Burke excommunicates St. Stan board!


By Tim Townsend

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has notified the six lay members of the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish and a priest from the diocese of Springfield Cape-Girardeau who they had hired to be their pastor that they have been excommunicated.

Excommunication is considered a serious penalty under church law, and is intended to distance a Catholic from the Christian community.

“This is just last of the shameful actions done to us last couple years,” said board member Bob Zabielski. “He wants the property and that’s it and he’s using every weapon in his arsenal. This is nothing more than a peeice of paper written by a man trying to get our property.”

Two weeks ago the board hired the Rev. Marek Bozek, a priest from Springfield, Mo., to be their pastor. Bozek was suspended by Bishop John J. Leibrecht, the leader of the Springfield Cape-Girardeau diocese.

In February, Burke placed the board under the canonical penalty of interdict, a lesser form of excommunication. In a statement Friday, Burke invited the board and Bozek “to be reconciled with the Church.”

In an archdiocesan newspaper published today, Burke wrote about the excommunication.

"My heart is heavy in writing to you about the break of communion with the Church by our brothers and sisters at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish, most especially at the Holy Seasons of Advent and Christmas," Burke wrote.

In his column, Burke also said he "will be obliged to suppress St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish. It is not possible for St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish to remain a parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and, at the same time, to operate completely independently of the Apostolic See and the Archdiocese of St. Louis." A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said that meant St. Stanislaus would no longer be a Roman Catholic church. She did not know if Burke had signed the decree to officially suppress the parish.

Roger Krasnicki, spokesman for the St. Stanislaus board, said he believes the excommunication applies to the six voting board directors and the priest, Bozek.

"I think it's a gross error of judgment on his part," Krasnicki said of Burke's decision. "It's a sad day in the Catholic church."

Bozek was assistant pastor of St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield until recently. Burke said Bozek left that office against the wishes of his bishop.

Krasnicki said Bozek was traveling in Peru, and the priest's cellular phone was not accepting calls Friday.

Since Burke's appointment as archbishop in December 2004, he has increased pressure on the parish to conform to current church structure and hand over control of its assets. St. Stanislaus' lay leaders have refused, accusing Burke of wanting control for the parish's assets, estimated at more than $9 million.

The growing conflict has seen the Vatican weigh in on Burke's behalf, the 2004 removal of the parish's priests, and an interdict denying Holy Communion and other Catholic sacraments to the parish's six-member board of directors.

In July, a small number of St. Stanislaus families -- most of them newer Polish immigrants -- moved permanently to St. Agatha parish, which Burke named the Polish "apostolate," or official home to Polish Roman Catholics in St. Louis.

Krasnicki said St. Stanislaus has about 450 parishioners who continue to worship as Catholics.

He said St. Stanislaus still plans to hold a Christmas Eve ceremony, the first Mass held there since the summer of 2004.

The Associated Press contributed information for this story. 

By Tim Townsend

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