Clerical abuse scandal divides parishes and politics in Poland
admin • January 7, 2019 • 3606
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
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar has ordered an investigation into a reported incident in Mariveles, Bataan in which a female quarantine violator was allegedly sexually abused by a policeman.
“Kaagad kong inatasan ang regional director ng Police Regional Office 3, Police Brig. Gen. Val de Leon, na magsagawa ng imbestigasyon upang malaman natin ang buong katotohanan tungkol dito,” Eleazar said in a statement.
Based on the initial report, the policeman and another civilian manning a quarantine control point accosted the victim on Friday (August 27) for violating quarantine rules.
The victim was then taken to the boarding house of the policeman where the two took turns in molesting the victim.
The accused policeman, who has a rank of patrolman and was assigned to the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company, is currently under restrictive custody and has been ordered to respond to the allegation against him.
The PNP chief expressed his condemnation of police personnel who abuse the authority entrusted to them.
“Walang lugar sa PNP ang mga pulis na ginagamit ang kapangyarihan na ipinagkaloob ng taumbayan para magsamantala at mang-abuso ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.
“Marami na tayong naparusahan at natanggal sa serbisyo ng mga ganitong uri ng pulis at hindi tayo titigil hanggang hindi nauubos ang mga tiwali sa aming hanay,” he added.
The PNP chief reiterated his directive to police personnel to be courteous at all times and respect people’s rights when implementing quarantine protocols.
“Noon pa man, mahigpit ang bilin ko sa ating kapulisan tungkol sa pagrespeto ng ating mga kababayan sa kanilang pagpapatupad ng quarantine protocols sa gitna ng banta ng COVID-19,” he said.
Eleazar vowed to monitor the investigation of the case and assured to file appropriate charges if the allegations are proven to be true.
“Makakaasa ang ating taumbayan na tutukan ko ang kasong ito at kung lumabas sa imbestigasyon na totoo ang akusasyon, tinitiyak ko sa inyo na hindi lang matatanggal sa serbisyo ang pulis na ito dahil sasampahan din natin siya ng patong-patong na kaso,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines — A blackmailer was arrested by authorities during an entrapment operation in Cebu.
The suspect, identified as 23-year-old Robert Villegas Debulosan, was arrested on February 28 after a 19-year old victim from Talisay City filed a complaint against him.
Based on the complaint, Debulosan posted nude photos of her in various group chats on Facebook after the victim refused to have sex with the suspect.
During the entrapment, authorities seized a mobile phone and three mall sachets of suspected shabu.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that Debulosan maintains 17 poser accounts in Facebook which he uses to entice women by initially courting them online. He will then eventually ask for nude photos of the victim which he will later use in a blackmail scheme.
Debulosan is facing criminal charges for violation of R.A 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009. AAC
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)
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