With a sex scandal in his troubled diocese under police investigation, a Polish bishop resigns

The scandal has gotten substantial attention in Poland, with the event widely described as a ‘gay orgy,’ further harming the image of the church in the once-staunchly Roman Catholic homeland of St. John Paul II

Pope Francis
Pope Francis attending the 16th General Congregation during the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, 23 October 2023.VATICAN MEDIA HANDOUT (EFE)

The pope on Tuesday accepted the resignation of a Polish bishop whose diocese has been rocked by reports of a sex party involving a male prostitute in a priest’s apartment, as well as previous violent incidents involving his clergy. The Vatican didn’t give a reason for why Bishop Grzegorz Kaszak was resigning as head of the diocese of Sosnowiec, in southwestern Poland. At 59, he is several years shy of the normal retirement age of 75.

But his diocese has been in the spotlight again after one of his priests was placed under criminal investigation for an Aug. 30-31 incident at his apartment in Dabrowa Gornicza that allegedly involved a male prostitute.

Polish media reported that one of the participants of a sex party at the home collapsed after overdosing on erectile dysfunction pills. The reports said the priest allegedly tried to initially bar paramedics from entering the apartment.

Waldemar Łubniewski, spokesman for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Sosnowiec, said the investigation focused on a “failure to provide assistance to a person in a situation that poses an immediate threat of loss of life or serious damage to health.”

The scandal has gotten substantial attention in Poland, with the event widely described as a “gay orgy,” further harming the image of the church in the once-staunchly Roman Catholic homeland of St. John Paul II. For several years now, Polish society has been undergoing a fast process of secularization, with many people rejecting the church and some even taking steps to leave it formally.

It wasn’t the first incident involving clergy in the diocese to make headlines, suggesting that the sex scandal was the final straw for the Vatican. Pope Francis moved with unusual speed to remove Kaszak after the bishop said he offered to resign Sept. 29.

In 2010, the then-acting rector of the Sosnowiec seminary allegedly got into a scuffle at a gay club, but was allowed to remain in his job for over a year even after the case was publicized by Polish media. The Holy See finally intervened and dissolved the seminary altogether, according to the PAP news agency.

In March 2023, the corpse of a 26-year-old deacon was found with injuries suggesting homicide. Local prosecutors said he had been killed by a 40-year-old priest who then committed suicide. Prosecutors said the two had been in a conflictual relationship for some time and that the priest had sent the deacon threatening messages, PAP reported.

In a statement Tuesday, Kaszak said he had asked the pope to let him resign in a letter Sept. 29. He thanked the priests and nuns of his diocese and asked “everyone to forgive my human limitations.” Kaszak was appointed bishop in 2009 by then-Pope Benedict XVI, after having served briefly as the No. 2 in the Vatican’s family office.

The diocese, which identified the priest involved in the incident as Fr. Tomasz Z., has largely corroborated the media reports, saying an outside investigative commission concluded he committed “a very serious violation of moral norms,” as well as of his obligations as a priest. It cited an “incident” at the priest’s apartment involving him and at least two other lay people.

Kaszak dismissed the priest from all functions on Sept. 21 and initiated an in-house canonical trial, the outcome of which could result in defrocking, or laicization, according to a statement on the diocesan website.

The priest has not been charged by Polish prosecutors. Polish media quoted a statement he issued soon after the scandal erupted, denying he had prevented paramedics from accessing his apartment and questioning the definition of “orgy.”

“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,” the priest was quoted in a statement he emailed to the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Polish tabloid Fakt published what it said was the audio recording of the call one of the participants made to police. In it, the person said he had been kicked out of the apartment and begged for paramedics to come, weeping at one point and saying his friend was foaming at the mouth after having ingested drugs. The Associated Press couldn’t immediately verify the authenticity of the recording.

The Polish Catholic Church has been rocked for several years by allegations of sexual abuse of minors involving the clergy, scandals that have led to the forced resignations of several bishops and tarnished the church’s reputation.

The Vatican embassy in Poland said a temporary administrator, Archbishop Adrian Galbas of Katowice, would run the diocese of Sosnowiec until a new bishop is named.

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