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Pope accepts resignation of Polish bishop after scandal at diocese

The nunciature did not indicate in an Oct. 24 statement the reasons why Bishop Grzegorz Kaszak of Sosnowiec resigned

Polish Bishop Grzegorz Kaszak of Sosnowiec

Polish Bishop Grzegorz Kaszak of Sosnowiec. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Published: October 26, 2023 05:14 AM GMT

Updated: October 26, 2023 05:19 AM GMT

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a Polish bishop in whose diocese a priest organized a "sexual orgy" as Polish media reported. The nunciature did not indicate in an Oct. 24 statement the reasons why Bishop Grzegorz Kaszak of Sosnowiec resigned, but commentators in Poland expressed surprise at the news of what they called a "fast-track" resignation.

"I am surprised that the reaction of the Vatican was so quick," said Tomasz Terlikowski, Polish journalist and former head of a sexual abuse investigation commissioned by the Dominican order.

Bishop Kaszak is 59, well below age 75, when canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope.

"We can always complain it did not happen 10 years ago, but still -- given the recent events -- the reaction was very, very quick," Terlikowski told OSV News.

The recent events that Terlikowski mentioned were what the media in Poland described as a "sexual orgy" or "gay orgy" that happened in a rectory in Dabrowa Górnicza -- a town in the Sosnowiec Diocese, in the Silesia region. An Aug. 30-31 sex party involving a male prostitute in a priest's apartment ended with one of the participants needing medical assistance after overdosing on medicine, which initial reports indicated were erectile dysfunction pills. Polish media reported that the priest organizing the party, identified as Father Tomasz Z., allegedly tried to stop paramedics from entering the rectory.

The earlier incident Terlikowski referenced, as AP reported, took place in 2010, when the then-acting rector of the Sosnowiec seminary "allegedly got into a scuffle at a gay club" but kept his job for over a year, even after Polish media reported the situation. The Vatican later dissolved the seminary altogether.

Regarding Bishop Kaszak's resignation, Terlikowski said, "I think the Vatican was so quick in reacting because of the clear pressure visible not only in Polish, but also international media, and my impression is that pressure makes sense, and that this case was simply spectacular."

"Besides, it's not the first scandalous case in Bishop Kaszak's diocese -- we can't pretend the speedy procedure is pure coincidence," he added.

The priest responsible for the party at the rectory issued a statement circulated by the Polish media soon after the scandal erupted, denying it was an "orgy" or that he had prevented paramedics from accessing the rectory.

"I perceive this as an obvious attack on the church, including the clergy and the faithful, in order to humiliate its position, tasks and mission," he said in a statement sent to Gazeta Wyborcza, a daily newspaper.

"I strongly object that, aware of the danger of losing a person's life, I do not want to take steps to save it," he added.

The local prosecutor is conducting an investigation in the case of the sex party, but other dark clouds over Bishop Kaszak's diocese also are being investigated by the prosecutor. On March 7, the bodies of two clergymen were found in the diocese -- a 26-year-old deacon was murdered and a 45-year-old priest committed suicide.

According to Polish Press Agency PAP, prosecutors said the two had been in a conflictual relationship and that the priest killed the deacon, then later killed himself by throwing himself in front of a train, according to the Interia Polish website, which also reported the curia knew about the psychological problems of the murderer for a long time and that the priest had sent the deacon threatening messages.

"I think it's important that a group of Polish bishops who want these kinds of cases to move forward quicker and know how important communicating scandals transparently is, is in Rome right now for the synod," Terlikowski said. "That might have made things move a lot faster," he added.

One of the bishop-delegates for the synod, Archbishop Adrian Galbas of Katowice, was appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Sosnowiec.

"Now the big question is who will be appointed as bishop next," Terlikowski told OSV News. "Archbishop Galbas is a great pick, but he is busy with his own problematic diocese that he took over not long ago in Katowice," he added.

Terlikowski pointed out that the problem of Sosnowiec Diocese can be seen broader in a light of crisis of sexual abuse in the church in Poland as well as mistakes critics of St. John Paul II accuse him of making in the appointment of bishops by the end of his pontificate.

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