In memoriam: Bishop Tadeusz Ploski

The news of the death of many of Poland’s highest-ranking government and military officials was hard to avoid today. Of course, most attention goes to the President Lech Kaczynski and his immediate entourage, and obituaries may be found here and there already. Military officials and members of parliament are undoubtedly also remembered by people and institutions close to them. Here in my blog I want to give some specific attention to Bishop Tadeusz Ploski of the Military Ordinariate, who was also aboard the doomed Tupolev that crashed today near Smolensk, Russia.

A short overview of his life:

Bishop Ploski  was born in 1956 in the town of Lidzbark Warminski in the northeast of Poland. He entered seminary in Olsztyn in 1976 and was ordained to the priesthood of the Diocese (later archdiocese) of Warmia in 1982. From 1983 to 1986 he studied Church Law at the Catholic University of Lublin, after which he started working for the Polish bishops as a Church lawyer. From 1986 to 1992 he was editor of the Warmian diocesan newspaper as well as chaplain for the College of Education and the Academy of Agriculture and Technology in Olsztyn. In 1992 he was detached to the military. A year later he got his doctorate in Canon Law. In the years following he worked in various functions, always attached to the military, but also as a correspondent for Radio Vaticana and the Catholic News Agency. In 1998 he became a Professor in Religious Psychology in Olsztyn. He published some 150 articles about Canon Law and took part in numerous symposia and conferences about pastoral care and law in the military. On 16 October 2004, Pope John Paul II appointed him as bishop of the Polish military; he was installed on the 30th of the same month. Bishop Ploski was 54.

I’ve read rumours that Archbishop Henryk Muszynski, the Primate of Poland and as such the country’s highest cleric, was also considering joining the delegation to Katyn in Russia, which would join Russian officials in a remembrance for the Polish and Soviet victims who were murdered there in World War II. If true, the Archbishop evidently elected to stay at home, so avoiding a virtual disabling of the Church in Poland, not unlike the government has now been disabled.

Also on board the Tupolev were the following representatives of the Polish Churches: Archbishop Miron Chodakowski, Orthodox chaplain to the Polish military; Father Jan Osiński, field chaplain; Father Bronisław Gostomski, Father Jósef Joniec, Father Zdzisław Król and Father Andrzej Kwaśnik, priests.

I live in a city where there is a large Polish Catholic community. Judging by what I read on the Internet I can only imagine how they must feel. In a sign of solidarity I will join them for their Mass tomorrow morning at 11:15, at the church of St. Francis.



Fr. Lombardi on the sexual abuse issue, once again

Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ

Father Federico Lombardi, head oft he Vatican press office, has summarised some thoughts on the current debate about sexual abuse and all the related issues currently discussed in the media. He does so in a rather thorough communiqué in which he touches a several topics; most importantly, the victims and the concern we must have for them. Fr. Lombardi praises the fatherly efforts of several bishops and bishops’ conferences in that respect.

He also discusses the importance of the formation and education of candidates for the priesthood, especially in our modern secular world. Related to that, he mentions that the vast majority of cases now becoming public stem from the most intense period of the sexual revolution. There is little doubt, he says, that the number of new cases is on a steady decrease.

He puts the Catholic cases, serious as they are, once more in the wider context of sexual abuse as a social problem instead of a strictly Catholic one. This line is striking in that respect:

In the U.S.A. in 2008 alone, 62,000 people were identified as having committed acts of abuse against minors, while the proportion of Catholic priests was so small as not to be taken into consideration as a group.

Lastly, Fr. Lombardi criticises the Church’s own communication and media efforts as inadequate, especially in countries where the Church is large and an easy target for criticism. He also comes to the defence of the pope in the text’s final paragraphs.

You can read the original text in English or my translation in Dutch.

Instructions, by Neil Gaiman

Another poem today. It is a reading by Neil Gaiman of his poem ‘Instructions’, accompanied by the rather wonderful illustrations by Charles Vess, which will be featured in an upcoming publications of the poem as a children’s book. I find Gaiman’s storytelling skills highly appealing; it is a mix between classic fairytale and modern fantasy, but always with an extra element of some other genre.