A Missouri bishop has announced that Pope Benedict XVI has dismissed Marel Bozek from the clerical state since he has persisted in leading a group of breakaway Catholics.
Originally from Poland, Marek Bozek had been leading St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, which broke from the Archdiocese of St. Louis after refusing to conform to canon law requirements which forbade its operation under the lay-run St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation. Breakaway leaders had hired Bozek, a former priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, to act as their pastor.
Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau James V. Johnston in a Monday statement announced Pope Benedict’s dismissal of the former Fr. Bozek, who had already been excommunicated along with St. Stanislaus’ board members.
“His status in the Catholic Church as a cleric is now a thing of the past,” Bishop Johnston explained. “This decision is the result of the actions that he took in late 2005, when in disobedience to my predecessor, Bishop John Leibrecht, he abandoned his assignment and entered the employment of a parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis without permission of the Archbishop. His actions have caused great harm, scandal and sadness within the Church.”
Bishop Robert J. Hermann, Administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, noted his responsibility to “safeguard the unity of the Catholic 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,” he said.
According to a statement from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Bozek may no longer function as a priest because he has been dismissed from the clerical state.
“The faithful who hold the sacraments in highest honor must therefore refrain from receiving sacraments from Mr. Bozek, because he no longer has the rights and obligations of a cleric,” the statement said.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bozek said he and the church board do not “recognize this unjust action” just as they did not “recognize the excommunications” of the board.
Bozek claimed he was “ambushed” with the news of his laicization after being called to Bishop Johnston’s office in Springfield.
The laicized priest supports ordaining women to the priesthood, accepting homosexual relationships and allowing married priests, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says. The church claims to have attracted hundreds of new parishioners under Bozek.
According to Bozek, he has the support of every St. Stanislaus board member. He told about 60 parishioners at a Monday gathering at the church that he would not back down.
"I hope to see you all at Mass this weekend," he told the supportive crowd, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says.
Bishop Johnston said reconciliation was still possible.
“While Marek Bozek no longer has the status of a priest, I continue to hope for his reconciliation with the Catholic Church, and am committed to working with him so that he might be returned to full communion with the Church,” the bishop said on Monday.