Juliusz Paetz.jpgPope Benedict has to his credit always been brutally frank about his disgust over sexually abusive clergy, and in his talks for this year for the Priest he has made the personal holiness of clergy a touchstone. Remember his Way of the Cross meditations for Good Friday in March 2005, less than a month before his election?

“How much filth there is in the church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him,” he wrote. “The soiled garments and face of your church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again.”

So how to explain this item out of Poland, as reported in The Tablet of July 4?

A DISGRACED archbishop who resigned after sexually molesting local seminarians has received a message from Pope Benedict XVI, congratulating him on his “saving work for the good of the Church”.

“Guiding your sheepfold, you gave a testimony of faith in the resurrection of Christ which drove away all fear,” Pope Benedict told Juliusz Paetz [shown above], the former Archbishop of Poznan. “Venerating Mary as Mother of the Church and Queen of Poland with a son’s love, and piously worshipping the saints and blessed of your land along with your people, you laboured for spiritual progress.”

In a telegram to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest and published by the Poznan archdiocese’s Przewodnik Katolicki weekly, the Pope praised Archbishop Paetz’s “fruitful service” for the Church in Poland and abroad.

Pope John Paul II accepted the March 2002 resignation of Archbishop Paetz after he was accused of repeatedly abusing trainee priests in his western archdiocese. However, he continued to live in the Poznan Curia and participate in church events, including a youth rally in June 2007 and theology faculty anniversary this April.

The archbishop, now 74, has attended several recent audiences with Pope Benedict in Rome, where he owns a luxury apartment, and was shown on state television in May 2006 greeting the Pope during his pilgrimage to Poland. In November, a parliamentary commission investigated his past after media claims that he had acted as a Communist-era secret police informer while working at the Vatican in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Commenting on the Pope’s message, the mass-circulation Gazeta Wyborcza daily said Archbishop Paetz’s continued public appearances had caused “distaste among many local people”, while the Polska daily said the Pope’s “great respect” for the archbishop was “surprising in view of Benedict XVI’s severe statements on clergy who violate celibacy”.

Surprising indeed.

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