The Church in Poland is struggling to shake the shadow of negligence on clerical sex abuse despite going into damage control on the case of an alleged pedophile bishop.

Questions around the first abuse accusations against a Polish bishop

February 10 the news broke that the Vatican is investigating a serving Polish bishop for the alleged sexual abuse of a then 15-year-old girl.

Jan Szkodoń, a bishop in the southern city of Kraków, has been accused by a woman, ‘Monika’ – now in her thirties – of having touched her breasts and genital area and kissed her on the lips on occasions at his home.

But though Szkodoń has finally been suspended now from pastoral duties in the archdiocese, and is living at an undisclosed location elsewhere in the country, questions are being raised about the way the Church in Poland has handled the case.

And that’s despite the assurance February 12 from Wojciech Polak, the Archbishop of Gniezno, Primate of Poland and Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, that “we undertake systematic support for people wounded in the Church”.

“We are looking for the best way to answer [the] cry [of survivors]”, said Polak, attempting to convince press conference attendees of the Polish Bishops’ determination to fight the scourge of clerical sex abuse.

“We are doing everything to break the indifference”, the archbishop added.

Seven months between complaint and deposition

In other words, the Church in Poland is in damage control, organising a press conference on “Helping the Wounded in the Church” just two days after the case against Szkodoń became public.

But as Crux reports, observers are wondering whether the Church in Poland is really serious about pursuing abusers in its ranks, in the light of concerns about how authorities have dealt with the accusations against Szkodoń.

Though Monika took her complaint against the bishop to the nunciature, or Vatican embassy, in May, it took seven months for her to be called to testify.

“After all the papal declarations saying that the concern for victims is a priority for the Church, the real pace of dealing with those matters at the Vatican congregation is nothing but obstructive”, wrote Zbigniew Nosowski, chief editor of Wieź quarterly and a founder of a hotline for abuse survivors.

Priest whistleblower: “Communicating the state of the matter is crucial”

Crux said many in Poland see Monika’s move in going public with her case as a sign of her desperation and frustration at the sluggishness of Church processes.

“Communications – meaning informing the reporting person what is the state of the matter – is a crucial thing for those who report cases of sexual abuse in the Church”, insider and priest Father Piotr Studnicki, head of the Child Protection Office of the Polish Episcopal Conference, told Crux.

“We owe it to the survivors – they need to know whether anyone is already working on their case”, the whistleblower added.

It didn’t help that Archbishop of Krakow, Marek Jędraszewski, didn’t even release an official statement when the news broke about the accusations against his auxiliary.

Neither did it seem opportune, to say the least, that Jędraszewski’s predecessor as archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz – also the longtime personal secretary of John Paul II – said that “the allegations hurt many people for whom Bishop Jan is an authority, a father and a friend”.

“We are all expecting the allegations to be thoroughly and quickly explained”, Dziwisz added.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.