The Church's Sinful Secret

By Roman Daszczynski
Gazeta Wyborcza
March 10, 2008,86871,5006670.html

Many priests knew about it, as did three bishops. For years, the horrible truth could not be revealed - a story about how the Catholic Church covered up a child-molestation scandal in Szczecin in Monday's Duzy Format supplement.

Father Andrzej, director of a centre for difficult young people in Szczecin, accused of paedophilia. People demanding that the truth be revealed had been hearing for thirteen years: do not act to the Church's detriment.

'I came to the centre in 1992. I was fifteen. Father Andrzej asked me to his room. He started groping me, touching my genitals, encouraging me to do the same (I didn't, I just lay there, helpless). He made me come. When I got up, he told me to hit him for hurting me'. This is one of the confessions made by the wards of the St. Brother Albert Centre in Szczecin. The alleged molester was Father Andrzej, the Centre's founder and then-director. The boys told their tutors, and they, in 1995, notified Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek, the hierarch in charge of educational matters at the Szczecin archdiocese. Bishop Stefanek dismissed the depositions as non-credible and refused to talk to any of the boys.

'I didn't receive such orders from the Archbishop', says Bishop Stefanek, today the bishop of lomza. Embittered, the tutors asked two monks for help. Bishop Stefanek's superior, Archbishop Marian Przykucki, received them. 'He told us he was sorry about the matter and would help to solve it', one of the monks recalls.

A Victim: Half of My Soul Died

But the Archbishop trusted Bishop Stefanek's judgement and didn't order any further investigation. He dismissed Father Andrzej as head of the Centre, but as soon as in spring 1996 entrusted him with the supervision of Catholic schools in Szczecin. Then Father Andrzej ran Szczecin's Catholic High School and served as president of the Catholic Schools Association. The tutors refused to call it quits. In 2003, their depositions and the victims' testimonies were written down by a Dominican monk, Marcin Mogielski. His superior, Father Maciej Zieba, handed them over to Zygmunt Kaminski, the incumbent Archbishop of Szczecin. The Archbishop agreed to take care of the matter only when the tutors threatened to go to the prosecutors. The episcopal court took depositions from only two of the victims. Father Andrzej was banned from serving in the field of education only in 2007. He says this was done under the pressure of then-Senator Jaroslaw Gowin (today a Civic Platform deputy).

Father Andrzej: 'I've never done such things in my life'. He wants to be reappointed as the supervisor of Catholic schools in the diocese.

The four boys who had accused him are grown-up now. Ryszard is trying to settle down and live his own life: 'But every memory of Father Andrzej pulls me back on that road'. Eryk has left Poland. He says half his soul is dead, and the void it's left hurts excruciatingly. The case before the episcopal court is to be concluded by mid-year.

Father Mogielski: No One Wanted to Hear Them Out

'God Bless. My name is Marcin Mogielski. I am a Dominican monk. It's me who in 2003 wrote down the testimonies of the sexually molested wards of the St. Brother Albert Centre in Szczecin. I did that to present them to Archbishop , the Szczecin metropolitan bishop. I had no doubt I was doing the right thing. Why? I will answer the same way I answered the Archbishop when he asked me by what right I was carrying out an investigation in his diocese: by the right of the love of thy neighbour and faithfulness to the Gospel. Founded in 1991, the Centre was to offer support to young people from pathological families. For many, it was to become a surrogate home. I promised them I'd bring the matter to a conclusion'.

'Who has never sullied can have only a vague sense of how great a tragedy it is. But I was tainted. I was eighteen years old. I felt shame and humiliation. Disgust at myself, my own body, as if it was me who had done a bad thing. That's why I initially felt unable to help the boys from the Centre. I wasn't prepared to stand face to face with them and hear out their story about nightmares that I had also experienced. When I finally started acting on behalf of the victims, I was quickly targeted for attack. The fact that I had been molested in the past was used against me'.

'I'm a university chaplain in Warsaw. I don't know how much congregation receives my confession. Forgive me. I had to say it all because in such dramatic circumstances a decent man mustn't pretend that nothing has happened. And religion, position, services rendered for the Church or society have nothing to do with it. A human impulse is enough - just to lean over suffering'.

'I believed Archbishop Kaminski would clear everything up. His predecessors, Archbishop Przykucki and Bishop Stefanek, failed to do that. No one wanted to hear the victims out, no one tried to help them. And the people striving to clarify the case kept hearing: do not act to the detriment of the Church', Dominican monk Marcin Mogielski tells Gazeta.


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