Polish diocese apologizes to sexual abuse victim for his court questions
Polish diocese apologizes for whether sexual abuse victim was gay or enjoyed ‘intimate’ moments with Catholic priest when attacked
- Bielsko-Zywiec diocese apologized for whether a sex abuse victim was gay or enjoyed ‘intimate’ moments
- Victim, Janusz Szymik, 48, was an acolyte when the abuse began in the 1980s
- Poland’s Catholic Bishops had already strongly criticized the Southern Diocese
- The perpetrator, identified only as Rev. Jan W., was convicted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
A Catholic diocese in Poland on Thursday apologized for asking a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused by a priest as a child is gay and whether the sexual contact has been enjoyable for him as a result.
After widespread criticism, the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec said the letter to the court should not have included questions about the victim’s sexuality or suggesting that he enjoyed contact with the priest. The diocese sent the letter in response to a lawsuit from the victim, Janusz Szymik.
“We apologize to Janusz and to anyone shocked by the questions,” the diocese said in a statement, promising to change the wording of the letter.
Poland’s Bielsko-Zywiec diocese apologized for asking if a sex abuse victim was gay or enjoyed ‘intimate’ moments
Poland’s Catholic bishops had already strongly criticized the southern Polish diocese.
Szymik, who is now 48, was an acolyte when the abuse began in the 1980s. He took the diocese to civil court last year.
The priest, identified only as Rev. Jan W., admitted the abuse and was convicted in 2015 by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Szymik is now demanding 3 million zloty ($760,000) in compensation from the diocese.
The Onet news portal earlier this week disclosed the contents of documents it obtained and presented to the court by a church lawyer. The documents show that the church wants an expert “to verify the plaintiff’s sexual orientation” and to determine whether he “showed satisfaction in maintaining an intimate relationship with Rev. Jan W.” or “material benefits” derived from the sexual relationship with the cleric.
Rev. Piotr Studnicki, the director of a special agency for the protection of children within Poland’s Episcopal Conference, said in a statement released Wednesday that “reliable knowledge and human sensitivity” are necessary for any legal process.
“The issue of sexual orientation or the way a child reacts emotionally to a crime of sexual abuse cannot form an argument against the injured person and lessen the responsibility of the perpetrator,” Studnicki said. “It should be clear to everyone that a child never bears responsibility for experienced violence.”
Expressing his surprise at the turn of the case, Szymik noted that Bishop Roman Pindel of Bielsko-Zywiec had previously expressed compassion for him for the abuse he suffered as a child.
“In the past he expressed his pain and regret and asked for forgiveness, and now he wants to prove… that I am a homosexual person, that pedophilia gave me pleasure, that everything that happened was voluntary, that I benefited from it” said Szymik. said in an interview on the news channel TVN24.
The development comes as Pope Francis has attempted to clean up a culture of abuse and cover-ups in the Polish church.
The Catholic Church has long been the supreme moral authority in Poland, playing an inspiring role during the occupation and foreign rule and supporting the anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s.
But the recent reckoning of abuse has damaged his credibility. Even Poland’s most famous Catholic, John Paul II, has now tarnished his legacy through his own failure to deal with abuse when he was Pope.
One of the country’s top church leaders, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, recently said the church is seeing a “devastating” decline in religious practice among young Poles, arguing that the failure of the church hierarchy to cope with clergy abuse one reason is therefore.