Wednesday 10 April 2024

Priest sentenced to prison for drug and sexual offences

A Polish priest has been sentenced to one and a half years in prison for drug and sexual offences. 

The judgement was handed down on Tuesday by the Dąbrowa Górnicza District Court after one day of hearings, according to the Polish state news agency PAP

The priest must also pay a total of 15,000 złoty (3,500 euros) to the victim and a fund for victim support. 

The verdict is not yet final, but according to the agency, the defence and public prosecutor's office intend to waive their right to appeal and accept the verdict. 

The trial was held in camera to protect the victims.

In January, the public prosecutor's office issued an arrest warrant for the priest Tomasz Z. and brought charges in four cases

At the end of August last year, the police were called to the accused's rectory after a participant at a sex party fainted after taking sexual enhancers. 

The public prosecutor's charges therefore related to drug offences and failure to provide assistance: the priest is said to have initially not allowed the emergency services into the flat. 

The public prosecutor's office rejected media reports that one of those involved was a prostitute.

Canon law investigation still ongoing

The Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on the sex party, after which the diocese of Sosnowiec in southern Poland suspended the priest and set up a commission of enquiry; in October, a church criminal investigation was opened. 

"The facts established by the commission, which are based on the statements of the persons interviewed, lead to the conclusion that Father Tomasz Z., together with two other lay people, committed a very serious violation of moral norms, which the Church does not tolerate and condemns in the strongest terms," a spokesperson for the diocese told the newspaper, emphasising the outrage of the faithful at the alleged acts. 

He also announced consequences: "Through his behaviour, Father Tomasz Z. has seriously violated the duties of the clerical profession, which can be considered a criminal offence under canon law." 

The diocese has not yet commented on the judgement.

In October, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Sosnowiec Bishop Gregor Kaszak

Neither the diocese nor the Holy See gave a reason for the resignation of the 59-year-old. 

In a letter to the faithful and clergy of his diocese, Kaszak asked "for forgiveness of my human limitations". 

If he had offended anyone or neglected anything, he was very sorry, said the resigned bishop. 

The former secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family had headed the diocese since 2009, which had already been in the headlines before. 

Following allegations of abuse, the seminary was closed in the first years of Kaszak's term of office. 

Observers criticised a moral decline in the diocese that lasted for years.