For the first time, a civil court in France completely prohibits a priest from exercising his ministry
By Clémence Houdaille
La Croix International (01.07.2019) – https://bit.ly/2YuIneJ – A former priest for a community of parishes in the Upper Rhine region of France near the German and Swiss borders has been found guilty of embezzling approximately €400,000 worth of assets belonging to two octogenarian sisters.
Father Ryszard Pszczolkowski was sentenced on June 27 by the Mulhouse Criminal Court (Upper Rhine) to three years in prison for the crime.
This penalty “constitutes the legal maximum” incurred in such a case, said the lawyer Thierry Moser, who was the plaintiff for one of the sisters, now 92 years old, and her three nephews and nieces. The other sister died in 2014.
Father Pszczolkowski, who was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Strasbourg was also sentenced to five years’ suspension from administering his priestly duties, a punishment that “a little surprised” Father Bernard Xibaut, the archdiocesan chancellor.
“This priest had already been suspended “a divinis” forbidding him from celebrating Mass or administer the sacraments in 2016 by the now retired Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet, as a precautionary measure, when we learned of his detention,” the chancellor noted.
“We had also reported his case to Rome, and will now transmit the civil judgment to the Vatican, requesting that it be removed from the clerical state. But this is the first time we have seen a civil judgment prohibiting someone from administering his priestly duties as such — and not just this or that aspect of the priesthood such as contact with young people for example,” he said.
Native of Poland, incardinated in Strasbourg
This priest was indicted in April 2016 and imprisoned for abuse of the weak and vulnerable people and for violence against them.
Sick at the time of his incarceration, he had not administered his priestly duties for a few months. During the hearing held on June 27, psychologist experts painted a portrait of a “perverse” man, endowed with a “strong personality” who “imposes himself,” on others, according to lawyer Moser.
The two “very pious” sisters,” “fell under his influence.” They were fascinated by and admired him. He “pressured them” by “acts of physical, psychological and moral manipulation,” using and abusing his priestly status, said the lawyer.
The defendant had managed to obtain a power of attorney over his victims’ bank accounts and to be named as a universal legatee, collecting over the years approximately €400,000 worth of assets.
Having arrived in Alsace in the 1980s, “like a certain number of Polish priests,” according to the archdiocesan chancellor, Father Pszczolkowski, was in conflict with his native diocese. He had been put under the authority of a bishop “perhaps a little too quickly” in the Archdiocese of Strasbourg.
As the court did not issue a warrant of arrest, Father Pszczolkowski currently resides in a religious house in Bas-Rhin.
HRWF Comment: A clear abuse of weakness.