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Polish bishops release ‘tragic’ report on sexual abuse

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki (Polish Bishops Conference/Flickr)

382 priests have been accused of abusing 625 potential victims since 1990

Nearly 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors from 1990 until 2018, a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference of Poland revealed on Thursday.

The study covered data collected from the more than 10,000 parishes in Poland, and included religious orders.

According to the report, 382 priests were accused of abuse during the time covered, and the allegations concern 625 potential victims. Of the clerics accused, 284 were diocesan priests, and 98 belonged to a religious order.

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who leads the Episcopal Conference of Poland, called the report’s findings “tragic,” and said every instance of sexual abuse is a “particularly painful” betrayal of public trust.

The archbishop also noted that while the Church must deal with the problem of clerical sexual abuse, it was important that the same kinds of abuse not be permitted to continue in other institutions.

Among allegations concerning diocesan priests, 54.2 percent concerned victims under the age of 15, and 45.8 percent victims over the age 15.

Allegations involving religious orders showed that a total of 44 priests–44.9 percent–were accused of sexually abusing someone under the age of 15. Fifty four priests, or 55.1 percent, were accused of abusing someone over the age of 15.

In total, 198 priests were accused of abusing those under 15, compared to 184 who were accused of abusing older teens.

In 58.4 percent of allegations of clerical abuse in Poland, males were reportedly the victims. Females were the reported victims in 41.6 percent of allegations.

Since 2002, when revelations of abuse by American clergy became worldwide news, the number of cases reported to Polish authorities has seen a gradual increase. In 2017, there were 36 allegations made against diocesan priests.

Of the 382 accused priests, a canonical penal process was pursued in 362 of these cases. There is no data available for the other 20 cases, nor is it explained in the report why this is the case. In 270 cases, the process was completed at the time of the study’s commision, and the process was ongoing in 92 cases.

A total of 68 priests–almost exactly one quarter–were removed from the priesthood as a result of the canonical process. 109 were punished with a limitation of ministry or other sanctions, and 31 were transferred to either a different parish or in a location away from children. In 34 cases, the process was ended after the death of the accused, and in 28 cases, the priest was acquitted.

Only 168 priests were charged with a crime by civil authorities. At the time the report was published, the trial had concluded in 135 of those cases. Eighty-five priests were convicted of sexual abuse. In 36 cases, the charges did not move forward, and in 12 cases, the accuser did not want to cooperate and pursue charges. Two priests were aquitted.

There are 33 priests whose trials are ongoing.

Poland’s statistics on clerical abuse tell a different than data concerning the United States. According to the “John Jay study,” a report into allegations of abuse by American priests commissioned in 2002, only 27.3 percent of those abused by priests were over the age of 15. In the U.S., males accounted for nearly 80 percent of survivors of clerical abuse.