the Roman Catholic Church is already trying to overcome sex-scandals in several other countries, including the United States. Juliusz Paetz, 67, the archbishop of Poznan, told priests who renewed their priesthood oaths, that he had submitted his resignation for the "good of the church", and that Pope John Paul had accepted it.
"The Holy Father accepted my resignation," wire services quoted him as saying. But speaking in Poznan Cathedral, the bishop denied any wrongdoing, saying that his "kindness and spontaneity" had been misinterpreted. Fellow priests have accused him of paying night visits to the lodgings of seminarians, cuddling up to young clerics in public and using an underground tunnel to pay unannounced visits to his targets.
The claims have been difficult to independently verify. An investigation team of the Vatican reportedly only discovered "inappropriate" behavior, but could apparently not establish if the alleged sexual misconduct had taken place.
Paetz is believed to be the highest ranking Catholic churchman to resign over a sex scandal since Austria’s Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer was forced into retirement in 1995 after charges of molesting former students.
In Rome the Vatican confirmed that the Polish-born Pope had agreed with the resignation of Paetz, who worked closely with him from 1978-1982 during the Pontiff’s extensive travels. His successor was identified as Monsignor Stanislaw Gadecki, 52, an auxiliary bishop in the town of Gniezno, Vatican sources said.
The latest developments came just a week after the Pope already denounced "sins of our brothers" following a major pedophile scandal that was discovered this month within the Roman Catholic Church of the United States, while other cases of sexual abuse and harassment have also been reported in Ireland and Australia.
In last week’s annual letter to priests, the Pope said that "these brothers had succumbed to the most grievous form of evil at work in the world," which he added brought scandal upon the Church and made even the "finest" priests look suspicious.
Church observers have warned that the Roman Catholic Church could face hundreds of millions and possible billions of dollars in law suits in the United States alone. However the scandal in Poland, where 95 percent of its 39 million people are at least nominally Roman Catholic, is seen as another very personal set back for Pope John Paul, who already struggles with poor health.
The Pope’s health has been failing since the early 1990s, when symptoms of Parkinson’s disease first appeared. His left hand now trembles uncontrollably. He had a colon tumor removed in 1992, dislocated his shoulder in 1993, broke his femur in 1994, and had his appendix removed in 1996.
The Reuters news agency quoted doctors as saying that the Pope, who already has problems walking on his right leg because of the 1994 bone replacement surgery, may have ever more difficulty moving by himself. This became also clear Thursday, March 28, when for the second time in five days, the frail Pope attended but did not celebrate a major Holy Week mass at the Vatican.
However reporters point out he did read the sermon from his throne, and made an indirect reference to the sex scandals in Poland and other countries. "We pray for those priestly brothers of ours who have not lived up to the commitments they made when they were ordained or who are going through a period of difficulty and crisis," he said, according to local reports.