29 July 2021, The Tablet

Bishop reprimanded after abuse inquiry

Bishop reprimanded after abuse inquiry

A Krakow auxiliary bishop has become the latest Polish church leader to be reprimanded by Rome over sexual abuse. In a weekend statement, the Vatican's Warsaw nunciature said that it had concluded, after an “exact analysis” of evidence against Bishop Jan Szkodon (inset), that claims he sexually molested an underage girl two decades ago, had not been proved. However, it added that the auxiliary had “behaved rashly” by taking her to his private residence “without her parents’ presence”, and ordered “a three-month closed retreat, devoted to reflection and prayer”.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Wiktor Skworc of Katowice said that he had resigned from honorary citizenship of Tarnów, where he was bishop from 1997 to 2011, following confirmation earlier this month by a Vatican commission that he had ignored abuse by two local priests. The 73-year-old archbishop also gave up his bishops’ conference positions and requested retirement, while also agreeing to pay compensation.

The two are the latest senior Polish prelates sanctioned under the Pope’s May 2019 motu proprio, Vos estis lux mundi, after being accused of violating national law and Vatican guidelines by brushing aside abuse complaints. In November, the dying Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz of Wroclaw was barred from using episcopal insignia and denied the right to a cathedral funeral after being personally implicated in abuse.

In March the Vatican ordered Archbishop Slawoj Glódz of Gdansk and Bishop Edward Janiak of Kalisz to compensate victims and avoid “public religious celebrations or lay meetings”. Glodz was later criticised for agreeing to serve as mayor of his eastern home town of Piaski.

In May, the Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Jan Tyrawa of Bydgoszcz amid similar cover-up claims, while retired Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy of Bielsko-Zywiec was banned from public appearances and ordered to lead “a life of penance and prayer”, while paying an “appropriate amount” to the Polish Church's St Joseph Foundation, set up in 2019 to assist abuse victims.

In late June, the Polish Church's child protection delegate, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, said retired Bishop Stefan Regmunt of Zielona Góra-Gorzów had been barred from public appearances and participating in the bishops’ conference, and ordered to pay personal funds to an anti-abuse foundation, while the Poznan archdiocese said parallel measures had been ordered by the nunciature against retired Bishop Stanislaw Napierala of Kalisz.

Poland’s Catholic news agency KAI reported the same day that Pope Francis had ordered a “special commission” to investigate abuse-linked accusations against retired Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, former personal secretary of St John Paul II.

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