Polish priests defy bishop amid pedophilia scandal

Deutsche Welle

May 30, 2020

Priests in the Polish diocese of Kalisz have refused to sign letters of loyalty to their bishop after a child abuse cover-up. More and more Catholics in Poland are calling on the Church to properly investigate crimes.

The documentary “Hide and Seek” by Marek and Tomasz Sekielski, which was watched by almost 7 million people on YouTube within a week, continues to make waves in Poland.

The film tells the story of two brothers who were sexually abused by a priest in the diocese of Kalisz in central Poland in the 1990s. They were 7 and 13 years old at the time. The documentary makes it clear that the local bishop, Edward Janiak, knew about the abuse and swept the scandal under the carpet. The filmmakers uncovered dozens of other cases in the diocese as well.

After the film’s premiere, the diocese’s council of priests, which acts as an advisory body to the bishop, was called upon to sign letters of loyalty to him. But the members of the council refused. They stated that they first wanted to wait for the results of a Vatican investigation, launched after Poland’s Catholic primate, Wojciech Polak, had informed the authorities there of the abuse accusations.

Priestly resistance

The letters of loyalty from the priests’ council would have been important to investigators as evidence of support for the bishop, who is accused of trying to cover up the scandal. The fact that the priests are refusing to back their bishop in this way is unusual, the Polish theologian and ex-Jesuit Stanislaw Obirek told DW.

“These priests have shown great courage, which is a rarity in the hierarchical church structure,” he said. In his opinion, their actions could contribute to getting the bishop suspended.

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