14 August 2010

New York Times Fetes Bozek: Five Years Later, No New News Fit to Print

The above photo, which I won't hesitate to admit gives me the creeps, is from the New York Times story excerpted below. A basic rehash, but Bozek gets some publicity. One more for the schism scrapbook:

Renegade Priest Leads a Split St. Louis Parish

By MALCOLM GAY
Published: August 13, 2010


ST. LOUIS — Some say he is on a mission from God. Others say he is the devil. But no matter whom you ask in this city’s tight-knit community of Polish Catholics, the name of Marek Bozek is seldom met with a shrug.

To supporters he is a holy man who has risked his soul’s damnation to rescue St. Stanislaus Kostka church during a long-running dispute over financial control with the Archdiocese of St. Louis. To detractors he is a charlatan — a disgraced priest who has wrested command of the parish and ushered in a vision of Roman Catholicism so progressive as to be unrecognizable to the faithful.

But one thing is clear: Last Sunday, parishioners rejected a proposed settlement that would have ended a lawsuit brought by the archdiocese and returned them to the archbishop’s good graces. Instead, they opted to yoke their church’s fate to the portly priest with thinning hair and a fashionable patch of whiskers just beneath his lower lip.

“They give the church to the devil,” fumed Mary Bach, 75, in heavily accented English after casting her vote to accept the settlement. “People are blind. They don’t see what he’s doing. This is belief in Bozek, not in God.”

The vote nearly brought some parishioners to blows. Nevertheless, it is but the latest chapter in the extraordinary history of St. Stanislaus, a cause célèbre for those with progressive leanings in this deeply Catholic city by the river, and a source of scandal for traditionalists.

[...]

“The people of St. Stanislaus had been abandoned for almost two years,” said Mr. Bozek, 35, who said his first Mass at the embattled church at a 2005 Christmas Eve service that attracted an estimated 2,000 people. “As a Catholic priest I felt responsible to provide the sacraments to people who have been spiritually starved by their shepherds.”

In anticipation of the renegade Mass, Archbishop Burke, a canon lawyer by training who now serves in the Vatican as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest judicial authority, proclaimed in December 2005 that the actions of the board and Mr. Bozek constituted “schism,” which carries with it “the automatic penalty of excommunication.” The archbishop added that as an excommunicated priest celebrating Mass, Mr. Bozek would commit “a most grave sin.”

The Vatican has since affirmed Archbishop Burke’s order of excommunication, and last year Pope Benedict XVI formally laicized Mr. Bozek, prohibiting him from functioning as a Roman Catholic priest.

“His actions have caused great harm, scandal and sadness within the Church,” Bishop James V. Johnston of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, wrote in a statement announcing the Vatican’s decision. “While Marek Bozek no longer has the status of a priest, I continue to hope for his reconciliation with the Catholic Church.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Bozek continues to preside over the holy sacraments at St. Stanislaus. Dressed in gleaming green raiment, he baptized a child on a recent Sunday, and he boasts that under his stewardship the church’s membership has swelled to roughly 500 families.

“I just do not acknowledge the validity of the penalties,” Mr. Bozek said. “I was born Catholic. I am a Catholic priest, and I don’t believe that one piece of paper signed by one human being undoes my priesthood.”

In the subsequent years, Mr. Bozek has become an increasingly vocal advocate for a more progressive Catholic church. In 2008 he presented parishioners with what he called his “vision,” which included the right of priests to marry, and that of women and homosexuals to become priests.

“He has opened our eyes,” said Melissa Kirkiewicz, 35. “His vision is what we perceive as the future of the church. He’s going in the direction I want to go as a Catholic.”

For many others, however, Mr. Bozek’s progressive views, coupled with his excommunication, have become too much to tolerate.

“He has his own agenda,” Grzegorz Koltuniak, 53, said after the vote. “He’s not a priest anymore, but he’s fooled everyone. Why are we even talking about religion? This is about property, but he makes it about religion.”

Though Mr. Bozek says church membership has grown since his arrival, about 200 families have stopped attending the church since the dispute first arose. In 2008, Mr. Bozek cast the deciding vote to dissolve the board, which was later reconstituted with a majority of members who support him. Several former board members have now reconciled with the archdiocese and joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit for control of St. Stanislaus.

“It’s been hellacious,” said Robert Zabielski, a former board member who is now a plaintiff with the archdiocese. He added that somewhere along the line the question had ceased to be about “power and money” and was now “about the man.”

[...]

“I don’t trust the archdiocese,” Patrick Schneider said. “I’ve witnessed how it’s closed other parishes. All they needed to do was bring somebody down to speak — instead they sent lawyers.”

Mr. Bozek said he was prepared to leave if the congregation had accepted the archdiocese’s offer.

“The only reason for my coming to this parish was because they were abandoned by their shepherds for almost two years without sacrament and without Mass,” Mr. Bozek said. “I have fulfilled my role, I believe.”

But congregants like John McCall said they were not willing to accept a settlement at this point that did not include Mr. Bozek.

“The man is the faith,” said Mr. McCall, 76, who voted against accepting the settlement. “I’ll follow Father Marek wherever he goes. I told him, ‘Don’t stop fast because I’ll run into you.’ ”

__________________

The willingness to follow any sort of person who confirms one's right to sin as one sees fit is the hallmark of many a heresy and schism before this one, and the trend continues. The quotes from Mister Bozek's minions are most informative.

9 comments:

Peggy said...

After thinking it over, I concluded that the story was not as bad as I initially thought. Yes, Bozek had his say. The NYT also interviewed folks who want their parish back and to be Catholic. The NYT called him "Mr. Bozek." Never "Father." I would not have expected that of them. Upshot, not as biased as it could have been knowing the newspaper.

Fenian said...

From the Article:In the subsequent years, Mr. Bozek has become an increasingly vocal advocate for a more progressive Catholic church. In 2008 he presented parishioners with what he called his “vision,” which included the right of priests to marry, and that of women and homosexuals to become priests.

So he wants us to become protestants? Everyone knows what these sorts of policies have done to the membership numbers of mainline protestantism (ELCA, PCUSA, Epicopalians for example).

Barbara A. Schoeneberger said...

This situation is the perfect illustration that there are consequences for everything. The original board that went into schism set an evil thing in motion that will, unfortunately, continue for some time. Bozek's followers, notice I do not say Christ's followers, are destined for eternal destruction. May God have mercy on them.

StGuyFawkes said...

The three things that struck me the hardest were:

1.) Given the NYT's bias against the Church this was a more or less balanced article.

2.) I didn't know that St. Stan's had Archdiocesan priests sneaking in and doing Mass for them after the parish was suppressed.

That's disappointing but not surprising.

3.) Someone, and I hope it is the Archbishop, needs to address this terrible lie that "Archbishop Burke denied Catholics the sacraments." Not only can any Catholic attend any Mass at any parish but His Excellancy even set up a new Polish Parish (St. Agatha's) just so they wouldn't be without the sacraments.

This is the most devious spin I have ever heard and the press is swallowing it with complete credulity.

And one more thing:

Why do these Stanislaus Poles think they have to go to Mass only on their privately owned real estate. It's as if they think if they don't do Catholicism, Polish style, at their shrine, then their religion is no good.

St. Stans is a vestige of an outdated "ethnic Catholicism" which identifies the Faith with a particular race or culture, and does so with zealotry.

The Irish Catholics of St. Louis have assimilated into regular Catholics of Irish extraction. Same deal with the Croats and the Italians.

What the heck is it with these St. Stan's Poles? THey have made being Polish more important than being Catholic.

There is a name for not wanting to take sacraments with anyone outside your little club or ethnic group. It's called schism.

Folks it may be the schism was aborning there a lot earlier than we think.

Athelstane said...

To detractors he is a charlatan — a disgraced priest who has wrested command of the parish and ushered in a vision of Roman Catholicism so progressive as to be unrecognizable to the faithful.

I guess this makes me a detractor.

Cbalducc said...

The great majority of Polish Americans never left the Catholic Church when there was a schism in the late 1800s that gave rise to the Polish National Catholic Church. Nor did the Poles in Poland. St. Stanislaus's problem is rooted in the American tradition of rebelling against authority and has nothing to do with Polish identity. Anyway, why should there be "ethnic" Catholic churches anymore? After all, "Catholic" means "universal".
Since the schism began, St. Stanislaus has attracted a bunch of rebellious Catholics who have changed the church. I'm afraid those remaining who want their "old" church back have lost it for good. Pray that the misguided will see the light and those who want to be true to the faith will be strengthened. God bless.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Cbaldduc,

You wrote:

"St. Stanislaus's problem is rooted in the American tradition of rebelling against authority and has nothing to do with Polish identity. Anyway, why should there be "ethnic" Catholic churches anymore? After all, "Catholic" means "universal".

Cbalducc, we agree more than we disagree. I'm familiar with the history of the Polish National Catholic Church and I didn't mean to say that Poles are implicitly schismatic. I also agree that the problem has something to do with the American love of rebellion.

Nonetheless I still maintain that part of the schism comes from mis-placed ethnic pride, along with regular, sinful, pride.

St. Stan's represents something of a throwback to the days of my grandfather who remembers when religion was indistinguishable from ethnic identity, such that his peers in the 1930s and '40s would actually say things like "He married that girl from that "bohunk" parish" i.e. (St. Joseph's Croatian). Or, "I don't want my son marrying a girl from that Dago church" i.e. St. Ambrose.

People used to not want to workship, or closely associate with Catholics of another ethnic heritage. Of course they did, in part because, the universality of their Catholic Faith prompted them to put down their prejudices and intermarry.

I argue that there was just a little bit of that old, ethnocentric instinct running around during the first, property rights phase of the rebellion at St. Stan's.

When the rebellion went into its Bozekian phase it became a rebellion to assert the right of doctrinal dissent. And by that time many of the original Poles were gone.

But, as you ably pointed out, the whole "ethnic" aspect of the first phase is and was anachronistic.

We're Catholic first and then everything else fits in behind it or something is wrong.

My point is that the St. Stan's crowd, in their original rebellion over property rights, were asserting something, I won't say ethnic, but rather -- to be on safe grounds -- something very LOCAL. It was very much an assertion of the rights of a particular community over the rights of the Universal Church. My thought was that in THAT assertion the St. Stan's Poles were beginning to take on a schismatic attitude.

Now to what extent that attitude was formed by ethnic solidarity and pride I cannot say but the claim that they would not be able to take the sacraments because the Archbishop removed priests from their ethic parish suggests a lot.

It suggests an unwillingness to take communion in another Catholic parish. And that unwillingness to take communion elsewhere, makes them out of communion, in a sense with the Univeral Church.

I realize that my point is rather abstruse but I think you'll see what I mean if you take the time to wander through my erratic argument.

Thanks for taking the time.

St. Guy

Anonymous said...

see: apostolski.wordpress.com\rkk-multimedia. Site is in Polish. Click on Multimedia.
On Google toolbar click translate.
See "Who We Are" - speaks for itself.

It was reported that Bozek in 2005 signed St. Stan's up as a sister church to the RCC in Poland. This fact was removed from the website on the night of 8 August after the discovery was announced at the annual meeting earlier that day.

Cbalducc said...

In the end, maybe the best thing to do is for the diocese to give up its effort to bring St. Stanislaus back into the fold. Dissidents fill its pews now. It is not the same church that it was before the trouble began. God bless.