New pastor arrives at St. Stanislaus!

By Tim Townsend


A day after he pulled into town, the Rev. Marek Bozek, the new pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka church, introduced himself to the St. Louis media. Literally.

Minutes before a news conference at the church hall Wednesday, Bozek walked around the room and shook hands with every reporter, photographer and cameraman.

Bozek plans to celebrate his first Mass as St. Stanislaus' pastor on Christmas Eve. He has been declared excommunicated, along with the six members of the church board, by St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke.

His voice breaking with nerves, Bozek read a statement saying that he had received more than 200 letters, from both supporters and opponents. He said he had received "hate letters filled with insult and malice, accusing me of things I've never heard of, accusing me of being a heretic, a pedophile, a womanizer and a promiscuous homosexual."

Early this month, Bozek notified Bishop John J. Leibrecht of the Catholic diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau of his intention to accept the St. Stanislaus position. Leibrecht then suspended him, and Bozek was officially hired by the St. Stanislaus board the next day.

Writing in the diocesan newspaper last week, Burke said that by hiring a priest who had been suspended, the board members had committed "the ecclesiastical crime of schism," and had therefore automatically incurred the penalty of excommunication. Burke said Bozek had also gone into schism and was therefore automatically excommunicated.

Bozek said he had come to St. Stanislaus Kostka, "in order to be a parish priest and nothing else" and that he wants St. Stanislaus to be a normal Roman Catholic parish. "I will laugh with them when they laugh and I will cry with them when they cry," he said.

The priest will sit on the St. Stanislaus board, but he said he would not be occupied with parish finances. "I'm not a businessman, I'm a priest," he said. "A priest doesn't have to have all the answers."

Church law requires each parish to have a finance council to assist the pastor.

In his newspaper column, Burke said he will be obliged to "suppress" St. Stanislaus, meaning it will no longer be a parish in the St. Louis archdiocese, nor even Roman Catholic. Tony Huenneke, a spokesman for the St. Louis Archdiocese, said Wednesday that, as far as he knew, the archbishop had not yet signed the decree of suppression.

Bozek acknowledged he was scared by the excommunication, which he called "the death penalty of the Catholic church." But in making his decision to come to St. Stanislaus, he said, he listened only to "vox populi, vox dei," - that is, the voice of the people, the voice of God.

By Tim Townsend 

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