Notes from Poland [Kraków, Poland]
January 11, 2022
By Daniel Tilles
A Catholic curia in Poland has asked for a court to determine the sexuality of the victim of a priest and whether he took “pleasure in the intimate relationship”. The victim says he was 12 years old when the abuse began.
Last year, Janusz Szymik – pictured above as a child – launched a civil case against Bielsko-Żywiec diocese. He is seeking three million zloty (€660,000) compensation from the curia, which he argues is responsible for abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest – who can be named only as Jan W. under Polish privacy law – in the 1980s
A church court had previously found Jan W. guilty of sexual offences against Szymik when the latter was a child. In 2017, he was given a five-year ban on conducting priestly ministry and hearing confession, and was ordered to live in isolation.
News website Onet has now published parts of the curia’s response to Szymik’s civil lawsuit. Among its demands is for “evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant’s sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant’s sexual orientation”.
Additionally, it calls for the victim to be questioned on his relationship with the priest, including him “showing pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W.” and even “deriving benefits [from it], including material benefits”.
The diocese “denies that the relationship was based on enslavement or incapacitation; on the contrary: it was based on voluntary and mutual benefits”, according to document cited by Onet.
It also argues that, although Szymik was an altar boy, because meetings between him and the priest took place outside the church, and because Szymik “participated voluntarily”, they “were not related to Jan W.’s ministry” and “the sexual contacts did not take place during the performance of the duties entrusted to him”.
Finally, the curia opposes Szymik’s claim on technical grounds. It says that the statute of limitations for civil action has expired, and that the abuse took place before the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese was established, when Jan W. was under the authority of the Kraków diocese.
In response to the publication of the diocese’s legal submission, Tomasz Terlikowski, a prominent Catholic commentator, called its approach “scandalous” and “sad proof that the bishop does not even know the teachings of the church of which he is supposed to be a shepherd”.
The questions the curia proposes asking of Szymik are indicative of a “paedophile’s model of thinking” and will cause “the victim harm again”, tweeted Terlowski, who called on the bishop to withdraw the document, appoint a new lawyer, and apologise.
Last year, the former bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, Tadeusz Rakoczy was disciplined by the Vatican for neglect in responding to Szymik’s accusations of abuse against Jan W. in 1993 and 2007. Szymik is convinced that the priest abused other victims too.
In 2012, the then archbishop of Kraków, Stanisław Dziwisz, was also informed of alleged abuse by Jan W., reports Gazeta.pl. Dziwisz, a former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, has previously been accused of ignoring cases of abuse and accepting bribes from those accused of carrying it out.
Jan W. was only removed from his parish in 2014 by Rakoczy’s successor, Roman Pindel. He remains in a place of seclusion as a result of his conviction in the church court.
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.