Damning report on religious order as abuse conference opens in Warsaw

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Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, center, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at the Warsaw Conference.

CNS Photo / courtesy EpiskopatNews

A report on sexual abuse in the great Dominican order in Poland, the first lay-led inquiry commissioned by the Church, confirmed widespread cover-ups, along with a major conference being held in Warsaw on combating human rights. abuses committed by the Catholic clergy in Eastern Europe. .

The 260-page report, compiled with dozens of testimonies since April, said the Dominican provincial in Wroclaw, identified only as Father Pawel, “caused suffering to adults who saw him as a spiritual leader,” adding that the chapter of western Poland had developed “all the characteristics of a sect” under his leadership.

He indicated that the Dominican, in detention since March, had raped several women, including a nun, but added that other Dominicans, including a well-known leader of the order, Father Maciej Zieba (1954-2020), n ‘had “done nothing for many years, even when the injured parties often turned to them”.

The report was released at a large conference open on Sunday in the Polish capital, attended by Church officials and child protection experts from 20 countries, to coordinate responses to the abuse crisis .

In a video message to the four-day meeting, co-hosted by the Vatican Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Polish Bishops’ Conference, the Pope urged Church leaders not to allow welfare victims be “sidelined in favor of a mistaken concern for the reputation of the institutional Church.” A statement from the Pontifical Commission said that sexual abuse had “tragically infiltrated the Church in all countries and cultures.”

Meanwhile, an expert from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, told Vatican Radio that bishops in the region had now generally established “law enforcement lines.”

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who heads the 150-member Polish Bishops’ Conference, where 10 mostly retired prelates have been sanctioned for ignoring complaints of abuse, told the conference on Sunday that his church had appointed a coordinator of child protection in 2013, while ensuring that all dioceses and religious orders now have care specialists.

However, several victims told the conference that Church proceedings still lacked transparency and favored perpetrators, while a member of the organizing committee, Ewa Kusz, told Vatican Radio that many victims of Eastern Europe remained “completely alone in their suffering” and feared being “treated as nuisances disturbing the sacred peace”.

In response to the Dominican Order’s report, the Catholic Primate of Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, promised that the whole Church would “take its recommendations to heart” by “standing unequivocally on the side of the injured and effectively protecting the weakest “.

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