By Lisa Zengarini
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Poland (KEP) released its latest report on sexual abuse of minors in the Church on Monday. The report, which was prepared by the local Church’s Institute of Statistics in cooperation with the Bishops’ Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, refers to the years from 1958 to 2020. It was financed by the Saint Joseph Foundation, which the KEP established in 2019 together with the Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth, with the mission of improving prevention and supporting the healing of survivors.
Reported cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy between 1958 and 2020
According to the new data, an overall of 368 cases of sexual abuse against minors were lodged between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2020, 300 of which were reported to dioceses and male religious orders. 173 people (47%) were under the age of 15 and 174 (47.3%) were over this age when the incidents occurred. In both age groups, the percentage of boys and girls was the same (50% each). 21 reports (5.7%) did not contain information on age: 8 concerned abuse against girls, and 13 against boys. 299 reports (81%) concerned crimes committed between 1958 and 2017, and 65 (18%) crimes which took place in the last three years (2018-2020).
51% of complaints still under investigation
51% of the complaints made between mid-2018 and the end of 2020 are still under investigation, and 39% of the allegations were confirmed or have been substantiated in the preliminary phase, or by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 10% of the accusations were considered unfounded and subsequently rejected.
292 priests and religious persons involved
Charges have involved 292 priests and religious persons. 20% of the priests have been accused on more than one charge. Half of the complaints were made by the victim in person (48%), or through a legal representative (2%). In 19% of cases the source of the information was a member of clergy, while in 8% reports were made by the family of the victim, 5% by another lay person, 3% by State authorities, victim’s friends or the media. 9% were reported by other sources. As for the accused, in most cases they were temporarily suspended from service (47%), or removed from all pastoral contact with children and youth (36%), or confined to a specific place (36%) while charges were being investigated. 16% of the accused have retired and 11% have not been removed from their ministry.
86% of reports referred to law enforcement agencies
Of the 173 cases reported to Church jurisdictions concerning victims under the age of 15, 148 (86%) were referred to law enforcement agencies. In 113 cases, these reports were made by Dioceses and Orders while in 35 cases law enforcement agencies were notified by another entity.
First data on sexual abuse published in 2014
The first data on cases of sexual abuse against minors by priests and religious in Poland were collected by the Polish Bishops’ Conference in 2014 and covered the period from 1990 to 2013. In 2018, the Secretariat of the KEP collected more data from all Dioceses and religious Orders from January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2018. In March 2019, 382 reported cases from 1950 to 2018 were revealed, of which 198 concerned people under 15 years of age, and 184 people between 15 and 18 years old.
An in-depth analysis of the data presented in January 2021
At the request of the Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Pallottine Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church “Witold Zdaniewicz” (ISKK) made an in-depth analysis of the data. It was presented on January 13 this year during the session “Building a System in the Church in Poland to Combat the Sexual Abuse of Minors.”
Procedures for the protection of minors first introduced in 2009
Procedures for the protection of minors against sexual abuse were first introduced by the Polish Bishops in 2009. They have subsequently implemented the procedures provided for by Pope Francis’ Motu proprio ‘Vos estis lux mundi’ (‘You are the light of the world’) to prevent and combat crimes of sexual abuse in the Church.