It is being widely reported that the pope has accepted the resignation of a Polish bishop whose diocese has been rocked by gay sex scandals.
The most recent incident appears to revolve around a male sex-worker who was found in the apartment of a priest.
The Vatican has confirmed that bishop Grzegorz Kaszak of the diocese of Sosnowiec, in south-western Poland, has resigned but has not released details of why he has resigned. At 59, Kaszak is several years shy of the normal retirement age of 75.
The diocese of Sosnowiec has been in the spotlight after one of the local priests was placed under criminal investigation for having allegedly organised an orgy at his apartment in Dąbrowa Górnicza involving a male sex-worker. Polish media reported that one of the participants of the sex party collapsed after overdosing on erectile dysfunction pills.
A prosecutor said the priest was suspected of “failing to provide assistance to a person whose life is at risk” for having allegedly tried to bar paramedics from entering the apartment.
It was not the first incident involving clergy from the diocese to make headlines.
In 2010, the then acting rector of the Sosnowiec seminary allegedly got into a scuffle at a gay club, but was allowed to remain in his job for more than a year even after the case was publicised by Polish media. The Holy See finally intervened and dissolved the seminary altogether.
In March 2023, the corpse of a 26-year-old deacon was found with injuries suggesting homicide. Local prosecutors said he had been killed by a 40-year-old priest who then killed himself.
Kaszak was appointed bishop in 2009 by then pope, Benedict XVI, after having served briefly as number two in the Vatican’s family office.
The diocese, which identified the priest involved in the purported orgy as Tomasz Z, has largely corroborated the media reports, saying an outside investigative commission had concluded he committed “a very serious violation of moral norms”, as well as of his obligations as a clergyman.
Kaszak dismissed the priest from all functions on 21 September and initiated an in-house canonical trial, the outcome of which could result in defrocking, or laicisation, according to a statement on the diocesan website.
The priest has not been charged by Polish prosecutors. Polish media quoted a statement he issued soon after the scandal erupted, denying he had prevented paramedics from accessing his apartment and questioning the definition of “orgy”.
Where does the Catholic Church stand on LGBTQ people?
Whatever your religious beliefs or otherwise, the Catholic Church continues to play a powerful role in world politics and in the day-to-day lives of millions of people around the world.
An institution built on thousands of years of history, the Catholic Church continues to try and evolve to reflect the changing landscape of social attitudes and political realities while navigating its scandals.
The history of the Church
The Catholic Church traces its origins to the disciples of Jesus Christ, but it was in the year 380 AD that the Church as we know it today began to emerge. It was at that time that Catholicism became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
While there have been various ups and downs throughout the subsequent centuries, during the 15th and 16th centuries the Catholic Church dramatically expanded its reach by supporting the colonial ambitions of the European powers. As new territories were conquered, missionaries spread Catholicism throughout Asia, Africa, the islands of the Pacific, and the Americas.
Today, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church, with a congregation of around 1.3 billion people.
Early views on LGBTQ people
At the time that the Catholic Church emerged, it was effectively defining itself in relation to the culture and traditions of the Roman Empire. From its early days, the Church issued laws against sodomy but these were initially aimed at ensuring discipline within the ranks of its priests and monks. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the Church made it clear that the ban on sodomy applied to everyone who followed the Catholic doctrine. In the highly influential Summa Theologica - written in the 13th century - Thomas Aquinas, who was a highly influential leader within the Catholic Church, stated that sodomy or “the unnatural vice” is the greatest of the sins of lust.
Notable statements by the Catholic Church in recent decades, include:
1976: Pope Paul VI published a statement that outlawed extra-marital sex, including same-sex intercourse.
1993: Pope John Paul II published a statement that made a distinction between homosexual intercourse and homosexual orientation. The Pope stated that homosexual intercourse is performed by choice of the will, whereas homosexual orientation is usually not a matter of free choice. This enabled the Church to continue to take a hard line against same-sex intercourse while having a softer line against people who identified as LGBTQ.
2013: Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.
2018: The Vatican used the acronym LGBT for the first time in an official document. The document looked at how the Catholic Church could better support LGBT youth.
2018: Pope Francis made a statement that acknowledged that homosexual people have existed in the whole history of humankind. He also said that homosexuality is not an illness, and that Catholic parents should talk with their homosexual children and that they shouldn’t be excluded from the family.
2020: Pope Francis, discussing the topic in an interview said: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
Is the Catholic Church an ally of the LGBTQ community?
While progress has been made, the Catholic Church is a long way from embracing LGBTQ people as equals. Changes in the teachings of the Church appear to have been made in order to respond to socially progressive advocates within their congregation, as opposed to any fundamental beliefs in human rights.