No more silence on paedophilia: Polish church official

Father Adam Żak, a Polish Catholic church official, condemned the culture of silence and called for transparency with regards to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

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On Thursday, Pope Francis opened a historic summit meeting at the Vatican devoted to tackling clerical child sexual abuse.

In Poland the summit was commented on by father Adam Żak of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, a coordinator for the protection of children and youth.

“We need to leave the culture of silence which has done so much evil and enter the culture of transparency,” the Jesuit said. Talking about the summit, he emphasised that the participants come from all over the world and include heads of Episcopal conferences, representatives of both male and female orders, and the top officials of Eastern Christianity.

“I hope that all those present at the summit, and those who they represent, will understand that the problem we are facing is a global one,” father Żak said. “It is not an imagined problem, but a real one, present not only among societies but within the Church too.”

The church official also spoke of the need not just for a systemic change that would prevent further abuses, but also a mentality change. “We must stop seeing a scandal only when information about abuse is revealed. It is a scandal already when the abuse happens.”

Report on paedophilia in Poland

Referring to the report on paedophilia in Poland which was delivered to Pope Francis by the “Do not be afraid” foundation, father Żak said that he considers the move “something normal.”

“The report has been announced for some time now, either by insinuations or by direct indication of those allegedly responsible for negligence,” he said, adding that he has not seen the content of the report yet.

“We will comment on it only after we familiarise ourselves with it,” father Żak emphasised. “However, I want to make it clear that representatives of the victims, many of them members of the Church, have the right to appeal to the highest authority in the Church, the Pope. The fact that the report was delivered to him should not be concerning for anyone.”

Content of the report

The report was released to the public on Thursday afternoon. It names 24 Polish Church officials - bishops, archbishops, as well as cardinal Kazimierz Nycz - as playing a substantial role in concealing cases of paedophile priests and moving them to other parishes.

“We demand that the Polish Catholic church opens its archives and releases all the information about the priests-perpetrators to the state investigative organs as the Church cannot stand above the law,” representatives of the “Do not be afraid” foundation said. “Priests, just as all other citizens, are obliged to obey the law and the Church as an institution must begin to respect this fact.”

The spokesman of the Polish Episcopate, father Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, told the press just after the report’s release that he could not comment on it as he “does not know its content yet.”