By Marcin Goclowski
WARSAW (Reuters) - The Vatican has disciplined an elderly Polish cardinal who was accused of sexually abusing a minor, the latest of several clerics to be caught up in a widening scandal in the homeland of the late Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican's nunciature (embassy) in Poland said Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, 97, the former archbishop of Wroclaw, was disciplined after an investigation of "allegations regarding the cardinal's past".
It gave no details but last year the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper published an article by a man who accused Gulbinowicz of sexually abusing him when he was a minor in the 1990s and a student in a Catholic seminary.
The case was brought to prosecutors but they could not proceed because of the statue of limitations. At the time, the cardinal's lawyer said the accusations were false and the lawyer declined to comment on Friday when contacted by Reuters.
Church authorities in Wroclaw, where Gulbinowicz served as archbishop in 1976-2004, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from him.
Father Rafal Kowalski, a spokesman for the Wroclaw archdiocese, told broadcaster TVN24: "We have to say we're sorry. There is an intention to clear up these issues and judge, so people who have hurt others are punished.".
On Thursday, Vatican ordered an investigation into the former archbishop of Gdansk on suspicion of negligence over sex abuse allegations, and last month the pope accepted the resignation of a Polish bishop accused of shielding sexually abusive priests.
The nunciature said Gulbinowicz would be banned from practicing his ministry in public, would have to contribute to a fund to help victims of sexual abuse and would be denied burial in what was once his cathedral, a tradition in Catholic countries.
(additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, writing by Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet)