Polish Archbishop is self-proclaimed Cambridge “Man of the Year”

Becky Alldridge 4 November 2013

A leading priest in the Polish Catholic Church, who recently attracted international criticism for making controversial comments on paedophilia, has been falsely claiming on his website to have received a ‘Man of the Year’ award from the University of Cambridge.

The official website of Archbishop Jozef Michalik indicates that he received the ‘Man of the Year Award’ 1998-1999 from the International Biographical Centre (IBC) at the University of Cambridge, in a category for “individuals whose leadership and achievements stand out in the international community.”

Michalik is Archbishop of the Polish Archdiocese of Przemysl and has been President of the Polish Episcopal Conference since 2004. The most senior Catholic cleric in Poland, he was embroiled in a scandal earlier this month for suggesting that the victims and parents of victims of paedophilia are themselves partly to blame, although he did state that sexual abuse by the clergy was nevertheless unacceptable.

The IBC, a private institution which primarily compiles biographical dictionaries, has previously been accused of bestowing questionable honours on its clients in return for financial recompense. Now journalists from the Catholic newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny have alleged that Michalik is one such paying client.

His secretary was quick to refute this claim. “The archbishop neither sought nor paid for any title,” Father Adam Sycz told reporters from the Catholic News Agency. Nevertheless, he conceded that Michalik’s online biography “contained inaccuracies which could suggest that this title was awarded by the University of Cambridge.”

University of Cambridge press officer Sian Jones has denied issuing such an award, stating, “I do not know of any links between our University and the International Biographical Centre.’’

This incident is said to have once more called into question the role the Catholic Church has to play in a rapidly modernising Poland.