.- Bishop John Leibrecht of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO, is defending his decision to suspend a priest who left his post--despite the bishop’s orders--to serve at a dissident St. Louis parish.
Fr. Marek Bozek, a native Polish priest and associate pastor of St. Agnes Cathedral, decided last week to leave his own diocese to serve at St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish parish in St. Louis.
That parish has broken away from its own bishop and refused to restructure itself in compliance with Canon Law.
St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has been entangled in a two year-long debacle with St. Stanislaus, which currently operates under a structure in which the pastor is subject to the authority of the parish governing board.
Archbishop Burke has pointed out that this structure is in violation of Canon Law, and over a year ago, removed the priests assigned to St. Stanislaus and moved official Polish language masses to a nearby parish.
In a letter to the Springfield News-Leader, Bishop Leibrecht lamented having to suspend Fr. Bozek, calling it a “wrenching experience for a Catholic bishop to have to suspend a priest from further ministry.”
He recalled that the young priest--who has been ordained for only three years--had asked him “for a leave of absence so that he could go to St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis.”
Because of needs at St. Agnes, the bishop said he reminded Fr. Bozek “that at his ordination three years ago, he solemnly promised to work in this diocese at parishes where I and my successors would assign him. I told him I expected him to keep that promise.”
Bishop Leibrecht stressed that Bozek remains a priest for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and that “He is welcome to return, the sooner the better.”
He said he fully expects the priest to eventually return and “offer appropriate apologies to his brother priests, and to the pastor and people of St. Agnes Cathedral whom he left in the lurch by his untimely departure.”