Pope Francis has appointed an administrator to a Polish diocese whose bishop has been accused of covering-up the clerical sex abuse of children.
– Film-makers exposed pattern of negligence
The Vatican daily press bulletin announced June 25 that the pontiff had named Archbishop Grzegorz Rys of Lodz as apostolic administrator sede plena of the diocese of Kalisz, where the reigning bishop, Edward Janiak, 67, is facing allegations he failed to act on reports of abuse by diocesan priests.
Sede plena is the term used to indicate that the see is not vacant and that, in this case, Janiak remains in his post while an investigation runs its course.
The accusations against Janiak stem from a documentary, Hide and Seek, released May 16 by Marek and Tomasz Sekielski, who lifted the lid on pedophilia in the Polish Church in their groundbreaking 2019 film Tell No One.
Hide and Seek accuses Janiak of failing to act against pedophile priests, first when he was auxiliary bishop of Wroclaw (1996-2012) and then during his time as Bishop of Kalisz (2012-present).
In Wroclaw, Janiak allegedly arranged for an abusive cleric to be transferred to another diocese, even though a criminal investigation had already begun and even though the priest would end up being convicted and defrocked.
In Kalisz, the bishop allegedly reported another pedophile priest to Vatican authorities only after the case received media attention, in contravention of canon law.
The Kalisz diocese tried to deny that any victims of that priest had come forward, but Hide and Seek revealed an audio recording of Janiak telling a survivor’s parents that the accusations against the cleric were “lies”.
– Church moves to investigate but prelate resists
On the day Hide and Seek was released, Primate of Poland and Bishops’ delegate for child protection, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, reported the allegations against Janiak to the Vatican, and requested a canonical investigation of the bishop under the auspieces of Vos estis lux mundi, Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio establishing the legal process to follow in cases of negligent bishops.
In late May, reports emerged that priests in the Kalisz diocese had been requested but were refusing to sign letters of loyalty to Janiak, in a gesture observers read as a sign that the formerly unquestionable moral status of the Polish Catholic Church was beginning to crumble.
In early June, news broke that the Vatican Congregation for Bishops had authorized Janiak’s metropolitan archbishop, Stanisław Gądecki of the Poznan archdiocese, to begin the canonical investigation of the Bishop of Kalisz.
On June 15, the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper published a leaked letter by Janiak accusing Archbishop Polak of already having “issued a verdict” in his case, as well as of creating “great confusion” and “harm[ing] the image of the Church” by referring the charges against him to the Vatican.
The same newspaper later reported June 23 that Janiak had been hospitalised in Kalisz in early June on suspicion of having suffered a stroke.
Subsequent investigations revealed, however, that the bishop’s hospitalisation had been due to him having ingested a large amount of alcohol.
Both Sekielski brothers films, Tell No One and Hide and Seek, have been run-away successes in Poland, where the Church has historically enjoyed an untouchable status.