Recalcitrant priest faces Church sanctions.

St. Louis, March 7, 2008.
by Joseph Kenny, Review Staff Writer.

Disappointed that Father Marek Bozek has refused to return to his home diocese to be reconciled with the Catholic Church, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke said March 5 that he is forced to proceed with the canonical process of dismissing Father Bozek from the clerical state.

Father Bozek was scheduled to attend a hearing with Archbishop Burke and two canon lawyers assessing the case March 5. In a press conference just before the meeting, the Polish-born priest announced that he would not attend.

The results of the canonical process begun by Archbishop Burke are in a decree on page 6 in this week’s Review.

Father Bozek was suspended in December 2005 by the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau for abandoning his assignment and his diocese. The St. Stanislaus Kostka Corp. hired him for the position of pastor of their church, which had served people of Polish heritage but is no longer a part of the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop Burke earlier said he heard from Catholics who are concerned about the sacraments they are receiving from Father Bozek. Because of the priest’s status, any sacraments of Penance and Confirmation he performed or any marriages he has witnessed are considered invalid.

In addition, Father Bozek participated in the invalid ordination of two women and has been making statements contrary to Church teachings, according to archdiocesan officials.

"The conclusion of today’s meeting is that Father Bozek was found to have committed eight canonical delicts (ecclesiastical crimes). He also was accused of a ninth one" that will be handled in a judicial penal trial so that the penalty of the dismissal from the clerical state can be considered, Archbishop Burke said.

The archbishop described the offense as breaking communion with the Church — its teachings, sacraments and governance.

It is a "truly lamentable situation," Archbishop Burke said, and the actions have "led many of the faithful in error regarding the Church’s teachings and sacraments."

The archbishop said that "from the minute he came to this archdiocese I have been praying that he would be reconciled, and I continue to pray for the sake of his own salvation and also for the sake of so many led astray by Father Bozek."

Archbishop Burke had met with Father Bozek Feb. 5 to urge him to return to his home diocese and seek reconciliation.

Father Bozek has the right to a canonical penal trial, during which the Archdiocese of St. Louis will present proof that Father Bozek’s actions require his dismissal from the clerical state. Father Bozek will have the right to present his defense, and use the services of an approved canon lawyer.

The process will be conducted by three judges, who, by Church law, are required to be priests who are experts in canon law. These judges will be appointed by the archbishop. The archbishop has already assured Father Bozek that all three judges will be from outside the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Province of St. Louis, which covers the whole state of Missouri.

After deliberating the facts, the judges will render a decision. Depending on the decision, the archbishop can impose a penalty, which includes asking for Father Bozek to be dismissed from the clerical state. If that happens, the decision will have to be ratified by the Holy See, through the Roman Rota, which is the appellate judicial court of the Catholic Church.

Both sides can appeal the decision of the three judges. Archbishop Burke did not address the status of St. Stanislaus with Father Bozek. The archbishop has said he is willing to discuss it, however, with the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Corp.

Since Dec. 29, 2005, the St. Stanislaus Kostka Corp. is no longer a part of the Roman Catholic Church. The six directors of the board, along with Father Bozek, were declared to have excommunicated themselves from the Church after the directors offered the job of pastor to Father Bozek, who already was not in good standing with the Catholic Church. Father Bozek accepted the offer, and thereby committed schism. In the Catholic Church, only a bishop can appoint priests to parishes.

The archdiocese is offering assistance to those who have invalidly received the sacraments of Penance or Confirmation or had their marriage invalidly witnessed by Father Bozek.

St. Stanislaus members received extensive coverage in the media March 2 when some parishioners spoke at a board meeting about positions that Father Bozek has taken that are in opposition to Catholic Church teachings. Cited are his support for the ordination of women as priests and offering Communion to those who are divorced and remarried without an annulment and to practicing homosexuals.

Archbishop Burke said he has not had direct contact with the members, but "I believe that many of the people who follow Father Bozek are people of good faith who have simply been deceived."

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