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Counteracting Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: the System in Poland (04.2022)

Open Access
Marcin Przeciszewski
Type of publication

The Catholic Church in Poland, as happened before in other countries, faces the disclosure of scandals connected with the sexual abuse of minors by certain clergymen. This is a grave problem in the pastoral field and with the public image. According to the report of March 2019 by Instytut Statystyki Kościoła Katolickiego [Institute of the Statistics of the Catholic Church] 382 cases of sexual abuse were reported in 1990–2018, whereas the percentage of clergymen accused of abusing minors (up to 18 years of age) was 0,4%. The system of protecting children and youth against sexual abuse within the Church in Poland has been established since 2009. It was then that the Polish Bishops Conference adopted the first Wytyczne określające sposób postępowania w przypadkach wykorzystywania seksualnego małoletnich przez niektórych duchownych [Guidelines Specifying the Procedure in Cases of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergymen]. The system focuses on taking care of victims, developing clear norms and structures to bring to justice those clergymen who have committed the crimes and developing prevention programs for the protection of minors (which have already been implemented in all dioceses and in the majority of male religious congregations). It also runs Fundacja Świętego Józefa [St. Joseph Foundation] which provides various forms of help, mainly therapeutic, to the victims. In Kraków, Centrum Ochrony Dziecka [Center for the Protection of Children] established in 2013 runs and coordinates training activities. In dioceses and religious congregations there are delegates dedicated to the protection of children and youth, as well as ministers for those that have been sexually abused by clergymen. The chief Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth, the Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland, has also been appointed.
The results of preliminary investigations are passed along to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under whose auspices a process of further investigation is run. The latest element of the system is the application of the norms introduced by Pope Francis under the motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi”. They involve disciplining higher Church superiors who have concealed or covered up crimes of sexual abuse of minors.
The Roman Catholic Church is the only public institution in Poland which has developed such meticulous internal standards as regards the punishment of the perpetrators, prevention programs and assistance to the victims. The purpose of the article is, therefore, to show the actions which the Church has taken in order to counteract the abuse of minors within the Church, both from the formal point of view as well as from the practical perspective: to substitute the mentality of “one must protect one’s men” with the one permeated with the spirit of the Gospel.

From the publisher's website.

Jurisprudence Religious studies
Pol-Int team

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