Poland’s Catholic Church: 382 priests abused 625 minors
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Catholic Church authorities revealed Thursday they have recorded cases of 382 clergymen who have abused 625 victims under the age of 18 since 1990.
The figure includes 198 priests and friars who abused minors under 15 years old and 184 clergy who abused victims between 15 and 18, according to Wojciech Sadlon, head of the church’s Institute of Statistics.
In both confirmed and unconfirmed cases, there were 345 victims under age 15 and 280 victims between 15 to 18. The crimes occurred from 1990 through June of last year, Sadlon told a news conference. More than 58 percent of the victims were male.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, expressed “pain, shame and the sense of guilt that such situations took place.”
Authorities said in 25 percent of the cases before church courts, the clergymen were defrocked and in 52 percent of the cases they had their duties limited and were banned from working with children. Acquittals amounted to 10 percent of the cases and 13 percent of the cases were discontinued.
Church leaders said the cases call for a change in the way that vocational seminaries educate clergymen.
The figures were released following a three-day session of Poland’s Episcopate in Warsaw that discussed abuse and ways of protecting children. The news came just weeks after Pope Francis convened church leaders from around the world to the Vatican, where they discussed how to stop sex abuse by clergy.
Church leaders in predominantly Catholic Poland have previously admitted they knew that some priests had abused minors in Poland but did not reveal how many.
A private foundation supporting victims of abuse has given Francis a list of more than 90 court verdicts concerning priests in Poland and over 300 cases of alleged abuse. The “Have No Fear” foundation on Thursday criticized the Episcopate’s revelation, saying it lacked words of apology or any mention about compensation for victims.
Despite the millions in compensation paid out to victims by Catholic authorities in other countries, Polish church leaders argue that the church as an institution has no obligation to compensate victims because the crimes were committed by individual persons.
Last month, a statue of a prominent Solidarity-era priest was torn down at night in the northern city of Gdansk amid allegations that the late Rev. Henryk Jankowski, respected for his pro-democracy activity in the 1980s, abused minors. It was later officially removed from the Rev. Jankowski Square, which was also renamed.
Poland’s Catholic church has the support of the country’s conservative government and enjoys special respect in the nation due to its role in preserving Poland’s national identity during World War II and under decades of communist rule.