The Church in Poland is trying to face the negligence of the past while taking several actions, which are presented in the report on the activities of the Church in Poland for the protection of children and adolescents and assistance to victims of sexual abuse. The English-Italian edition of the report has just been prepared.
“Looking at the Church in Poland mainly through the prism of media information about revealed cases of sexual abuse of minors or subsequent penal decisions imposed on bishops, one can get the impression that the Church in Poland does little or nothing to protect minors and help the victims. Meanwhile, the Church in Poland is trying to face the negligence of the past, taking several actions that we present in this report,” emphasizes Fr Piotr Studnicki, the head of the Office of the PBC’s Delegate for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The Polish Episcopate has been undertaking activities aimed at eliminating crimes of sexual abuse among priests for several years. The most important of these—including the development and double update of guidelines setting out the principles for responding to reports of possible criminal acts—have been included and presented in the calendar of activities of the Church in Poland.
Statistical research is also being conducted on sexual abuse of minors in the Church. The Institute of Catholic Church Statistics SAC, commissioned by the Episcopate, has so far conducted two queries, covering the period of reports from 1990 to 2020. Key data from these studies are also presented in the report.
The main part of the report is a description of the system of protection of minors and assistance to victims of sexual abuse in the Church in Poland, as well as the scope of activities undertaken locally and on a national level. The most recent initiatives include the creation of a website with information on the procedure for reporting harm (zgloskrzywde.pl) and with pastoral materials (wspolnotazezranionymi.pl), as well as the publication of a guide for priests for hearing the confession of wronged persons, those who know about committed crimes or perpetrators, the launch of consultation points for the injured in the Church, and the formation of therapists working in the Church’s family counseling centers.
The activities of the Church in Poland are based on the existing basic structures in dioceses and religious orders, reporting directly to the bishop or religious superior. At this level, they are constituted by the delegate for the protection of children and young people, the pastoral care of the abused and their families, the guardian of the accused and the perpetrators, as well as those responsible for prevention. At the national level, the responsibility for activities in this area is entrusted to the PBC’s Delegate for the Protection of Children and Young People, acting in consultation with the PBC’s Coordinator for the Protection of Children and Young People. Dioceses and religious congregations are supported in building systems of prevention and response to the harm of sexual abuse by the Child Protection Centre, which has been operating since 2014 at the Ignatianum Academy in Kraków. The Polish Bishops’ Conference also established, in 2019, its Saint Joseph Foundation. The foundation’s activities are financed by the dioceses in proportion to the number of their bishops and priests (PLN 2,000 per bishop, PLN 150 per priest). The foundation’s task is to help those wronged by the clergy and to support existing activities and initiate new ones aimed at protecting minors in local structures. The foundation’s funds were also used to finance foreign language versions of a report on the activities of the Church in Poland for the prevention of and assistance to the victims.
The report was prepared by the Office of the PBC’s Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth and the PBC Saint Joseph Foundation. It has already been received by the participants of the international conference of the Church of Central and Eastern Europe, which was held in Warsaw in September. The Polish bishops will also give it to the Dicasteries of the Holy See during the October visit ad limina Apostolorum.