.
Bozek, who also has been excommunicated, is officially incardinated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau under the supervision of Bishop James Johnston. Johnston's predecessor suspended Bozek's faculties after Bozek fled the diocese in 2005 to become pastor of St. Stanislaus. The Vatican called that an act of schism, leading to Bozek's excommunication. Johnston could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Excommunication is a severe penalty that excludes a Catholic from taking part in the sacraments or ministry. Ultimately, excommunication is considered an attempt to bring an offending Catholic back to the church.
Former St. Louis Archbishop Burke declared several St. Stanislaus lay board members excommunicated in 2005 for hiring Bozek. The Vatican upheld those excommunications last May and in the same declaration, hinted that Bozek would be laicized, or stripped of his priesthood.
Then, parishioners and board members raised questions about Bozek's affiliation with independent Catholic groups. Bozek had told the Post-Dispatch that if he were laicized, one option for St. Stanislaus was to worship under Milingo's authority.
Board members also were alarmed after Bozek participated in the secret ordination of a Married Priests Now! priest from Michigan at St. Stanislaus that same month.
Three months earlier, Bozek requested incardination from Married Priests Now! in a letter to its vicar general, Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan. Bozek said he was "fully aware of the canonical consequences of my act."
In a "Letter of Incardination and Recognition," Brennan wrote that Milingo had approved, and said Bozek was "welcomed, formally incardinated and recognized as an ordained Catholic priest in good standing ..."
On Tuesday, Bozek said he was only making sure he'd be able to perform his responsibilities as a priest in case he was laicized.
"That's my main obligation to the parish," Bozek said. "So to fulfill that obligation I had to find a bishop for after I'm laicized."
When parishioners and board members began to worry last summer that Bozek was moving St. Stanislaus away from Roman Catholicism toward Milingo's organization, they complained to the priest and he distanced himself from Married Priests Now!
Minutes of special board meetings in early June show two board members — Robert Zabielski and Stan Rozanski — questioning Bozek about the Milingo association and the secret Married Priests Now! ordination.
According to the minutes, Bozek "informed the (board) that because of his impending removal from the priesthood he needed to be aligned with another bishop in order to provide sacraments to the parish. He informed us that the parish itself would not be aligned with this Bishop Milingo, just him."
But in a subsequent e-mail to the board and other church members — dated June 18, nearly four months after his incardination into both organizations — Bozek asked why the minutes hadn't reflected "my statement that 'I have no immediate plans to join any bishop and that I were only interviewing many bishops.'"
Zabielski, Rozanski and a third board member, Bernice Krauze, were removed from the board after the June meetings.
In an interview Tuesday, Bozek said he told all six board members "in February or March" that he had been granted faculties by the two organizations. He said the e-mail was intended to explain to the board that he had no intention of joining more than these two groups.
Krauze disputed that: "He did not say anything about being granted faculties with any other bishop. If we would have heard it, I would have questioned him about it right away."
But another board member, John Baras — who has remained on the board — said he did remember Bozek saying "something about that."
In an interview with the Post-Dispatch in July, Bozek again distanced himself from Married Priests Now!
Milingo's "relationship with Moon is a real liability," Bozek said at the time. "I won't join Milingo, or any other bishop. I know what their liabilities are now."
At the time, Bozek floated the possibility of becoming the bishop of his own "underground Catholic church."
"No one has an ambition to create a new denomination," Bozek said at the time. "My vision is to be Roman Catholic and wait for the regime to collapse."
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