A Polish court has ordered a former Catholic priest to apologize to the Roman Catholic Church after accusing church officials of using charity proceeds illegally.

However, the ex-priest rejected the libel ruling and said he had no intention of "apologizing for the truth."

On May 31, the District Court in Lodz ruled that Roman Kotlinski, a former priest, had "flagrantly violated the good name" of the local Catholic archdiocese. The court ordered him to publish apologies in three Polish newspapers.

The 38-year-old ex-priest said he would appeal against the sentence and was ready to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

"This is terrible scandal—the court denied us any chance to defend ourselves and heard only one side of the dispute," Kotlinski said. "The sentence proves the church in Poland is untouchable. But I have no intention of apologizing to anyone and will continue to write the truth and nothing but the truth."

Kotlinski said his key witness, a former Communist secret police agent currently completing a 15-year sentence for killing a Roman Catholic priest, had been refused leave to testify, adding that the court had also rejected documentary evidence from local passport and transport offices.

Kotlinski, who quit the priesthood in 1993 a few months after his ordination, made the allegation at the center of the case in the March 2000 issue of a weekly news magazine, Facts and Myths, which he edits. The newspaper has carried regular features about alleged church scandals in Poland.

In her ruling, Judge Ewa Sztynberg also ordered Kotlinski to pay court costs and a fine of 8,000 zloties (US$2,000) to a Catholic charity, Caritas.

"A good reputation and good name are basic personal values immanently connected ...

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