WARSAW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bombshell documentary on clerical sex abuse is rocking Poland, with sweeping implications for both Church and State.
Tell No One, an independent film by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, shows predator priest victims confronting their abusers. Since its May 11 YouTube release, it has garnered almost 19 million views.
Spotlighting a pattern of clerical sex abuse and cover-up, the documentary has shocked Poland, one of Europe's last bastions of robust Catholicism. It reveals that Polish bishops knew about many of the abuse cases profiled, but did nothing to stop the priests involved.
Poles have been especially angered by the blasé attitude of Abp. Sławoj Leszek Głódź. The Gdansk prelate is shown treating victims with indifference while praising accused priest Fr. Franciszek Cybula, personal chaplain to anti-Communist leader Lech Wałęsa. When asked about his reaction to the documentary, Głódź replied he had better things to do than to watch it.
Tell No One has prompted a raft of public statements from Church officials.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Holy See Press Office Director Alessandro Gisotti responded to the unfolding crisis, saying: "The Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, has expressed the closeness and solidarity of the Holy Father towards victims of abuse."
Gniezno Abp. Wojciech Polak, primate of Poland and delegate for the protection of children and youth of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, issued a video statement in the wake of the film's release, saying, "The enormous suffering of people who have been hurt triggers pain and shame. ... No one in the Church can avoid responsibility."
Polak also sent a link to the movie to Maltese Abp. Charles Scicluna, Pope Francis' lead sex abuse investigator, so he will be fully briefed ahead of a planned visit to Poland next month.
Polish Jesuit Fr. Jacek Prusak, a newspaper columnist, has called the Church "a home for a herd of wolves in clerical collars." He warned Sunday, "A judgment over these wolves in clerical collars is coming. Actually, it is happening already."
Polish media have branded the scandal a "second Chile," saying it has the potential to destroy the credibility of the Church in Poland.
The country's political leaders have also responded to the crisis. On Tuesday, the government announced a toughening of the criminal code, mandating prison terms of up to 30 years for sexual abuse of minors.
"Torture, pedophilia have been punished too kindly," said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Meanwhile, the scandal appears to be eroding support for the ruling Law and Justice Party, a strong ally of the Catholic Church in Poland.
Before the release of Tell No One, most opinion polls showed the pro-life, pro-family party in the lead ahead of European Parliament elections scheduled for May 26. But in the past week, the leftist, pro-EU European Coalition has taken a commanding lead.
On Friday, the Institute for Research into Public Affairs issued the results of a May 14–16 survey, revealing that 43.6% of those polled said they would vote for the European Coalition, with 32.9% backing Law and Justice.
Izabela Styczynska, head of Polish think tank the Center for Social and Economic Research, has confirmed that antagonism toward the ruling party, as well as the Church, has risen since Tell No One was released.
"The question is — will this last?" she said.