The news, reported Friday by the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, that the leaders of the Reformed Catholic Church had dissolved their organization, puts the Rev. Marek Bozek and his parishioners at St. Stanislaus Kostka in a difficult position.
The Dispatch reported that the Reformed Catholic Church's leader, Archbishop Phillip Zimmerman, resigned last week saying he'd become the focus of controversy involving his own criminal background and the criminal background of one of the movement's priests - a convicted child molester. The church's bishops then voted to dissolve the organization, which had been founded in 2000.
From the Dispatch:
Zimmerman came under fire when e-mails and Internet postings pointed out that a convicted child molester and former priest was allowed to participate in the denomination's annual meeting in October. Sean-Michael Lyons wore vestments and sat with priests during Masses.
Then, news of Zimmerman's own conviction circulated online.
Zimmerman, whose full name is George Richard Phillip Zimmerman, pleaded guilty in 2005 to fraud for his role in a scheme that cost the U.S. Department of Education more than $533,000.
At the time, Zimmerman was executive director of Metro Technical Institute of Oak Park, Mich. Prosecutors said school officials executed a plan to obtain government funding for ineligible students and failed to return those funds. The scheme involved false documents in student files to deceive government inspectors, according to a release from the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit.
Zimmerman was sentenced in 2007 to 36 months on probation and was ordered to pay more than $550,000 in restitution.
The Reformed Catholic Church was an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church. Even before he was laicized, or defrocked, by Pope Benedict XVI in January, Bozek had requested - and was granted - "faculties" in the Reformed Catholic Church and another Catholic offshoot, Married Priests Now!
Bozek's bishop in Springfield suspended his faculties - or the authority to perform as a cleric - after the priest had fled the diocese in 2005 to become pastor of St. Stanislaus.
Bozek ultimately chose the faculties granted by Zimmerman's group after his involvement with Married Priests Now! became its own controversy within the walls of St. Stanislaus. Married Priests Now! is funded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and led by an excommunicated former Roman Catholic archbishop from Zambia.
The Roman Catholic Church, headed by the pope and based in Vatican City, doesn't recognize either the Reformed Catholic Church or Married Priests Now! as validly Catholic. But like many Catholic splinter groups, these two relied on the concept of apostolic succession, the idea of the perpetuation of bishops that extends chronologically from today back to Christ's apostles.
The problem for Bozek, now that the Reformed Catholic Church has been dissolved, is that both his apostolic succession and his faculties are gone. Last month, he announced at Mass that he was willing to step down if it would help resolve the church's ongoing legal dispute with the St. Louis Archdiocese.
With Christmas around the corner, parishioners may be wondering whether this will be the last midnight Mass celebrated by Bozek at St. Stanislaus.
In an e-mail message Monday afternoon, Bozek said the "dissolution of the RCC has no impact on my ministry."
Bozek said his faculties from the Reformed Catholic Church were temporary, and that niether he, nor St. Stanislaus, ever "joined the RCC."
"There is no requirement from St. Stanislaus that I recieve faculties from anywhere as we do not consider the sanctions (from the Roman Catholic Church) to be valid," he wrote.
He said he will not seek faculties from any other ecclesial body.