Bozek, a former priest of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, confirmed the report, explaining that he will leave St. Stanislaus if the church is able to work out an agreement with the Archdiocese of St. Louis to bring the church back into the Roman Catholic Church and the archdiocese.
Bozek, a native of Poland who was ordained a priest in Springfield in 2002, left the Springfield diocese in December 2005 to take the position of priest at St. Stanislaus, formerly the official Polish parish in St. Louis.
The action was taken without the permission of either the bishop of Springfield or the archbishop of St. Louis. This led to Bozek’s excommunication that same month and his laicization in 2009.
The issues that called Bozek to St. Stanislaus started in 2004 when then-Archibishop Raymond Burke ordered the parish to change its structure — since its founding in the 19th century the parish has owned and managed its own finances and property — to confirm to other parishes in the archdiocese by turning over control of its assets to the archbdiocese.
The church’s lay board refused, at the time declaring that the archbishop was actually planning to close the parish, which is located in the inner city.
Burke then refused to assign a priest to the parish or permit a priest to officiate Mass there.
When Bozek requested that he be allowed to offer a Polish Mass at the church, that request was denied, as was a later plan to bus the members to Springfield where Bozek would lead a Polish Mass for them.
The parish board then asked Bozek to become the church’s priest, flaunting church rules and causing Bozek to lose his standing with the church.
Board members were also excommunicated, and in January 2006 the parish was officially removed from the archdiocese and the Roman Catholic Church.
Since then, St. Stanislaus has continued to operate as an independent Catholic church. Without the restrictions of the archdiocese and the Vatican, Bozek has openly supported women’s ordination and welcomed gays and lesbians at St. Stanislaus, drawing many new members to the church while alienating more taditional members.
Some of those members have reconciled with the archdiocese and joined in a lawsuit against Bozek and the current board.
According to Bozek, St. Stanislaus now has about 550 active households in the church.
In November, Bozek announced to the congregation that he would leave St. Stanislaus if that would help to facilitate a reconciliation between the church and the archdiocese.
“I have been telling them forever that if there is a chance of reconciliation ... I shall not be the last stumbling block,” Bozek said in a telephone interview today.
“I gave them my word that I will be with them as long as there is no priest here,” he said. “As priest and pastor, I cannot simply abandon all the people who have found a home at St. Stanislaus.”
Bozek said that negotiations between St. Stanislaus and the archdiocese have been continuing and compromise is possible.
“If St. Stanislaus can find a common language with the archdiocese ... the parish will become Roman Catholic again, with all the blessings and all the limitations that go with it.”
Those limitations could cause many of the members to leave the parish, but a reunion with the Catholic Church is also likely to draw other members back, he said.
Bozek said when that happens he will establish his own church. “It will be Catholic in the way it looks, smells and sounds,” he said.
“Our services, our faith and our traditions would be identical to every other Catholic church around us.”
The church would not be under the juristiction of the archdiocese or the Vatican, nor would it be part of any other organized Catholic movement.
“It would be an independent Catholic church,” he said.
Among the major differences in the church would be that clergy would not be limited to celibate males, a restriction that Bozek said has created a “dangerous situation” for the church, including the growing sexual abuse scandal.
“The disciplines are outdated, unjust and harmful,” Bozek said. “At the same time, I appreciate the Catholic faith and traditions. The faith is what makes us Catholic, not the discipline,” which he pointed out has changed over the church’s history.Bozek said his sermon Sunday, called on the congreation to “listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, not the voice of Father Bozek, not the voice of the pope. ... Our conscience is the supreme judge of our moral actions.
“I told them to discern and pray, then follow their conscience.”