Polish cardinal denies accusations of covering up sex crimes, bribery

Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, one of Poland’s most senior clerics and a former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, had denied allegations that he had covered up the sexual abuse of children and took bribes.

The 81-year-old cardinal was responding to a documentary broadcast by TVN24, a Polish news channel. The documentary, 'Don Stanislao: A Second Face of Cardinal Dziwisz,' presented documents and interviews suggesting that Dziwisz was involved in the covering up of sexual crimes by priests around the world and may have received bribes.

"Never, I repeat: never did I accept any money to cover up acts or facts deserving the attention of the Holy Father; never, and once again, never did I support despicable people in return for donations written into some perverse logic of exchange," Dziwisz said in a statement to Ansa, an Italian news agency.

He added that the accusations were aimed "at destroying the service I provided with full humility to Saint Pope John Paul II."

In the documentary Dziwisz's name appears in the context of major sex scandals, including that of Marcialo Maciel Degollado, the founder of the religious institute the Legion of Christ, who was forced to withdraw from activity in the Church following accusations of the sexual abuse of children.

He was also linked to the former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019 for sexual abuse. The Polish broadcaster also accused Dziwisz of unclear financial links with the abusers.

TVN24 also said Dziwisz had ignored signs of paedophilic abuse in the Polish Church and failed to act despite the fact that a priest notified the cardinal of a child abuse case as early as in 2012.

Explaining the reasons behind his statement, the cardinal said that "because the sparks caused by the report crossed the borders of my beloved Homeland, reaching also Italy and Rome, I wish to reject with equal force and even greater indignation the spiteful suggestions and slanderous accusations." He called the allegations "equally scandalous as groundless."

Dziwisz recalled that Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki had already ordered an independent commission to be set up in order to investigate his role as the personal secretary to John Paul II, saying he supported the move so that his "transparent and always unselfish performance could be confirmed."