Polish cardinal sanctioned by Vatican over sexual abuse allegations unconscious in hospital

A prominent Polish cardinal who was recently sanctioned by the Vatican over sexual abuse allegations has been hospitalized since last week and remains unconscious, Polish media reported Tuesday.

Retired Archbishop Henryk Gulbinowicz was sanctioned by the Vatican last week after the 97-year-old was accused of sexually abusing a seminarian and of covering up abuse in another case.

Private Polish broadcaster TVN24 on Monday night aired a documentary suggesting that another well-respected churchman, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, covered up sex abuse by priests in Poland and elsewhere, including abuse of minors by the Mexican priest Marcial Meciel Degollado.

The head of Poland’s Catholic episcopate, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, said in a statement Tuesday he hopes that “all doubts” presented in the documentary “Don Stanislao. The other face of Cardinal Dziwisz” will be “clarified by the appropriate commission of the Holy See.”

Dziwisz, the retired archbishop of Krakow who served as secretary to beloved Polish pope St. John Paul II in 1978-2005, said he was ready to cooperate with a commission and wanted the matter to be “clarified in a transparent way.”

Commentators in Poland described the allegations against Dziwisz as very serious and said they cast a negative light on a figure respected for his service and devotion to John Paul II, who remains a source of national pride.

A few hundred protesters marched before the Bishop’s Palace in Krakow and then by Dziwisz’s residence chanting against him. The demonstration was part of daily protests held across Poland since Oct.22, when a top court tightened the abortion law of this predominantly Catholic nation.

Reacting to the TV documentary on Dziwisz, a Polish representative in the European Parliament, Lukasz Kohut requested a probe by Krakow prosecutors into the cardinal’s alleged backing of pedophile priests. A left-wing member of Poland’s parliament, Maciej Gdula, said Dziwisz should be stripped of his honorary Krakow citizenship.

In Gulbinowicz’s case, the Vatican Embassy in Poland said Friday that the former archbishop of Wroclaw has been forbidden from using his bishop’s insignia and participating in any religious celebrations or public events.

The once well-respected cardinal, who supported Poland’s pro-democracy Solidarity movement in the 1980s, has also been denied the right to have a cathedral burial service or to be buried in a cathedral.

Gulbinowicz was also ordered to pay a “certain amount of money” to a Polish church charity that supports victims of sexual abuse.

The embassy’s statement said the sanctioning decisions were taken as a “result of an investigation into accusations made against Card. Henryk Gulbinowicz and after an analysis of other allegations” concerning the cardinal.

Professor Wojciech Witkiewicz, head of the hospital in Wroclaw, told Radio Wroclaw Tuesday that Gulbinowicz is in a very serious condition and unconscious.

Local daily Gazeta Wroclawska said Gulbinowicz was hospitalized Wednesday. A few days earlier, Vatican envoys had informed him about the sanctions.

Mayor Jacek Sutryk has said Gulbinowicz should be stripped of his honorary Wroclaw citizenship.

Last year, prosecutors in Wroclaw opened an investigation into allegations against Gulbinowicz concerning sexual abuse of a seminarian in the 1980s, but they dropped the case because too much time had passed.

Gulbinowicz was also cited in a recent video documentary in Poland, called “Tell No One,” about predator priests and coverup efforts. It alleged that Gulbinowicz saved a priest suspected of abuse of minors from arrest by vouching for him.

Recently, allegations were also made that Gulbinowicz was an informer for the communist-era secret security.

Gulbinowicz is the latest Polish prelate to be sanctioned after a Vatican-mandated investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

The reckoning has rocked the Catholic hierarchy in Poland, where clergy have long been held in high esteem due to their support for Poles during the nation’s troubled history.