The Polish Bishops have been forced to disown a rogue prelate who questioned the faith of the German Church, backed Pope Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah on compulsory priestly celibacy and called Pope Francis a “heretic”.

Driving the news

Polish Bishops’ Conference spokesman Paweł Rytel-Andrianik issued a statement January 22 distancing the Polish Church from the views of Archbishop Jan Paweł Lenga, now resident in Poland after serving as Bishop of Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

“Archbishop Lenga has never been and is not a member of the Polish Episcopal Conference”, declared Rytel-Andrianik.

The spokesman said that for that reason Lenga’s views “cannot be identified in any way with the Polish Episcopal Conference… They cannot be treated as the positions of the Polish Bishops”.

“Archbishop Lenga does not represent the Catholic Church in Poland”, Rytel-Andrianik insisted, adding that “it is regrettable that Archbishop Lenga appears in the media and misleads the faithful”.

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It is precisely Lenga’s latest appearance on Polish media that has caused outrage and bewilderment even among the ranks of Poland’s ultraconservative hierarchy.

In a talk show on Polish state television, Lenga praised the merits of the Latin Mass and applauded Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sarah’s interference in the debate on compulsory priestly celibacy.

If only Benedict had spoken up earlier, the opening to optional celibacy at the Amazon Synod could have been avoided, Lenga said.

The prelate added that without compulsory celibacy, the Church would become an “ordinary earthly party and human organisation”, without a trace of the divine.

Lenga also voiced support for self-proclaimed Vatican ‘whistleblower‘ Carlo Maria Viganò – infamous for accusing Pope Francis of covering up the sex abuse of now ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

He also attacked German Bishops’ President Cardinal Reinhard Marx, whose Church, Lenga said, has “nothing to do” with the Catholic Church.

On YouTube and in a book published in Poland in 2018, Lenga accused Pope Francis of preaching falsehood and sin in the place of 2,000 years of Church traditions and went so far as to label the current pontiff a “heretic”.

Why it matters

Lenga, a Marian Father born to Polish parents in 1950 in what is now the western Ukraine, is a peripheral but important figure in the resistance to Pope Francis, the spirit of whose pontificate the Polish Bishops have hardly embraced either.

In May 2019, Lenga signed his name along with a small number of other ultraconservative cardinals and bishops including US cardinal Raymond Burke to a “declaration of truths” reaffirming 40 key Church doctrines in the face of the “almost universal doctrinal confusion and disorientation” that the co-signers said had taken hold under the present pontificate.

Lenga and company’s “declaration of truths” was just one in a long line of ultraconservative initiatives that have attempted to destabilise Francis’ pontificate to the point of forcing him to resign, but with no effect to date.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.