Vatican imposes penalties on retired Polish bishop after ‘Vos estis’ probe

Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy, bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, Poland, from 1992 to 2013./ Stanislao via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Vatican has imposed penalties on retired Polish Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy after an investigation into his handling of clerical abuse cases.

The Archdiocese of Kraków announced May 28 that the Vatican had taken the step following an investigation conducted under the norms of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

The 83-year-old served as bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec from 1992 to 2013, when he retired after his 75th birthday. The diocese in southern Poland is in the ecclesiastical province of Kraków.

Kraków archdiocese disclosed on Oct. 9, 2020, that the pope had authorized Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków to conduct an inquiry into negligence claims against Rakoczy, concerning abuse cases involving two priests in Bielsko-Żywiec diocese.

In a statement on Friday, Kraków archdiocese said: “Acting on the basis of the provisions of the Code of Canon Law and Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, the Holy See -- following formal notifications -- has conducted an investigation into the reported negligence of Bishop Tadeusz Rakoczy in cases of sexual abuse committed by certain clergy against minors.”

It said that following the probe, the Vatican had decided to ban Rakoczy from participating in public celebrations or meetings, including plenary meetings of the Polish bishops’ conference.

It also ordered him to lead a life of penance and prayer, and to pay money from his private funds to the Polish bishops’ St. Joseph Foundation, which works to prevent abuse and assists abuse survivors.

Rakoczy is the latest in a series of Polish bishops facing consequences after investigations under the Vos estis norms issued by Pope Francis in 2019 for an experimental period of three years.

Earlier this month, the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Jan Tyrawa, who was investigated for negligence in handling cases of sexual abuse by priests in his diocese.

Tyrawa, bishop of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz, in northern Poland, since 2004, was accused of knowing about the abusive tendencies of one of his priests and yet of having transferred him from parish to parish, rather than removing him from situations with minors.

The apostolic nunciature in Poland announced in March that the Vatican had sanctioned two retired bishops after canonical inquiries into accusations that they were negligent in their handling of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, archbishop of Gdańsk from 2008 to 2020, and Bishop Edward Janiak, who led the Diocese of Kalisz from 2012 to 2020, were ordered by the Holy See to live outside their former dioceses and told they cannot participate in public liturgies or non-religious gatherings within the territory of the dioceses.

The Vatican also imposed disciplinary measures on 97-year-old Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz in November 2020.

The churchman, who served as archbishop of Wrocław, in southwest Poland, from 1976 to 2004, was prohibited from attending any celebrations or public meetings. He was also forbidden to use bishops’ insignia.

He died 10 days after the sanctions were announced.

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

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