.- The excommunicated priest of a breakaway St. Louis parish has said he would be willing to step down if it would help the parish.
Fr. Marek Bozek had left his previous position without the permission of his bishop to become the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in December 2005. The parish, which is owned and governed by a secular corporation, had resisted the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ efforts to bring parish bylaws into accordance with canon law.
After years of dispute, in 2008 the then-Archbishop Raymond Burke declared Fr. Bozek and the parish board members to be excommunicated and the parish to be schismatic, though some board members have since reconciled with the Catholic Church.
"If it is necessary for me to step aside and continue my ministry elsewhere, I am willing to do that so long as I know that you will not go without pastoral care and the Sacrament," Fr. Bozek said on Sunday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I do not want my personal circumstances to impede what is best for St. Stanislaus."
In July 2008 the archdiocese and former parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka, who included half of the church’s board of directors, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the church’s pre-2001 bylaws restored. The church’s board rewrote the bylaws in 2001 and again in 2004, eventually eliminating the archbishop’s authority to appoint board members and the pastor.
Fr. Bozek did not comment on whether his announcement was due to the pending litigation. The lawsuit is scheduled to go before trial in St. Louis Circuit Court in February, 2010.
Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese, said if the priest’s departure provides an opportunity for the parish’s reconciliation it would be “a wonderful thing.”
"Clearly we don't want to have a trial, we just want to have St. Stanislaus returned as a Catholic parish," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
According to Huger, Archbishop Robert Carlson, the successor of Archbishop Burke, had made it clear to St. Stanislaus attorneys that he was “most willing to resolve this.”
Fr. Bozek has reportedly supported homosexuality in the Church and women’s ordination. In January he was laicized by Pope Benedict XVI.
St. Stanislaus member Diana Daley, speaking after Mass on Sunday, said that the priest was “bringing people back while the rest of the Catholic Church is driving them away.”
“He says he's willing to step down, but if he does, they might as well close this church.”
Grzegorz Koltuniak, a longtime parishioner critical of Fr. Bozek, told the Post-Dispatch that he had been waiting for the resignation announcement “from the beginning.”