Priest sentenced to 30 hours community service for ringing church bells

Hard to believe this happened in Poland.  But then again, I’ve heard that Poland is barely still Poland.

Via the best Catholic weekly in the UK, The Catholic Herald, comes this via Reluctant Sinner:

According to recent reports, Fr Andrzej Wrobel, the Catholic parish priest of Lewin, Poland, was sentenced to 30 hours community service yesterday for ‘noise pollution’, because he had disturbed parishioners and local residents by ringing his church bells.

[...]

It seems that since his appointment as parish priest of Lewin in 2009, Fr Wrobel took it upon himself to install a high tech automated bell system for the church, which was paid for by his parishioners. [Be careful what you wish for.  Pay for.] The electronic ‘bells’ consisted of chimes and gongs that were set to ring at various points throughout the day – beginning at 5.00am! The system had also been set to play hymns on a daily loop, including one every night at 9.37pm, which was Fr Wrobel’s way of commemorating the death of Blessed John Paul II.

Needless to say, Fr Andrzej Wrobel’s parishioners started to complain once the noise pollution had become unbearable. Those with little children and pets were particularly affected, as it seems the bells made dogs howl and also frightened the town’s toddlers. In response to the complaints, the priest defiantly added another hymn to his sound system, which was set to play at 1.30am! Having to listen to a hymn at that time of the morning, whilst aware that a set of bells was about to start ringing in just over three hours, I’m surprised that it wasn’t just the town’s dogs that were howling!

Rather than tone down his enthusiasm for loud bells and hymns, it seems that Fr Wrobel’s response to criticism was to make life even more difficult for his parishioners. One resident of the town even said that he was convinced the priest was being ‘malicious’ in his actions, and feared that Fr Andrzej Wrobel may even continue to indulge his automated bell craze as a way of enacting revenge on the people of Lewin.

[...]

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39 Responses to Priest sentenced to 30 hours community service for ringing church bells

  1. jflare says:

    Saddened to hear that the Polish folks are peeved about the bells.
    I recall being stationed in Germany, living about a block from the town’s church. I remember thinking it VERY COOL that they had the bells toll about every 15 minutes, even through the night. It was a wonderful reminder of the fact that we’re living on Christ’s time.

    I wish churches here in the ‘States would take up the practice again.

  2. Melody says:

    LOL, I was all set to feel angry on his behalf, but 5:00am and 1:30am? Those poor people! I would be sore tempted to go down there and rip out the wiring myself!

  3. J Kusske says:

    To quote Monty Python in the job interview sketch, “Good-a-night, ring ding ding ding ding ding diiiiing!”

  4. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    It reads like he was a little abusive the hymns and bells, but I personally would like to hear the bells for myself I would love to hear a Youtube video and how far away you can hear them.
    Living in Germany bells are a part of life. In my town, bells ring on the hour, quarter, half and three-quarters of the hour.
    I think the worst part is the old and the new church’s time is not in sync.

  5. Phil_NL says:

    There’s a story about a priest here in the Netherlands who landed in court (civil, not criminal) for ringing his church bells. That was a worthy cause, as the church was there before the plaintiffs, and father rang the bells for his 7 am Mass (iirc, at any rate it was early, but not grotesquely so). That falls within the bounds of normal behavior.

    But I’m sad to see this Polish priest has done everyone a disservice by being well outside those bounds. Waking up your neighbours at 5 am and, heavens forbid, 1:30 am, is simply harassment. You’d wish his bishop would settle the matter before it ends up as a criminal case, but in my book, he got off pretty lightly.
    If he wants to ring bells to the greater glory of God in the middle of the night, let Fr Wrobel join a monastery. I’m sure Poland has a few left.

  6. Pingback: Priest sentenced to 30 hours community service for ringing church bells | Catholic Canada

  7. ghp95134 says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hbNnQojsOU
    Bells!Bells!Bells!Bells!Bells!

    –Guy

  8. disco says:

    To the bells ringing at 1:30 AM I can only offer a bit of the psalms:
    It is vain for you to rise before light, rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow. When he shall give sleep to his beloved (126:2)

  9. Volanges says:

    This article sooo reminded me of this Monty Python skit
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBBlRB1HH2g

  10. Father K says:

    Sounds like he has bats in his belfry

  11. Philangelus says:

    I’m kind of chuckling at the idea of a priest forced to do community service. I mean, the guy’s life is dedicated to community service. So you sentenced him to…do community service?

    Next thing you know, people will be sentenced to sleep, eat and breathe.

    (I can hear church bells all night on the hour during the summertime when the windows are open. I like hearing them, but they JUST chime the hour. They don’t play Handel’s Messiah at 1AM.)

  12. LisaP. says:

    ghp, my kids loved that Poe poem!

    I’d be willing to lead the movement to push for mandatory prison time for any priest, anywhere, who installs an electric “bell” system.

    One parish we go to, the rope hangs down into the stairwell near the cry room and the kids see the altar boys come out before Mass and start ringing the bells. Our closest parish, the priest solemnly skirts around the various legs of folks in the back pews to reach the device on the wall where he musters all the dignity he can to . . . push the button. Ugh.

    As an aside, hearing the call to prayer from various mosques in Cairo at regular times during the day is very beautiful. I would like one day to be in a city where the Angelus, etc. is rung. . .

  13. irishgirl says:

    Wow-in Poland, no less!
    I think the priest was overdoing it when he rang the bells in the wee hours of the morning, when people [and dogs] need their sleep.
    I now live in a seventh-floor apartment, and from my balcony (which is pretty cool!) I can just see the church where I was baptized. Over the hum of the traffic going on below, I can faintly hear the bells from the steeples. But it’s not done in the wee hours of the morning! They’re rung only during the day!

  14. APX says:

    @LisaP
    I used to live in a city where there was a church which did that. Unfortunately, the people in the neighborhood found it disruptive and complained to the city. The result was a bylaw enacted prohibited “unreasonable” ringing of church bells.

  15. LisaP. says:

    APX, that’s sad. It reminds me of growing up, my dad was a Marine pilot so we lived on or near naval air bases. Often, the base would exist for years out in the middle of nowhere (because that’s where you put airports and air stations, for safety and noise and etc.) and then the community would grow up around them. Eventually, a higher end suburb would be developed right near the base and residents would move in, then start to complain about the noise. Always interesting, these guys were up and flying at 5 a.m. in order to learn how to defend their country, they weren’t out at that hour for fun. It was a risky occupation even during peace, too, my dad was in two jet crashes. But people still felt justified in moving next to the base then complaining about the noise.

  16. Giuseppe says:

    Some people mix up steadfastness with stubbornness. This priest was stubborn.
    He can download some bell sounds and listen to them as often as he wants on his iPod.
    But he lost me at the 5 a.m. ringing, the nightly 9:37 hymn, and then 1:30 a.m. hymn.
    When a priest makes a town hate the church, he’s doing something wrong.

  17. jmgazzoli says:

    Yeah, like the priest with the three thousand dollar bell-ringer is going to stop ringing the bells! COME ON!!!

  18. Blue Henn says:

    We live in the center of town, and often have three different places ringing out the hour, 24/7. The courthouse across the street out front, the Methodist Church across the street to the left, then St. John the Baptist Catholic Church a bit behind. The chiming is loud enough to hear with the windows closed, but not so loud that one can’t tune them out as one becomes used to them. The Methodist church, however, plays ten minutes of hymns at least three times a day: 7:45 M-F/8:45 S; 11:45 M-S; 19:45 M-S; and somewhere around 17:00 as well…. Goes to show how much attention I don’t pay anymore, though the hymns can be quite loud sometimes. It is quite pleasant, though, to be reminded of the Lord in such a way – they change the hymns to fit the Church seasons – and quite a few of them I know, though one day they played one of the popular tunes for Tantum Ergo, and it left me wondering what song they had intended it to be.

  19. Mary Jane says:

    I’m sorry to say it, but I laughed pretty hard after reading the article. I was all fired up and ready to feel bad for the priest, but in the end I have to say…his bells do seem enough to drive anyone crazy.

  20. randomcatholic says:

    People have no common sense. We are all clowns in God’s circus.

    Look: 1:30AM?!?!? That is outrageous. I am a traditional Catholic who will defend the Church and priests until I am blue in the face… but 1:30AM?!? Bells should be rung for things like the Angelus, before Mass, etc. etc. Someone else said it best. A priest who makes an entire town hate the Church over something so stupid is definitely doing something wrong.

  21. doozer125 says:

    5am and 1:30am is too early, in my opinion..but, your comment, Father, about Poland still barely being Poland is spot on….I married a Polish girl ten years ago, in that short time I see a definite change everytime I go there, even over the ten year period. Commercialism, sex, urban sprawl, cars, shopping malls, greed, all the vices and bad traits of the west have seeped into Polish life. It’s as if the the west has decided to invade the country with these horrible values, they’re using the Poles as a new frontier in profitability and exploitation…

  22. Mary Jane says:

    I guess I should add – I wouldn’t mind hearing the bells at any/all hours of the day, but not at night when people (and dogs and small children) are trying to sleep.

  23. irishgirl says:

    @ randomcatholic: ‘People have no common sense’.
    I was going to say that! Thank you for saying it!
    What’s wrong with us today? Don’t we have any ‘brains’? Or if we do, don’t we ever ‘use’ them?
    Seems not….

  24. Supertradmum says:

    On a more serious note, there are several places in England where bells are not prohibited, even on Sunday, as the locals do not want to be reminded, I guess, that God is in their midst. This started about twenty years ago, in Luton, and has spread. I am not referring to late night or early morning bells either.
    Change-ringing, a great English institution, is dying out here. I love the real English peals, which one rarely hears, and instead the live ringers have to be replaced by electronic bells. English change ringing is different from Continental campanology and I prefer it. Two weeks ago, when I was in Sherborne, the ringers were practicing for Sunday at the Abbey, as they have for years, on Tuesday evening. Thankfully, Sherborne, and many other places in the southwest, value these men. It is hard work. If one wants to learn more about this, read Dorothy Sayers’ novel The Nine Tailors, which is how I began to learn how it was done, over thirty years ago! I do think that 9:30 is not late at night, but electronic bells on loops, of manic ringing, as described above, does merit at least a warning.

  25. Athelstan says:

    Hard to believe this happened in Poland. But then again, I’ve heard that Poland is barely still “Poland.”

    The last time I was in Poland was…2008, for a few months.

    It all depends on where you are. The rural areas are still, for the most part, quite Catholic. Much of Krakow still is…Warsaw, Gdansk, somewhat less so. Urban areas, naturally, are becoming more “Europeanized.” Enough to support the formation of an anti-clerical party, unfortunately.

    Well, the current Eurozone upheavals might put a stick in those spokes. I would not write off Poland just yet.

    I’m just wondering if these bells really are more jarring than the norm.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    As to Poland not being Poland, Ireland is not Ireland and Malta is not Malta.

    Where are the missionaries of the New Evangelization? And, just for fun, here is a crazy scene from one of my favorite movies—http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw_D4dajxn4
    Clap Yo’ Hands – Kay Thompson & Fred Astaire
    What would the Poles think of this?

  27. PostCatholic says:

    But then again, I’ve heard that Poland is barely still Poland.

    And what nation would Poland be now, instead? What you’ve heard is that Poles are becoming more secular as the hardships of the Communist regime recede into deep memory and the exchange of ideas with the rest of the West improves.

  28. Centristian says:

    Sorry, but this priest sounds like a bit of a ding-dong. I would have been among the first neighbors to call the cops.

  29. DomesticaEcclesia says:

    I LOVE church bells, but families and the laity are not monks. 1:30AM?!?! Maybe a mom has been up for 4 hours with a sick toddler making her own sacrifices? Maybe a dad has been working late to support his family? Maybe an elderly person has been up in pain and finally fallen asleep? Who does he think he is to decide they should live like monks and get up when he says? I love church bells but the arrogance is just disgusting. Maybe if, every time anyone within hearing distance had to get up during the night, early in the morning, or be up late, they should call or visit him, whether he is sleeping or not? A family is not a monastery and demanding they live like one is just a gross disrespect for the differences in vocations.

  30. Johnno says:

    Going to have to side with the people here against the priest. This is simply ridiculous. In Mumbai, India, the local Church would only ring the bells at the start of each Mass and for the Angelus at 7pm.

  31. mezzodiva54 says:

    When we were in Conques a couple of years ago, we stayed at a little gite on a hill/crag directly opposite the bell tower. As I recall, the bells rang on the quarter hour, and they rang 24/7. I thought it was wonderful. Even though they were almost in the room with us, I was surprised at how quickly we became accustomed to them and the sound became almost subliminal.

    I also recall fondly a trip to Krakow and the surrounding countryside, where the ringing of church bells was followed by the sight of people hurrying to Mass, just as they had for centuries. Most pleasant to witness.

  32. Meredith says:

    I hate to point it out, but no actual bells were involved here. The priest was playing recorded bell sounds, which strikes me as being as soulless as electric votive candles.

  33. jflare says:

    Hmm. I find it rather odd that so many people howl about the church bells at all, OR the hours they’re wrung.
    I recall hearing a Union Pacific train whistle at various times of day (and night) throughout my teens; we lived maybe a quarter mile from the train track/road intersection. It could be especially annoying if I wished to hear a good song on the radio, but we mostly tuned it out.

    I’m also struck by how people don’t seem to realize..this situation may not be as straightforward as it seems. Notice that the article didn’t say anything at all about any kind of compromise that might’ve been reached instead: No effort to demonstrate to the public that he might’ve had just cause for the particular times he chose, no effort to even compromise on even scaling back to a chime once per hour, no effort to allow for a lower volume or for bells at the appropriate times for the Angelus or anything.

    In other words, I don’t see any effort here–on the part of the local people–to even admit to the value of the bells being wrung.
    I’m forced to wonder whether they’d give him any creedence if he DID agree to only use the bells for those reasons.
    So much for mutual understanding or tolerance.

  34. NescioQuid says:

    Much as I love bells, it does sound like this priest had a bell loose. I have never heard of bells being cast as “malicious” before….not even in the case of the Hunch Back of Notre Dame.

  35. Thomas says:

    As the father of young children, I know the pains to get them to bed and having them stay there throughout the night. I think I’d like to ring Father’s bell if they woke up my household at 1:30 or 5:00am.

  36. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Most people are okay with bells rung (or electronic bell sounds) at regular intervals for timekeeping, and with occasional songs at regular hours during the day. My parish has electronic bells on the hour (except on Sunday), Angelus bells, and then a Marian hymn after the Angelus bells. Down the hill, there’s the secular carillon at Carillon Park, which plays tons of tunes at various times during the day. So I think it’s fair to say that folks in our area like bells; but the sound is tuned to be very pleasant. Nasty-sounding bell systems just sound horrid.

    Re: change-ringing, the fantasy writer Robin McKinley is a change-ringer and writes about it on her blog. (Mostly in an “Ack! Never going to get all this right!” way, albeit she seems to be doing less Ack! after ringing for several years now.)

  37. Kathleen10 says:

    No further comment on the bells, but one commenter mentioned the call to prayer from the mosques, which used to sound compelling to me, but no longer do. Now that I see what Islam represents, the call to prayer sounds more eerie than anything. “There is no God but Allah….”
    Give me church bells any day. (but not at 1:30 a.m. please)

  38. AnAmericanMother says:

    In the deathless words of Topsy, “Somebody ain’t tellin’ all they knows!”
    I don’t think we have the whole story here. Find it hard to believe that a priest would behave in so nutty and hard-headed a fashion.
    I also don’t think the bells would be THAT disturbing – like jflare, we live very near a railroad – the CSX main line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. When we were looking at the house, you couldn’t help but notice the trains sounding the horn for the crossings (there are three in the immediate area, one less than a block from our house). I called the trainmaster for CSX and discovered that at the time they were running 32 trains a day, plus specials.
    But after we’d lived here awhile, we didn’t even notice the horns. You had to tell somebody on the phone to hold on for a minute until they stopped, but they didn’t wake us up after the first few weeks.
    Supertradmum, Suburbanbanshee, there’s change-ringing here, but it’s only the Episcopalians. We’re going to have to get the music straightened out before we start bothering about bells. :-(
    We do have a handbell choir — and of course handbells developed so that the change-ringers could practice without disturbing the entire neighborhood with “Ack! I’ll never get this right!”