Vatican Absolves Polish Archbishop Accused of Sexual Molestation

The News
June 17, 2010

Juliusz Paetz
Photo by Marek Maliszewski/Polskie Radio

Against the wishes of some leading figures in Poland’s Roman Catholic church, the Vatican has revoked a ban imposed on Archbishop Juliusz Paetz - accused of sexually molesting clergy in 2002 – from leading religious ceremonies.

Eight years ago, the Rzeczpospolita newspaper alleged that Paetz, the then head of the archdiocese of Poznan, western Poland, sexually molested seminarians at his diocesan seminary.

Paetz denied the charges, claiming that he was the victim of a "broadly conceived and systematically conducted" smear campaign but resigned from his position and retired from public life.

Paetz’s supervisors in Poznan ignored complaints filed against him and even defended the archbishop. The local Prosecutor’s Office refused to open an investigation into the case as the alleged victims did not lay charges against the archbishop.

The Vatican long postponed the decision to punish Paetz - who once spent four years working in John Paul II’s papal household - but finally banned him from exercising episcopal ministry at the archdiocese of Poznan, forbidding him from giving the sacrament of confirmation, ordaining priests, consecrating churches or leading processions.

However, several weeks ago, the Vatican Congregation for Bishops revoked the ban, it has been revealed by TVP public television and other Polish media outlets.

“The archbishop has strived for the ban to be lifted for several years and now wants the Vatican’s decision to be announced in all Poznan churches,” the Poznan archdiocese informs.

The recent retirement of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re as Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops at the Holy See might have also facilitated the Vatican’s decision.

Divided Church

The Vatican’s decision to revoke Peatz’s ban on leading religious services has been criticized by the new archbishop of Poznan, Stanislaw Gadecki, however, who appealed for his privileges not to be returned as this would discredited Church hierarch.

The Catholic Church in Poland, especially in Poznan, is divided on the Vatican’s decision. Some priests claim that it is unethical and unjust, others point out that Paetz’s guilt has never been proved.

Archbishop Paetz himself did not want to comment on the news.

A priest from Poznan revealed that over the last few years the archbishop has been a regular guest at all kinds of celebrations and events in Poznan, including a special mass for young people.

“Instead of hiding in a mouse hole he appears in public. In 2006, at the Balice Airport in Krakow he exchanged hugs with the Pope Benedict XVI,” Prof. Krzysztof Podemski from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. “The Bible says that one sinner who does penance is worth 99 just men. The Church also receives those who had been dismissed,” says priest Adam Boniecki, editor-in-chief of the Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.

The controversy will fuel criticism of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that it is not taking accusations of sexual abuse by clergy seriously after recent reports of cover ups of complaints by congregations in Ireland, Germany and lately Denmark. (pg/mg)


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