A Polish bishop whose diocese has been badly tarnished by reports of a gay orgy involving priests and a prostitute resigned on Tuesday, the latest in a long series of sexual and financial scandals in Poland’s Roman Catholic Church.
Grzegorz Kaszak, the bishop of Sosnowiec in southwestern Poland, announced his departure after one of his priests was placed under criminal investigation in connection with reports last month that he had organized a sex party during which a male prostitute lost consciousness from an overdose of erectile dysfunction pills.
Gazeta Wyborcza, a liberal daily newspaper, reported in September that one of the priests at the gathering, held in a building belonging to the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Angels in the town of Dabrowa Gornicza, had called an ambulance. Others at the party prevented paramedics from tending to the unconscious man, the paper reported, but the paramedics called the police and the priests relented.
The priest who organized the gathering in his church apartment, identified by the diocese only as Father Tomasz Z., gave a statement last month to Polish media that disputed details of what had happened, quibbling over the number of priests present at the time of the alleged sex party and saying that “it is worth reading what the definition of an orgy is.”
He dismissed the uproar over events in his apartment as “an obvious attack on the church, including the clergy and believers,” and claimed that nobody would have raised a fuss if “something similar had happened” to a person outside the clergy.
The diocese, in its own statement last month, said that the “participation” of Father Tomasz “in what happened on the night of Aug. 30-31 is not in doubt.” It said he had been barred from celebrating Mass, stripped of all other functions and “sent to live outside the parish.”
Announcing that the church had set up a commission to investigate “the scandalous event” reported by the press, the diocese asked media outlets to keep in mind that “almost all” priests in the parish were good and had themselves, by reporting what had taken place, “become victims due to this deplorable crime.”
Bishop Kaszak announced his departure Tuesday in a message posted on his diocese’s website but gave no reason. The Vatican said on Tuesday that it had accepted the bishop’s resignation. It, too, gave no explanation.
The departing bishop has not been accused of taking part in the reported orgy but is held responsible for the behavior of priests in his diocese.
“I ask everyone to forgive my human limitations,” he wrote in his farewell message. “If I have offended anyone or neglected something, I am very sorry.”
The resignation came less than a month after the Polish Catholic Church, in a lengthy report on the state of its affairs, warned that priests needed to get a grip on “crimes of sexual abuse of minors by some clergy” and other misbehavior.
“The church’s internal difficulties constitute an excellent breeding ground of accelerating trends of secularization,” the report, Polish Church 2023, said.
Trust in the church, according to experts, has also been damaged by its close alliance with Poland’s nationalist governing party, Law and Justice. In a critical general election on Oct. 15, the party lost its majority in Parliament to centrist and liberal opponents who have often criticized the church for aligning with right-wing political forces in pursuit of its agenda on abortion and other issues.
Law and Justice in 2018 banned Sunday shopping, and in 2020 pushed through a near-total ban on abortion, a move that delighted the church but alienated many young people, who mostly no longer attend Mass and voted overwhelmingly for parties opposed to Law and Justice.
Long seen as a Catholic stronghold that, in contrast to Ireland and Spain, had managed to hold back a tide of secularization that has swept across most of Europe, Poland has over the past decade seen a sharp decline in church attendance, though most still declare themselves Christians. Enrollment in seminaries has also plummeted, forcing several to shut down.
Lamenting that a process previously referred to by experts as “creeping secularization” was now “galloping,” the church report warned that “the church in Poland is entering a rather dangerous ‘twist’ in its history. Much depends on how it will be able to defeat this.”
Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting.