Tuesday, June 03, 2008


The New York Times reported last Saturday that the Vatican has reaffirmed the ban on women priests, warning that the consequences of participation in such a ceremony would be automatic excommuication. According to the article the response of Roman Catholic Womenpriests was rather amusing:

Bridget Mary Meehan, a spokeswoman for the group, said the excommunication, which extends to both the women and the bishops ordaining them, was a positive sign "that the Vatican is taking us seriously."

Well, Bridget, excommunication is serious all right!

The article discusses the most recent attempt to ordain women that took place in St. Louis, and Bishop Burke's excommunication of the women involved. What it doesn't mention is that a priest who has been in the news for other reasons, was also involved.

STLtoday.com reports that Rev. Marek Bozek was present at the "ordination":

Archbishop Raymond Burke has formally declared that defiant Rev. Marek Bozek, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, is improperly representing himself as a Catholic priest and is recommending his removal from the priesthood....

"I will continue my ministry at St. Stanislaus and I will continue my appeal to the wider Catholic population," Bozek said.

Msgr. John Shamleffer, the archbishop's adviser on church law, said the decree represents a "finding of guilt" on most of the nine charges against Bozek. Shamleffer said a tribunal of church law experts from outside Missouri will be empaneled to hear the question of Bozek's removal from the ministry.

Shamleffer said Burke has referred directly to the Vatican his charge that Bozek violated church doctrine by taking part in November in the ordination of two women by a group called Catholic WomenPriests.

It's a long and involved story, and I suspect it may have influenced the most recent Vatican announcement.

You may recall that the "ordination" in question took place in a synagogue, and that Rabbi Susan Talve was at the center of the controversy:

when the Central Reform Congregation offered its synagogue for Sunday's ordination of two women in a ceremony disavowed by the Roman Catholic church, it drew the ire of church officials and a pledge to never again partner with the congregation....

Talve was in her office when the women approached her this fall.

"They said they were looking for a sanctuary, and that got my attention," Talve said. "As Isaiah said, we are a house of prayer for all people."

The congregation's board voted unanimously to serve as host, drawing on its core values and principles, which include hospitality and providing sanctuary.

[Rev. Vincent] Heier [director of diocesan interreligious affairs] and Burke pressed Talve and the board to withdraw their offer, saying the act would "cause pain" to the church.

"It's akin to us inviting a group that is contrary to Jewish life," Heier said. "She didn't understand."

Heier said he and Talve disagree on abortion and gay marriage, "but this is the straw that broke the camel's back."

Talve said she regrets the church is pained by the decision to host the women, but a decision not to would have hurt others. She said hundreds of practicing Catholics have called to thank her for taking a stand.

Heier enlisted the help of the larger Jewish community, but the local Jewish Community Relations Council neither condemned nor affirmed CRC's decision. In a statement, the council said it regretted any pain the church suffered, but emphasized the autonomy of each congregation.

Members of the larger Jewish community and archdiocese said they would not let the decision stop their interfaith dialogue and efforts.

But the archdiocese clearly has drawn a line with Talve and her congregation.

Last December Talve was scheduled to speak at an Advent Vespers service in St. Cronan's Church, something she had done in the past. Days before the service was to take place Burke called the parish and requested that Talve's invitation be withdrawn.

It was a major dust-up.

Bozek's role in the "ordination" has not been made clear. Why was he there? What did he do? Since he isn't a bishop, he could hardly perform an ordination, even an invalid one.

Bozek is no stranger to controversy. His move to St. Stanislaus Kostka, which the diocese refers to as a corporation, not as a parish, followed controversy in his previous diocese. His story is told at the St. Louis Diocesan website:

On December 15th of 2005, I was obliged to declare the excommunication of the members of the Board of Directors of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Corporation because of their persistence in schism. The members of the Board had committed the most grievous delict of schism by hiring a suspended priest, that is, a priest not in good standing in the Church, for the purpose of attempting to celebrate the sacraments and sacramentals at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, all outside of the communion of the Catholic Church. The priest in question, the Reverend Marek B. Bozek, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, had left his priestly assignment against the expressed will of his bishop, Bishop John Leibrecht, in order to be hired by the Board of Directors of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Corporation.

Bishop Leibrecht warned Reverend Bozek, several times, about the grave consequences of his actions, and, when Reverend Bozek refused to heed his warnings and abandoned his priestly assignment, was obliged to suspend him from all acts of the power of Holy Orders and of governance. When I received news of Reverend Bozek's coming to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I urged him to be obedient to his bishop and not to participate in the schismatic activity of the Board of Directors of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Corporation. Reverend Bozek also refused to follow my direction and, likewise, incurred the penalty of excommunication because of persistence in schism.

But the controversy doesn't stop there. Bozek has legal representation in tribunals by another well-known Catholic priest who has been instrumental in bringing the sexual abuse scandal to the forefront:

Check out the story at The Deacon's Bench where you can read:

Archbishop bars prominent priest as canon lawyer

This news will likely be raising some eyebrows, since the man in question is one of the most prominent, outspoken and uncompromising voices working as an advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse:

Saying Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle had “failed to represent [clients] properly or effectively” in the church court in St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke has barred the priest from acting as a canon lawyer in the St. Louis archdiocese.

In a decree issued April 11 and printed in the archdiocesan newspaper, Burke justified his action by saying Doyle is guilty of two canonical crimes: “abuse of ecclesiastical function” and culpable negligence.

Doyle, long noted as an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, has a private practice as a canon lawyer representing people who, in his words, have “found themselves in disputes with the Catholic church or harmed in some way by the institutional church.”

Doyle said Burke’s action is an abuse of the church’s judicial process. Burke “has sorely misused and abused the canonical process as a way to get even with people who disagree with him or whom he sees as being in opposition to him,” Doyle told NCR.

In St. Louis, Doyle had been representing Stan Rozanski and Bernice Krauze, two members of the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka, a parish under interdict over a property dispute with the archdiocese. Other board members and the parish pastor, Fr. Marek Bozek, have also been excommunicated and have been consulting with Doyle.

This is not the whole picture. There is more controversy swirling around Bozek. But enough is enough, and you probably already are feeling brain battered by the varied tentacles of this story.

As I read the saga, Bozek has been excommunicated not just once, but twice! Yet he continues to offer "sacraments" at the Polish church, and the congregation continues to support him.

Poles are unashamedly Catholic, and in a very conservative sense, if my in-laws are any indication. They do what "father" says almost every time. But that unquestioning frame of mind can lead to all sorts of bizarre situations when "father" isn't kosher, as this Polish congregation demonstrates. Interesting times...

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

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