A new case of episcopal negligence in a case of clerical sex abuse in Poland has marred this Monday’s centenary of the birth of Pope St. John Paul II.
– Polish Primate admits “standards of protecting children in the Church have not been obeyed”
Hide and Seek – the second documentary on abuse in the Church by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, after their widely-praised 2019 Tell No One – was released May 16 on the internet.
The film – which racked up more than 2.5 million views in less than 24 hours – shows how reigning Bishop of Kalisz Edward Janiak covered up for a priest who was known to have offended against children.
“I am devastated”, clerical sexual abuse victim Robert Fidura told Crux after watching the documentary.
“I am devastated mostly with the bishop’s behaviour… Many cases would not end in a court if the people of the Church finally learned how to listen”, the survivor lamented.
To listen – albeit too late – is what the Polish Church is attempting to do now as it goes into damage control, with Polish Primate and Delegate for Child Protection of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, announcing within half an hour of the documentary’s screening that he would ask the Vatican to investigate Bishop Janiak.
“The film Hide and Seek shows that the standards of protecting children and youth in the Church have not been obeyed”, Polak admitted.
– Vatican investigation to be launched
The Polish Primate said that on the basis of the film’s revelations, he would press the Vatican to investigate Janiak for “abandonment of the action required by law”.
The Vatican’s investigation of the Kalisz bishop, Polak further explained, would be carried out under the auspices of Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi, a Church law designed to hold bishops accountable for committing or covering up sex abuse.
“I ask priests, nuns, parents and educators to not be led by the false logic of shielding the Church, effectively hiding sexual abusers”, Polak appealed.
The archbishop insisted: “There is no place among the clergy to sexually abuse minors. We do not allow for the hiding of these crimes”.
– Diocese attempts to shift blame to parents
Though Janiak is yet to comment on the new allegations, his diocese of Kalisz released a statement in which it attempted to shift some of the blame for the episcopal cover-up onto the parents of one of the victims.
A key scene in the Sekielski brothers’ film shows Janiak telling the parents that their allegations against a priest “are lies and you have to leave now”.
But the local curia complained that that scene “doesn’t show the whole conversation” between the bishop and the complainants.
“It doesn’t show the part where we say that the parents should’ve expressed their concerns to the prosecutor immediately”, the Kalisz diocese argued.
The priest whose crimes are revealed in Hide and Seek – Father Arkadiusz Hajdasz – was later found to have abused multiple children over a twenty-year period.
Bishop Janiak didn’t report his crimes to the Vatican until 2018.
– Victims’ advocates: “All just a facade”
Defenders of clerical abuse victims, for their part, are denouncing after the documentary’s premiere that they have no trust either in the Polish Church nor even in the investigative procedures the Vatican will now put in place.
“I believe that this is just a facade”, said Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska, an anti-clerical pedophilia campaigner who worked to create a ground-breaking map of abuse in the Church around Poland.
“For the last year, the Catholic episcopate has known that there are bishops who covered up paedophilia cases, and yet none of them have been dismissed”, Diduszko-Zyglewska deplored.
Though neither of the Sekielski brothers’ films to date accuses John Paul II directly of negligence on sex abuse cases, Tomasz has promised to release a third documentary on the “role of John Paul II in the dissimulation of crimes committed by priests”.
The shadow of the new allegations against Bishop Janiak is expected to cast a pall on the services, online concerts and other events the Polish Church has organised for this Monday to mark 100 years since the birth of John Paul II, who was born Karol Wojtyła on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, in the south of Poland.