Primate of Poland: The Church must rebuild belief within the abuse disaster
The Catholic Church can only regain confidence in dealing with clergy abuse by "taking responsibility for solving all crimes and omissions," said the Polish primate on Monday.
In a July 6 statement, Archbishop Wojciech Polak referred to the steps taken by the Polish bishops in response to a burgeoning abuse crisis in the country.
"I am convinced that we can only restore our credibility and trust in the Church in Poland if we are truthful and take responsibility for solving all crimes and omissions," he said.
Polak is the Polish bishop delegate for the protection of children and young people. As Archbishop of the Metropolis Gniezno, the Polish Primatial, he is the Primate of Poland.
His comments came a week after more than 600 people posted a full-page ad in the Italian daily La Repubblica asking the Pope to intervene in the country's growing abuse crisis.
A Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis had been informed of the call and was praying for those who sent it.
The Polish church has been subjected to an intensive investigation into how it has dealt with allegations of abuse, according to a documentary, Tell No One, which has been viewed almost 24 million times on YouTube since its release last year.
In 2019, the Polish Bishops' Conference published a report stating that 382 clerics sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.
Polak recalled that the Polish Episcopal Conference called the Jesuit priest Father Dr. Adam Żak as coordinator for the protection of children and adolescents in 2013.
Żak oversaw the establishment of a child protection center at the Ignatianum Academy in Kraków, which has trained 6,000 people, including priests and religious, over the past six years.
The Primate of Poland also highlighted the creation by lay Catholics of a helpline in 2019 known as "Wounded in the Church" to support the Church's official abuse reporting system.
He said the protection guidelines of the Polish bishops met the standards of the Holy See and Polish law and were praised by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a leading figure in the fight against clergy abuse.
“He rated the documents and guidelines of the Polish Bishops' Conference as very good. However, what matters is their application that malfunctions occur in some cases, ”said Polak in his statement issued by the press office of the Polish Bishops' Conference.
The archbishop noted that he personally reported to the Vatican a fellow bishop, Edward Janiak von Kalisz, according to the law passed by the Pope in Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi in June 2019.
He said he took the step after seeing the documentary Hide and Seek by brothers Marek and Tomasz Sekielski. Following Tell No One, they claimed that Janiak failed to act on a priest accused of abuse. The bishop denied the allegations.
"After watching the film, I couldn't remain silent or inactive about the facts presented," said Polak.
Last month, Pope Francis appointed an apostolic administrator to head the Janiak diocese while an investigation into the bishop's actions is underway.
“The reporting does not solve the guilt and gives Bishop Edward Janiak a real chance to present arguments to defend him as part of a canonical process. The assessment of the case is the exclusive responsibility of the Holy See, ”said the Polish primate.
Polak welcomed the creation of the St. Joseph Foundation last year to support abuse survivors and protect minors within the Polish church.
"The establishment of the foundation is an expression of the solidarity of the Church in Poland with the victims," he said.
The archbishop admitted that confidence in church authorities had been shaken despite the progress made in combating abuse through the crisis. A survey conducted by the IBRiS research institute in January showed that trust in the church fell by 13 percentage points compared to 2017 to 39.5%.
“We have to honestly admit that despite the measures taken in Poland, we have to work constantly to change our mentality. There is still a lot to do in this area, ”he said.
“We also have to honestly admit that the law in the Church is not respected everywhere and that not all victims receive the help they need. Ensuring the safety of children and young people in the church is still a challenge for us. "