Clerical abuse scandal divides parishes and politics in Poland
admin • January 7, 2019 • 3279
A former Catholic priest from the Polish village of Kalinowka is serving three years in jail for molesting five schoolgirls. But Jolanta Zych, a mother whose testimony helped convict him, says the priest’s victims and their parents are the ones made to feel guilty by the village’s local residents.
“People think that the priest is innocent and that an innocent man is in prison because of me,” she said.
Zych, whose nine-year-old daughter was among those molested, said neighbours spurned the family. “I am the kind of person that says hello to everyone but people turn their backs on me and do not reply,” she said.
Another mother Reuters spoke to, Marta Zezula, said her daughter began refusing food after the court case.
During mass, Zezula said, people shrank away or refused to shake hands during a ritual greeting known as the sign of peace. She said she no longer goes to church.
Home to about 170 people, Kalinowka is a short drive from a main road, but feels more remote. The Holy Cross church, built in 1880, sits on a hill overlooking rolling farmland and forests full of deer.
One parishioner, standing outside the church after leaving mass on a chilly November evening, said the accusations against the jailed priest were “all lies, all false, not true at all.”
“The priest was great, we will never have one like him, such a pity,” another parishioner said.
Reuters spoke to seven parishioners who were sticking by the convicted priest.
The priest, who cannot be named under Polish law, is now on trial again, charged with molesting another child. His lawyer, Marek Tokarczyk, said he denies the allegations.
Similar scandals have shaken the Catholic church and split communities in the United States, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere.
But the divisions are particularly stark in Poland said Marek Lisinski, the director of “Have no fear”, a group that advocates for victims of clerical abuse.
Poland is one of Europe’s most devout nations and, says Lisinski, parishioners often side with priests and ostracise victims and their families.
In October, “Have no fear” published a map that revealed the scale of the issue. It used black crosses to mark places where 60 priests had been convicted of abuses dating back to 1956.
Afterwards, said Lisinski, people called in to report another 300 cases of suspected abuse by priests which they had not raised with the church or police for fear they would be doubted or shunned.
In October, a Polish court of appeal upheld a landmark ruling which granted a million zloty ($260,000) in compensation to a woman abused by a priest as a child.
In a November statement, Poland’s bishops asked victims of clerical abuse for forgiveness and said the Church had begun collecting data to “identify the causes of these deeds and assess their scale”.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, told Reuters the Church will publish its findings within six months.
Polak encouraged victims of clerical abuse to talk to their bishops and said clerical abuse “will never be swept under the carpet.”
He said he was aware the issue had caused rifts in some communities. “Uncovering evil, acting against evil leads to redemption, serves to purify,” he said.
Senior bishops from around the world will meet Pope Francis at a conference in the Vatican in February to discuss protection of minors. Conference organisers have said everyone must be held accountable or the Church risks losing credibility worldwide.
The issue could also have political ramifications in Poland, observers say. The country is due to elect a new parliament by December 2019.
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party won power in 2015 with a blend of patriotism and piety that echoed the religious nationalism of the Church. In October, a former PiS minister, Antoni Macierewicz, credited the Polish clergy with helping the party win local elections that month.
Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, an MP for a small opposition party called Now, is seeking an independent inquiry into child abuse by priests because she says the Church cannot be relied upon to investigate itself. She says the idea has received no support from PiS or other big parties.
A PiS spokesperson did not respond to several requests asking if it did not support the idea of an inquiry. Ryszard Czarnecki, a PiS MP for the European Parliament, responded to Reuters by asking why the Church should be singled out.
Most Poles are Catholic, and more than a quarter of the population regularly attends Mass, according to a survey by Warsaw-based research centre, the Institute for Catholic Church Statistics, which showed a slight decline from 2015 to 2016.
Most children attend religious classes, but their numbers are dropping, too. In Lodz, Poland’s third-largest city, the numbers fell from 80 percent in 2015 to fewer than 50 percent now, according to local government data quoted by the daily Dziennik Lodzki. — Reuters
Two Vatican officials charged with investigating accusations of sexual abuse by clergy will visit Mexico for a fact-finding mission later this month, the Church said on Tuesday (March 3).
Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu will meet with church leaders and alleged victims during their week-long visit to the world’s second largest Roman Catholic country, the Mexican bishops’ conference said.
Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, told a news conference in Mexico City that the Church had requested aid from the Vatican in order to help the youngest and most vulnerable in Mexico.
Scicluna and Bertomeu are part of a taskforce created last year by Pope Francis to assist in countries where the Church had no guidance for dealing with sexual abuse cases. The two led the Vatican’s 2018 investigation into sexual abuse in Chile, producing a 2,300-page report that sparked the resignation of several of the country’s top bishops.
Scicluna also conducted the Vatican’s investigation into Father Marcial Maciel, the late founder of Mexico’s Legionaries of Christ Catholic religious order. Maciel was accused of sexually abusing at least 60 boys, some as young as 12.
Allegations of pedophilia have long plagued the Church in Mexico. Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez, President of the Mexican bishops conference, said 271 Mexican priests have been accused of sexual abuse to date.
The bishops’ conference said it does not have an estimate of the number of victims. Advocates say there are many more victims than those who have come forward with accusations. (Reuters Connect)
MANILA, Philippines – Authorities announced an import ban on poultry meat coming from Poland based on a memorandum order issued by the Department of Agriculture (DA) dated January 21.
The ban covers the importation of all domesticated and wild birds even eggs and sperm from Polish chickens.
The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) reported an outbreak of bird flu or avian influenza with a subtype of H5N8 in Poland today.
“Gusto natin na ma-maintain natin sa free tayo,” explained BAI Director Ronnie Domingo.
“Ang posible lang na makapasok ay ang migratory birds or ang mga importation natin ng poultry coming from other countries. Kaya pagka ganyan na may report na sa ibang bansa, stop na,” he said.
BAI also noted an outbreak of bird flu from April to September 2017 in several municipalities in Central Luzon which impacted several farms in the region.
Thousands of fowls were culled to curb the spread of the disease.
But Domingo clarified that since the mid of 2018, the Philippines reported it has controlled the virus and eventually declared the country bird-flu free to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
A total of five countries were recommended to issue an import ban but it was Poland which the DA approved first, Domingo concluded. – MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
Grief, fear and anger have enveloped the town of Chunian in Pakistan’s eastern, Punjab province after the bodies of three missing children were found in a district which has seen numerous cases of child abuse and abductions in recent years.
Police said on Monday (September 23) they had made twenty arrests as they investigated the suspected murders and sexual assault of the boys.
The body of Muhammad Faizan had been found the previous week, a day after he went missing.
Faizan, 8, had failed to return home with his brother when the two went to nearby shops to buy snacks.
His body and the remains of two more boys were later found on a deserted section of an industrial estate.
“The animal brutalized my child. I cannot bear this. I want justice,” Faizan’s mother, Amtal Salam. The family home overlooks the grave of her young son.
Local media reported three other children from the area have been missing since the middle of the year and another child had disappeared late last week after the bodies were found.
Videos of hundreds of local children being sexually assaulted were caught circulating in 2015, which a senior child protection official at the time called the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history.
Last year, the body of a 7-year-old girl was found in a garbage dumpster, which police said was the twelfth incident of a girl being abducted, raped and killed in the district in a year, and sparked violent protests. A man was convicted of the murder and was executed.
Hundreds more protested last week, blocking off streets and damaging shops.
Families in the area are fearful of the welfare and safety of their children.
“Now the children are afraid to go to the mosques, they are afraid to go to school. Announcements have been made that parents should escort their children to school,” said Shehnaz Bibi, a housewife from a neighboring village.
Police are continuing to investigate the suspected murders and disappearances and are also looking into the possibility of a serial killer. (REUTERS)
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