Which of these two men is the real agent of heresy? Archbishop Burke or Fr. Bozek?
The New York Times has a feature on St. Stanislaus Kostka and it's trials and tribulations with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with in itself, and with it's current laicized and excommunicated pastor, Marek Bosek. This story has intrigued me for five or so years because it encompasses a number of issues with in Catholicism.
It didn't start out as a battle between progressives and traditionalists, as it seems to have since become. It started out as a typical brazen corporate raid for assets led by then Archbishop Raymond Burke. From the Times article:
For more than a century, St. Stanislaus has enjoyed a rare role within the archdiocese. A lay board of directors governs the parish, and church property and financial assets are owned by the congregation. That relationship began to shift in 2003, when the archdiocese proposed that St. Stanislaus’s property and assets — then estimated at $8 million — be brought under an archdiocese-managed trust.
Fearing the archbishop would close the parish and use its proceeds to combat the sexual-abuse scandal, the congregation balked. As negotiations dragged on, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, arguing the parish was out of compliance with canon law, turned up the pressure on the church by removing its archdiocesan priests — effectively denying communion to parishioners. (In language not covered in Canon Law, this move would be called 'spiritual extortion'.)
With its isolated congregation withering under censure, the board reached out to several archdiocesan priests who surreptitiously conducted Mass. Eventually, the congregation approached Mr. Bozek, a young Polish-born priest from the neighboring Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
“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.” (These are people who were intentionally spiritually starved by their shepherd in order to access their money and assets. This could easily be considered heresy on the part of the Archbishop.)
In anticipation of the 2005 Christmas Eve Mass, Archbishop Burke turned up the extortion by excommunicating Bozek and the parish governing board. He declared them in 'schism' from the Church. The Vatican subsequently affirmed Burke's excommunications and laicised Bozek last year. In view of formally being cut off from the Church it's not surprising the congregation felt free to redefine their understanding of Catholicism. One could make a very compelling case that it was not Fr Bozek who led this parish into heresy and schism, but Archbishop Burke, as essentially there was absolutely nothing left for them to lose.
As is usual with these kinds of cases in which the Institution can never be at fault by it's own self definition, the official Vatican position is that the Marek Bozek and the parish are at fault: The victims are actually the perpetrators and the perpetrator is the victim:
“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.”
While the story of St Stanislaus Kostka is a case of asset abuse rather than sexual abuse, the same dynamics are in place. Ecclesiastical authority is never accountable for any of it's actions, no matter what consequences may ensue. What is even more scandalous about this particular case, is the Vatican has now made Burke prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest judicial authority. It looks to me like a Canonical heretic has been put in charge of determining canonical heresy. Only in the Vatican, where ecclesial heresy is becoming an art form, would this be possible.
For another look at the potential heresy in our bishops, I recommend this article written by victims advocate Vinnie Nauheimer. Perhaps Mr. Nauheimer is dead on in his analysis. What Catholics are facing in the upper levels of the hierarchy is not just corruption, self protecting behavior, and fear, but out right heresy. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened, as Martin Luther pointed out, but maybe it can be the last time.