Archbishop Jozef Michalik attending the inauguration of the academic year at the Catholic University of Lublin on Monday. Photo: PAP/Wojciech Pacewicz
Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny alleges that Archbishop Michalik bought a certificate for 'Man of the Year 1998-99' from a widely criticised private institution, and has since been promoting it on his official web site.
The allegations provide further embarrassment for the clergyman following a series of controversial remarks that appeared to shift the blame for child abuse by priests towards children and their families.
On the web site of the head of the Polish Episcopate, an entry notes that the archbishop received the 1998/99 honour from “the International Biographical Centre at the University of Cambridge” in a category for “individuals whose leadership and achievements stand out in the international community.”
However, Sian Jones, a press officer at the University of Cambridge has indicated that the information is incorrect.
“I do not know of any links between our university and the International Biographical Centre,” she said.
When approached by the Catholic weekly, the International Biographical Centre itself denied links with the university. The centre is a private institution dedicated to publishing biographical dictionaries.
However, it has been frequently criticised for allegedly luring potential candidates to sign up.
The Department of Commerce of the Government of Western Australia concluded that “the material promoting the International Biographical Centre creates a false impression about the credentials of the organisation.”
In this respect, the archbishop may have been duped, along with dozens of other international luminaries.
According to Tygodnik Powszechny, a candidate can receive a copy of a relevant book “and a certificate confirming the receipt of one of the dozens of titles but you have to pay (according to a variety of sources, from 200 to 400 dollars).”
A secretary for the archbishop has said he will “clarify” the matter on the web site.
Meanwhile, Poland's attorney general Andrzej Seremet has said that “although it is a social duty”, clergyman are not obliged by law to inform prosecutors' offices about alleged instances of paedophilia in the Church.
Such obligations only pertain to employees of state institutions.
“The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure do not recognize church organizations as state institutions,” Seremet said.
The discussion on Poland Radio ZET follows widespread debate in the media about child abuse by priests, partly inspired by the Domincan Republic's calls for a Polish priest to be extradicted for alleged paedophilia. (nh/pg)