On Dec. 15, 2005, I was obliged to declare the excommunication of the members of the Board of Directors of St. 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 St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, all outside of the communion of the Catholic Church. The priest in question, the Rev. Marek B. Bozek, a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., had left his priestly assignment against the expressed will of his bishop, Bishop John Leibrecht, to be hired by the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation.
Bishop Leibrecht warned Rev. Bozek, several times, about the grave consequences of his actions, and, when Rev. 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 Rev. 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 St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation. Rev. Bozek also refused to follow my direction and, likewise, incurred the penalty of excommunication because of persistence in schism.
On March 23, 2006, the board of directors and Rev. Bozek presented a recourse against my declaration of their excommunication before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office of the Holy Father which treats all matters of heresy and schism. The recourse alleged that I had unjustly declared the excommunication of the members of the board of directors and of Rev. Bozek.
Decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith After careful study of the recourse, which has necessarily taken a long time, especially because of the many and weighty matters which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith treats, the Congregation, by its letter of May 15 last, has communicated to me its decision regarding the recourse. The complete text of the letter is printed, with this column, for your information. [PDF version here]
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has taken two actions in the matter. First, it has rejected the recourse presented by the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation, including Rev. Bozek. In other words, it has found the recourse to be without foundation.
Secondly, the Congregation has confirmed my decrees of Dec. 15, 2005, by which I declared that the members of the board of directors had incurred the canonical penalty of excommunication because of persistence in schism.
Reasons for the congregation’s response
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gives two reasons for its decisions. The first reason is the failure of the members of the board of directors to observe the time-limits set by law for the presentation and pursuit of a recourse, and their negligence in fulfilling what is formally required to pursue a recourse.
The second reason is the evident fact that the members of the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation have committed the delict of schism and persist in the delict. As the letter of the congregation explains, the board of directors have made what was St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, a parish of the Roman Catholic Church, into "an independent entity capable of appointing its own clergy apart from the hierarchy of the Church." The letter observes how the former St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was gradually "removed from the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary." In other words, the actions of the members of the board of directors demonstrate their refusal to submit themselves to the legitimate authority of the Church (cf. can. 751).
The decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes clear that the actions of the board of directors have broken communion with the universal Church.
Frequently, especially in the communications media, the difficulties of the board of directors have been presented as a disagreement with me as archbishop of St. Louis and have been reduced to a personal conflict between them and myself. As their pastor, I have been obliged to call them to reconciliation and repentance for the good of the salvation of their souls and the good of the whole Church.
In doing so, I have acted in accord with what the teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church require. My actions have nothing to do with any personal conflict but, rather, with the integrity of the Catholic faith and its practice, which I have the solemn responsibility to safeguard and promote.
Further recourse or reconciliation
Clearly, the finding of the congregation is most serious for the members of the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation. It touches upon the eternal salvation of their souls. For the congregation, and also for me, the matter is of the deepest pastoral concern. The congregation, therefore, indicates two possible responses of the members of the board of directors.
If the members of the board of directors believe the decision of the congregation is unjust, then they may appeal the decision to the ordinary session of the cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation, which takes place each Wednesday, Feria IV in Latin, within 30 "useful days" from the day on which they receive a copy of the congregation’s letter. In Church law, the "useful time" which a person has to exercise a right does not run when the person is unaware or is unable to act (can. 201, §2).
The other possible response of the board of directors is to withdraw from the state of schism, in which they have placed themselves, and to be reconciled with the Church. As the Congregation points out, reconciliation with the Church necessarily includes repentance for the grave harm which their schismatic actions have caused to individual souls and to the whole Church.
Pastoral care of the congregation
The decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asks that I, as archbishop of St. Louis, assist the members of the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation to accept its decision and offer them, on the congregation’s behalf, "special pastoral care and kindness." I have been and continue to be committed to the reconciliation of the members of the board of directors with the Roman Catholic Church. From the beginning, extraordinary efforts have been made by the Archdiocese of St. Louis to keep St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation within the communion of the Church. I will continue those efforts.
What is clear, however, is that reconciliation can only take place through the acceptance of the Church’s teaching and discipline, in its integrity, which we all are held, in obedience, to accept and follow. Reconciliation, in the present case, must be a return to the recognition of the legitimate authority of the Church’s pastors, that is, the Holy Father, the archbishop of St. Louis and the parish priest.
Regarding Rev. Marek Bozek
Some months ago, I was obliged to take further canonical actions in the matter of Rev. Bozek, the suspended and excommunicated priest who has been serving the St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation since December 2005. Among those actions was the referral of his commissions of the delict of prohibited communicatio in sacris to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has the competence to handle such matters.
Prohibited communicatio in sacris is the concelebration of "the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church" (can. 908). Regarding such activity, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council taught: "Worship in common which is detrimental to the unity of the Church or implies a formal assent to error or the danger of erring in faith, of scandal, and of indifferentism is forbidden by Divine Law" (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, "On the Catholic Eastern Churches," Nov. 21, 1964, no. 26).
By a separate letter, also dated May 15 last, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has informed me of its decision in the matter. Referring to Rev. Bozek’s delicts of disobedience to his bishop by abandoning his priestly assignment and of persistence in schism, by which he has incurred the penalties of suspension and excommunication, the congregation declared: "After a careful and attentive study of the material submitted this dicastery has concluded that Rev. Bozek has also committed the delict of prohibited communicatio in sacris."
As a result of its decision, the congregation has asked me to impose a penal precept upon Rev. Bozek, namely, ordering him, with the time-limit of 30 useful days, "to recede from his perseverance in contumacious schism and promise to refrain from any further violation of prohibited communicatio in sacris." The Congregation also has asked me to inform Rev. Bozek that, if he refuses to comply with the terms of the penal precept, the congregation intends "to present his case to the Holy Father for his dismissal ex officio from the clerical state."
The congregation has further requested that "every effort be made to communicate to Rev. Bozek the seriousness of this matter and the harm his behavior has caused to the faithful," and that Rev. Bozek be encouraged to reconciliation and repentance. I have provided a copy of the Congregation’s letter to Rev. Bozek and have assured him of my continued commitment to assist him in being reconciled with the Church and offering repentance for the harm which he has inflicted upon the Church.
Conclusion: Request of your prayers
While it is necessary that I inform you of the decisions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the situations which have necessitated these decisions are profoundly sad for me as, I am sure, they are for you. Our archdiocese has suffered great spiritual harm, over the past four years because of the situation of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation. As we thank God for the help which the Holy Father, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has given us in bringing about reconciliation and repentance, let us pray that the decisions of the Congregation will be received by the board of directors and Rev. Bozek with faith and obedience.
Please pray for the graces of reconciliation and repentance for the members of the Board of Directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation and Rev. Marek Bozek. I urge you to invoke especially the intercession of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church; Our Lady of Czetochowa, Queen of Poland, and St. Stanislaus Kostka.
by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke