Pope laicizes suspended Missouri priest who led dissident church

ST. LOUIS – Pope Benedict XVI has laicized a suspended priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau who had been hired by the board of directors of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Corp. to be pastor of its church in St. Louis.

St. Stanislaus had served Catholics of Polish heritage but is no longer operating as a Catholic parish.

Marek Bozek, a native of Poland, can no longer function as a priest, with the exception of offering absolution to the dying. He was suspended in December 2005 by the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau for abandoning his assignment and his diocese.

He also had been considered as having excommunicated himself from the church for his action in signing a contract to be employed by the St. Stanislaus corporation and refusing requests to reconcile.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Hermann of St. Louis, archdiocesan administrator, said in a statement that it was his responsibility to safeguard the unity of the church and protect the souls of the faithful.

“The situation of Marek Bozek is sad for the whole church. Please join me in praying that Marek Bozek will be reconciled with the church and that the great harm which has been caused to the church, with the help of God’s grace, will be healed,” Bishop Hermann noted.

Monsignor John Shamleffer, judicial vicar of the archdiocese and pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Clayton, said the pope made the decision after receiving a report from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, who headed the St. Louis Archdiocese until he was appointed to a position at the Vatican last June, had sought the dismissal of Bozek from the clerical state a year ago.

Then-Father Bozek did not attend a hearing with Archbishop Burke and two canon lawyers assessing the case. The archbishop described the offenses as breaking communion with the church – its teachings, sacraments and governance.

Bozek, “for the good of the church, has been dismissed as a priest,” Monsignor Shamleffer said. “He continues to be excommunicated because of his schism from the Catholic Church.”

Monsignor Shamleffer pointed to Bozek’s participation in activities outside the beliefs of the Catholic Church and his continued refusal to obey his bishop.

Other priests from time to time have been dismissed from the clerical state because their actions have caused great harm to the community of the faithful, he added.

In August 2004, the pastoral care of Catholics of Polish heritage in the St. Louis Archdiocese was moved away from St. Stanislaus after the lay board claimed control over parish finances from the administrator and refused to bring parish structures into conformity with canon law.

The parish was suppressed by the St. Louis Archdiocese, and the apostolate for Polish Catholics then was moved permanently to St. Agatha Parish in South St. Louis.

Three of the six board members of St. Stanislaus who were considered to be excommunicated reconciled with the Catholic Church last year.

They and a former board member, who also has reconciled with the church, along with two parishioners and the archdiocese’s administrator, have filed a lawsuit asking for the St. Stanislaus corporation to adhere to an agreement the archdiocese had reached with the parish.

The civil case will continue. The archdiocese will appoint a Catholic priest to St. Stanislaus as an administrator if the suit is successful.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.