A Roman Catholic priest in Poland has been criticised for publicly humiliating parishioners who failed to pay for the upkeep of his church.
"It’s hard to prescribe how a rector should act in such situations – everything depends on how well he feels he knows his flock and what he thinks he can do," a spokesperson for the western Poland diocese of Zielona Gora-Gorzow, Andrzej Sapieha, was quoted as saying in Poland’s Metro daily newspaper.
"It’s no secret that small parishes are often poorly off financially and depend heavily on involvement by parishioners. Perhaps this priest wanted to mobilise them this way for a greater role in church life," he said.
The church official was responding to reports that the rector of St John the Baptist parish at Bogdaniec, the Rev. Gabriel Stozek, regularly read out the names of residents who failed to pay for his church and ordered them to clean it.
The town administrator, Bronislaw Wiacek, defended the rector’s action, noting that around one-third of the parish’s 2500 inhabitants had failed to make contributions for the church, which was restored in 1978 and had recently been given a new roof and a landscaped garden.
The rector was, however, criticised in local newspaper editorials, including one in the daily Lubuska Gazeta, which said he had not consulted local inhabitants about what he does.
The Catholic Church in Poland has in the past been criticised for failing to obtain consent for the public naming of parishioners.
In August 2006, several dioceses were reported to have agreed to name convicted drink-drivers from parish pulpits at the request of Justice Ministry officials, who said public censure was needed to supplement convictions.
Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper reported on 6 June that a list of teachers had been posted on a school notice board at Kroczewo in the Plock diocese after they ignored requests by the local rector, Marek Zawadzki, to prepare a street altar for his parish’s Corpus Christi procession.
"It’s our local tradition – besides which the priest directed us to prepare the altar from his pulpit, so we couldn’t refuse," the school’s deputy director, Teresa Zaleska, told the newspaper.
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