Even Deeper Into Schism

A status report on St. Stanislaus parish in St. Louis.

Father Marek Bozek, pastor of St. Stanislaus parish in St Louis (see “The Anatomy of a Schism,” CWR, June 2008), was secretly affiliated with two schismatic groups at the very moment St. Stanislaus was holding discussions with the Archdiocese of St. Louis over the parish’s irregular canonical status, according to the St. Louis Post- Dispatch.

Last summer, Bozek denied any such affiliation and said he was merely “exploring possibilities.” However, the Post-Dispatch has obtained documents showing that as early as January 2008, he was affiliated with Married Priests Now! and the Reformed Catholic Church.

Married Priests Now! is headed by excommunicated Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who abandoned his see for a roving international “ministry of healing” and later married. His group is funded by the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The Reformed Catholic Church describes itself as “a loving alternative to the rigid structure and doctrines of the Roman Church.”

Bozek’s actions have plunged St. Stanislaus even deeper into schism; as of February he was under the authority of two schismatic bishops who permitted him to administer the sacraments, which the Archdiocese of St. Louis had forbidden him to do. After the Holy See announced in March that Bozek has been stripped of his status as a priest by order of Pope Benedict XVI, Bozek told the press, “We do not recognize this unjust action, just as we do not recognize the excommunications.”

Last summer Bozek told the media that, while he respected such “independent” groups, they were also “full of weirdos” and he would not join them. But later he returned from a trip to Poland with an episcopal ring and cross and told the media that he might himself become a bishop in an “underground church,” because “[the] Roman Catholic family can be described today as dysfunctional, toxic, or abusive.”

William Bialczak, chairman of the St. Stanislaus board, announced in 2008 that, if the parish is affiliated with Milingo, “That would be OK for most of us. There’s only one God we all pray to.” But other board members objected to Bozek. (They also opposed his decision to arrange for Married Priests Now! to hold an ordination ceremony at St. Stanislaus.)

Bozek now says that he informed the trustees that he was joining the two schismatic groups, but board members deny this. Bozek says he took the action so that he could continue to serve as pastor of St. Stanislaus if the Holy See strips him of his priestly status.

St. Stanislaus Kostka, a historically Polish parish founded in 1880, was, for reasons that are unclear, allowed from the beginning to keep control of its property. But around 2000 the Archdiocese of St. Louis asked the parish to deed that property to the archdiocese, in accord with canon law. The trustees refused.

After Archbishop Raymond L. Burke reassigned the pastor, the trustees “hired” Bozek, who was serving in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in southern Missouri. Archbishop Burke then announced that both Bozek and the trustees were in schism and had automatically excommunicated themselves. They were summoned to meet with the archbishop but refused to do so.

As time went on, Bozek became an increasingly divisive force in the parish. His announced policy is to welcome anyone to receive Communion, whether or not they are Catholics, and he has reportedly attracted many new members, few of whom are Polish. “If you are sexist and homophobic, you will hate my vision,” he boasts.

In the process he has alienated some older parishioners. Last June the trustees split 3-3 on a motion to dismiss Bozek as pastor, but he claimed the right to cast the tie-breaking vote that continued him in office.

Prior to a new board election, all candidates were told by Auxiliary Bishop Robert L. Hermann, the temporary administrator of the archdiocese, “You are in danger of losing the eternal salvation of your soul, jeopardizing the salvation of other innocent faithful and inflicting a most severe wound to the communion of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Four serving board members, including the three who voted to support Bozek in June, were reelected and two new members were also chosen. The three trustees who opposed Bozek were then reconciled with the archdiocese.

Parishioners told the media of other dissatisfactions with the board and with Bozek—that he had been given a pay raise of 143 percent and that the parish had paid a lawyer $80,000 to help him with “immigration problems,” bought him a $157,000 loft apartment, and leased a new BMW for him at a cost of $450 per month.

Bozek defended moving into a downtown loft because it was “exhausting mentally” to live in a rectory where he had little privacy, and he accused his critics of not realizing that priests “need food to eat, cars to drive, places to live.”

Unrelated to the St. Stanislaus dispute, the Post-Dispatch revealed last fall that Bialczak, the chair of the St. Stanislaus board, is under federal investigation in connection with his business, Metropolitan Towing, which had been given almost exclusive rights to tow illegally parked cars in St. Louis.

The firm is accused of selling towed cars that it did not own and of failing to pass on to the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees received from parking violators. Chief of Police Joe Mokwa, who also has connections with St. Stanislaus, was forced to resign over the matter.


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About James Hitchcock 0 Articles
James Hitchcock is a professor of history at St. Louis University.