Disgraced Polish Cardinal Dies

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by Martina Moyski  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 20, 2020   

'A very sad story'

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WROCŁAW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - A prominent Polish prelate recently censured by the Vatican for sexual abuse and cover-up died earlier this week. 

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Abp. Stanislaw Gadecki

The death of Cdl. Henryk Gulbinowicz, archbishop emeritus of Wrocław, was announced Monday morning by the Polish bishops' conference. The cardinal was hospitalized just days after the Polish apostolic nunciature announced sanctions over charges he sexually abused a seminarian and covered up for clerical abuse. Gulbinowicz was 97 years old.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the head of the bishops' conference, asked God to forgive Gulbinowicz.

"I am asking God in His mercy to forgive the deceased for causing suffering to those harmed and pain to the community of believers," Gądecki said in a statement. "While unequivocally expressing disapproval of the sins committed, one must not forget about the good that many people shared through his life and ministry. May he rest in peace!"

Accused Predator, Communist Informer

In 2019, prosecutors in Wrocław began an investigation into allegations that Gulbinowicz sexually abused a seminarian in the 1980s, but they dropped the case because the statute of limitations had passed. Gulbinowicz had headed the archdiocese of Wrocław for 28 years until he retired in 2004.

They dropped the case because the statute of limitations had passed. 

Gulbinowicz was cited in a 2019 Polish documentary "Just Tell No One" about predator priests and clerical cover-up. The documentary claimed Gulbinowicz covered up for a priest accused of abusing minors by vouching for him.

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Associated Press (AP) reported on recent allegations that the hierarch was an informer for the communist-era secret police.

According to the AP, a historian at the Institute of National Remembrance, a Polish institute charged with archiving historical documents, "has written that communist-era secret police had information about his homosexual relations with young people, suggesting that [this] knowledge could have been a factor in why he was pressured to be an informer."

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Rafał Kowalski

Sanctions Imposed on 'Doctrinal' Author

On Nov. 6, the nunciature announced the sanctions the Holy See had placed on the cardinal. They included Gulbinowicz' being:

  • prohibited from taking part in any public celebration or meeting 
  • prohibited from using the episcopal insignia
  • deprived a funeral service and burial in the cathedral

He was also ordered to donate an "appropriate sum" to Saint Jozef Foundation, dedicated to supporting victims of sexual abuse.

Father Rafał Kowalski, spokesman for the Wrocław archdiocese, noted that the severity of the sanctions applied to the cardinal confirms the truthfulness of the charges against him, according to Polonia Christiana.

Kowalski elaborated:

The fact that the matter has been dealt with, clarified and brought to a conclusion confirms that there is no leniency in the Church for this kind of crime and that it will never be allowed to tolerate it. Despite the fact that we are talking about deeds that took place decades ago, in the Church they will never be considered obsolete. It also allows us to trust that the Church reacts firmly and does not allow such situations to be repeated today and in the future.

According to the Vatican Press Office, Gulbinowicz is the author of a number of works in the area of moral and doctrinal theology and on the formation of the clergy.

His life — and death — is a very sad story.

The cardinal was noted for supporting the Solidarity trade union which played a critical role in the collapse of communism in Poland in the 1980s. He is known to have hidden Solidarity activists in church buildings and helped the trade union store its funds.

"In Wrocław the cardinal was very popular, a legend almost, but rumors swirled that journalists and some politicians knew about his inclinations," according to a Church Militant contact who lives in Wrocław and who wishes to remain anonymous. "His life — and death — is a very sad story."

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