I asked a canon law professor at Catholic University to explain some of the canonical questions raised by Bozek’s decision to become incardinated into these groups so that his faculties would remain intact in the case of his laicization. The professor, a priest, asked to remain anonymous (I’ve shared his identity with my editors in accord with Post-Dispatch policy.)
Legally (canonically) speaking, a man becomes a priest through ordination (that is, he receives the sacrament of orders). He is ordained first a deacon and then (six months to a year later) he is ordained a priest. When ordained a deacon, a man becomes incardinated into a diocese (these are diocesan priests such as Fr. Bozek); others, if they belong to a religious order (such as the Franciscans or Jesuits or Dominicans) when they are ordained a deacon, are incardinated into the Franciscans or Jesuits or Dominicans, not into a diocese.
Incardination means that the priest has certain obligations and responsibilities - such as obedience to his bishop - and in turn the bishop has certain obligations and responsibilities - to support his priests and make sure that they fulfill their duties.
Once you are incardinated into a diocese as a deacon, you generally remain incardinated in the same diocese when you are ordained a priest. Every Catholic priest must be incardinated; if a priest wishes to change his incardination (for example, change from the Archdiocese of New York to the Archdiocese of Boston), a legal process must be followed. But he cannot lose his incardination in one diocese without gaining incardination in another diocese at the same time; the priest must always remain incardinated. Thus as you state in your story, Father Bozek is “officially incardinated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau under the supervision of Bishop James Johnston.” If Father Bozek were to lose “the rights and obligations of the clerical state” (the process which used to be known as ‘laicization’) he would lose his incardination in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau; he would not be incardinated anywhere, but in the eyes of the Catholic Church, he could not exercise his ministry legally (that is, licitly)
From the facts presented in the story, Father Bozek has illegitimately left his diocese of incardination; therefore, his authorization to minister (his faculties) had been removed; he was disobedient to his bishop and thus suffered a penalty, a penalty intended to help him become aware of his responsibilities. The other penalties - his excommunication - are also intended to heal his disobedience.
By becoming affiliated with another group not in full communion with the Catholic Church - either through accepting ‘incardination’ from them (thus establishing a legal bond between him and this group) or receiving ‘faculties’ from them (thus receiving permission to exercise ministry from them), Father is drawing further and further away from the Catholic Church; the Church is attempting to stop him from ministering. In response, he has (possibly) turned to other groups for permission to minister or for some legal bond.