KALISZ, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Polish priests have refused to sign letters of loyalty to their diocesan bishop who has been accused of the cover-up of child abuse, choosing instead to stand with the victims.
Priests in the Polish diocese of Kalisz have taken a stand against Bp. Edward Janiak after an incident of child abuse cover-up was exposed in a recent documentary.
The primate of Poland, Wojciech Polak, has also reacted to the revelations of cover-up and has notified the Vatican representative in Poland asking for an investigation.
This case will represent the first one in Poland being processed under the motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi, in which Pope Francis established universal procedural norms for combatting sexual abuse and ensuring that bishops are accountable for their actions.
"I ask priests, nuns, parents and educators to not be led by the false logic of shielding the Church, effectively hiding sexual abusers," Abp. Polak said in a statement according to Deutsche Welle (DW), a German media outlet. "There is no place among the clergy to sexually abuse minors. We do not allow for the hiding of these crimes."
The documentary in question is Hide and Seek, produced by Marek and Tomasz Sekielski, and focuses on the abuse of two brothers — Bartek and Jakub Pankowiak — by a parish priest Fr. Arkadiusz Hajdasz in the small town of Pleszew in central Poland. The two brothers were not the only victims, according to the film. The priest is accused of abusing dozens of boys in the 1990s with bishops making multiple attempts to cover up his alleged actions.
Hide and Seek is the follow up to a video the Sekielski brothers released in 2019 called Tell No One, also focusing on clerical abuse of minors in Poland.
The problem of pedophilia in secular Poland is also being publicized. Polish filmmaker Sylwester Latkowski recently produced a film titled Nothing Happened, which focuses on alleged pedophilia among celebrities who frequented a nightclub in Sopot, a city in northern Poland. According to the film, many underage boys and girls were molested at the club. The general prosecutor and minister of justice of Poland have announced an investigation into the matter.
According to DW, the ruling PiS party wants to set up a committee of inquiry that investigates pedophilia in the Church and in secular society. "The Polish parliament has rejected a demand by a group of left-wing delegates for the establishment of a separate committee. These delegates are now worried that abuse by priests will only be addressed as a side issue," DW reported.
The issue of pedophilia is fraught with political biases, making it harder for the victims to find true justice and observers to find truth beyond ideology.
While many Poles acknowledge the cover-up of child abuse by Church authorities and the prolonged torment it causes for victims, they also argue that leftist forces use it as a propaganda tool to further their cause to destroy the Church.
For example, a Church Militant contact in Poland said, "The problem of pedophilia is serious and does exist," but the film [Hide and Seek] is not the best source of information in this case." Many people inside Poland see the latest Sekielski brothers' film as a means "to hit Pope St. John Paul II's reputation and probably also [to] coincide with the presidential election that didn't happen."
The contact said the credibility of the Sekielskis' film is diminished due to "their political involvement and manipulations" and because "for sure they have enough support to spread rumors abroad."
But the refusal of the priests to declare loyalty to a bishop accused of cover-up is a good sign for the victims and is stirring debate, partisans agree.
"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," adding "which is a rarity in the hierarchical church structure," Obirek said.
"We are still cleansing Poland of all kinds of dirt," said President Andrzej Duda in an interview with Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja June 2. "Certain elements must be removed, replacing them with new tissue."
When confronted by the Pankowiak brothers, the accused priest can be heard saying in the documentary that he feels "guilty before God."