Bishops announce official stand on clerical paedophilia

2019-05-22 20:40 update: 2019-05-28, 17:18
Photo: PAP/Piotr Nowak
Photo: PAP/Piotr Nowak
Poland's bishops are preparing an official position on the sexual abuse of children by priests, Poland's Roman Catholic Primate Wojciech Polak announced on Wednesday.

Earlier, Polak attended a sitting of the Polish Episcopal Conference's Permanent Council, devoted to the protection of minors.

Polak told a press conference that the meeting had decided to prepare an official position on the abuse of children and minors by some priests, and adopted an episcopal message to the faithful entitled, "Sensitivity and Responsibility." The message will be read out in parishes countrywide this Sunday, Polak said.

Asked if the message will address the responsibility of paedophile clergy and hierarchs who covered up their crimes, Polak said a special training course for metropolitan bishops held earlier in the day had focused on Pope Francis's guidelines regarding liability for negligence in clerical paedophilia cases.

Referring to a recent online film recounting the experiences of clerical paedophilia victims which has severely shaken public opinion in Poland, Polak said one of the cases described in the film - involving a priest permitted to work with children after being sentenced for paedophilia - will be investigated by a special commission under Warsaw Metropolitan Bishop Kazimierz Nycz.

The Rev. Piotr Studnicki, media coordinator for the Child Protection Centre, said the bishops' position on the sexual abuse of children by clergy was still in preparation, but contained general guidelines for the church's response to the crisis. Studnicki stressed that among the most important elements of the position were improvements in aid measures for paedophilia victims.

Studnicki remarked that creating a safer environment for young people called for education, information, and changes in social awareness.

The episcopal message to be read out to the faithful on Sunday reads in part: "There are no words to express our shame over sexual scandals involving the clergy. They are a cause of deep embarrassment and call for utter condemnation, with severe consequences towards the perpetrators and those who conceal their acts."

Public indignation over clerical paedophilia was sparked recently by the Polish documentary "Just don't tell anyone" by Tomasz and Marek Sekielski. The two-hour film, which documents the sexual exploitation of minors by members of the clergy, contains interviews with the abused victims of priests, as well as recording confrontations between victims and priests and conversations with a psychologist and lawyers. It shows pictures of the protagonists years ago and the camera follows them on journeys to the places in which they were mistreated.

In June, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who works on investigations into sexual abuse by clergy on behalf of the Holy See, will attend a plenary meeting of the Polish Bishops' Conference in Świdnica, southwestern Poland. (PAP)