Priest, Lay Board At St. Louis Church Excommunicated

By Betsy Taylor
Associated Press
Saturday, December 17, 2005

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 16 -- St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has excommunicated a priest and the board of directors of a traditionally Polish parish that resisted his efforts to put the parish's property and assets under his control.

In an archdiocesan newspaper published Friday, Burke said the Rev. Marek Bozek and St. Stanislaus Kostka's six lay directors committed an act of schism when the board hired Bozek, who Burke said left another diocese without his bishop's permission.

"It saddens me, in particular, to address such a deep wound to the church in our archdiocese in these days of our final preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord on Christmas," Burke wrote.

He said it was necessary, however, because Bozek planned to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass. Mass has not been celebrated since Easter at the parish, which saw its priests removed last year.

Excommunication, the most severe penalty the church can impose, excludes the seven from taking part in church sacraments and functions and from holding positions within the church. Burke said it would be a mortal sin to accept Holy Communion or other sacraments from Bozek, and that the parish was no longer part of the church.

Unlike most other Roman Catholic parishes around the country, St. Stanislaus Kostka's board -- not the archbishop -- has governed the parish's finances, according to an arrangement dating to the late 19th century.

Since Burke began serving as archbishop in January 2004, he had increased pressure on the parish to conform to current church structure and hand over control of its assets.

St. Stanislaus's lay leaders refused, accusing Burke of wanting the parish's assets, estimated at more than $9 million.

The Vatican has backed Burke.

Roger Krasnicki, spokesman for the St. Stanislaus board, said avenues of appeal are available but had in the past proved to be "an exercise in futility."

"I think it's a gross error of judgment on his part," Krasnicki said of Burke's decision. "It's a sad day in the Catholic Church."

He said Bozek was traveling in Peru, and the priest's cellular phone was not accepting calls Friday. Until recently, Bozek was associate pastor of St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield, Mo.

Krasnicki said St. Stanislaus, which has about 450 parishioners, still plans to hold Christmas Eve Mass.


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