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Polish court sentences diocese, parish, pedophile priest to pay victim thousands in compensation

A court in Poland has taken the historic step of lifting the statute of limitations on the crimes of a pedophile priest and awarding a victim tens of thousands of euros in compensation.

Driving the news

An appeals court in the city of Gdansk, in Poland’s north, ordered the pedophile priest, his former parish and the Diocese of Pelplin to pay 400,000 zlotys (92,500 euros) to Marek Mielewczyk, 50, as AFP reports.

The money is in compensation for the abse Mielewczyk suffered at the hands of the priest between 1982-87.

Go deeper

Handing down her decision Tuesday, judge Dorota Gierczak likened the abuse Mielewczyk suffered to “torture”.

“Sexually abusing minors unaware of the criminal nature of the acts perpetrated on them is to treat others in a humiliating and inhumane manner, which is the same as torture”, the magistrate said.

Judge Gierczak added that the statute of limitations was not relevant in a case of abuse which involved “acts incompatible with the rules of society”.

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Why it matters

Survivor Mielewczyk celebrated the court’s finding as “a turning point showing that the Church is responsible for having concealed the pedophile”.

Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska, a survivors’ advocate at the “Don’t be afraid” foundation for victims of clergy sex abuse, said the decision “will give victims the hope of finding justice in a civil case even if it is no longer applicable in the penal code”.

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This February, Don’t be afraid handed over to Pope Francis a report containing 384 substantiated clergy sex abuse cases in Poland.

For the record

Mielewczyk bravely told his story in the documentary released in May this year Tell No One.

The film – in which clergy sex abuse survivors confront their aggressors on camera – caused a scandal in Poland, where it was watched some twenty million times within a week of its release.

In Tell No One, Mielewczyk said his abuser, Father Andrzej Srebrzynski, raped him multiple times from the age of 13 until he attempted suicide and was hospitalised in 1987.

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The doctor who treated Mielewczyk wrote a letter in 1988 to Srebrzynski’s bishop, Marian Przykucki, of the diocese of Chelmno.

Przykucki informed the physician that Srebrzynski had been sent on retreat and would only be dismissed from the priesthood if he reoffended.

Mielewczyk said he later found out his abuser had been transferred from parish to parish until Pope Francis finally defrocked him in 2016.

That punishment came 28 years after the Church had first received complaints against Srebrzynski.

Even then, Srebrzynski was seen in full liturgical vestments in a June 2017 procession in Mogilno.

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