Polish diocese apologizes after suggesting altar server enjoyed rape

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WARSAW, POLAND – A Polish diocese has apologized after its lawyer suggested a former altar server might have enjoyed being sexually assaulted by a priest, as a victims’ spokesperson warned the church had still “a long way to go” to combat abuse.

“We would like to emphasize unambiguously that we have not sought to diminish the responsibility of the perpetrator who committed crimes against a minor, much less to blame the injured person,” the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec said in a statement. communicated.

“We apologize to all who are outraged by these media reports – and to remove any doubts, the evidence in this case will be clarified in the near future by order of Bishop Roman Pindel…taking into account the sensitivity of the injured party.”

Anna Englert, a diocesan lawyer, had suggested that a former child victim of a damages action could have been a homosexual who ‘derived satisfaction’ from his ‘intimate relationship’ with Father Jan Wodniak, who led the parish of Miedzybrodzie Bialskie for 35 years.

The diocese said that in 2017, after a trial in a diocesan court, the Vatican banned Fr Wodniak from ministering. He added that Englert should not have included “questions about the sexual orientation” of his victim, Janusz Szymik, when responding to his compensation claim.

Katarzyna Sroczynska, spokeswoman for Wounded in the Church, an organization for victims of abuse, told Catholic News Service it was “another example of how hurt and hurt people are just made to disappear.” .

“I know some people are working extremely hard to solve these problems. But the institutional church still has a long way to go here – it needs a total shift in mentality and consciousness,” Sroczynska said.

“Once again, we need to speak up and explain why sexual violence against children, regardless of the circumstances, is deeply harmful,” she told CNS on January 18.

Poland’s State Commission said Jan. 12 that it had asked the local district bar to consider whether Englert “violated professional ethics” with his statement to the court.

In June, Szymik, now 48, sought damages of 3 million zlotys ($752,000) from the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec for the multiple abuses and rapes he suffered as a servant. altar from 1984 to 1989. He accused the then-bishop of “totally ignoring” his complaints.

However, the diocese said it was only created as a separate entity in 1992 and therefore could not be held responsible for the crimes of Father Wodniak, who was a priest in the Archdiocese of Krakow when he committed the abuse.

Meanwhile, the director of the Polish bishops’ child protection office, Fr Piotr Studnicki, said “good knowledge and human sensitivity” were needed to assess the case.

“It should be clear to everyone that a child is never responsible for violence,” the priest said in a Jan. 12 tweet.

“The issue of sexual orientation or a child’s emotional reaction to the crime of sexual abuse cannot be used as an argument against the injured party or to diminish the responsibility of the perpetrator.”

Ten bishops, mostly retired, have been sanctioned by the Vatican for ignoring complaints of abuse in Poland. In 2013, the episcopal conference appointed a coordinator for child protection and created a foundation for prevention and assistance to victims.

Franciscan Father Tarsycjusz Krasucki, who suffered abuse as a child, told the Catholic periodical Wiez on January 12 that his sexuality had also been questioned by a church lawyer, adding that he was sure the purpose was to “discredit me as a person and undermine my credibility”. .”

“I understand the (lawyer’s) duties – but a diocese is a special client and should seek the highest level of care for someone repeatedly injured in childhood by a priest,” Fr. Krasucki said.

“Yet the attitude of church institutions in cases like this shows that the real priorities are different. Their official representatives will use any argument to defend their financial interests, even leading to the secondary victimization of the injured person and the destruction of his dignity,” he said. noted. “In such situations, morality is suspended for many ecclesiastical institutions.”

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