Polish Catholic Church says 382 minors abused by priests in past 18 years

Published 14.03.2019 18:21
Updated 14.03.2019 18:22
Polish Catholic Church clergy attend a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, March 14, 2019. (Reuters Photo)
Polish Catholic Church clergy attend a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, March 14, 2019. (Reuters Photo)

Poland's Catholic Church leaders revealed Thursday they have recorded cases of 382 priests abusing minors since 1990.

The figure includes 198 priests who abused minors under 15 years old and 184 priests who abused others, aged between 15 and 18, according to Wojciech Sadlon, the head of the church's Institute of Statistics.

The crimes occurred from 1990 through the middle of last year, he told a news conference.

Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, expressed "pain, shame and the sense of guilt that such situations happened."

The figures were released following a three-day session of Poland's Episcopate in Warsaw that discussed abuse and ways of protecting children.

The release came just weeks after Pope Francis convened church leaders from around the world to the Vatican, where they discussed the issue of sex abuse of minors by the clergy.

Church leaders in predominantly Catholic Poland have previously admitted they knew of cases of abuse of minors by priests but did not reveal how many.

The report follows investigations into widespread abuse of minors by clergy in other countries - notably in Chile, the United States, Australia and Ireland - that have shaken the Roman Catholic Church to its foundations.

Last month the Polish charity "Have no fear", which supports abuse victims, delivered its own report to Pope Francis in which it calculated - purely on the basis of media reports collated since the mid-1950s - that at least 384 minors had been sexually abused by clergy in Poland.

Activists say the real figure is probably much greater.

The charity has called for the creation of a panel to investigate the real scale of the problem, securing access to Church documents regarding the abuse of minors, and dismissing bishops found responsible for covering up sexual crimes.

In Poland, Catholic priests enjoy high social prestige and victims of sexual abuse by clergy are often suspected by devout Poles of making up false accusations, even long after the offender in question has been jailed.

Poland remains one of Europe's most devout countries. Nearly 85 percent of Poland's 38 million-strong population identify as Roman Catholics and around 12 million attend mass every Sunday.

But Polish Church authorities have yet to reach a consensus on how to address the issue of sexual abuse.

An arm of the Church has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to annul a 1 million zloty ($263,000) payment ordered by a lower court to a woman who, as a 13-year old child, was repeatedly raped by her local priest.

The case was a landmark ruling in granting compensation and an annuity to a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in Poland.

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