Church proactive in fighting paedophilia

The Jesuit Ignatianum University in Kraków Catholic Child Protection Center’s (COD) head Father Adam Żak SJ, told the Catholic Information Agency (KAI) that in the light of the recently published Polish Episcopate’s report on acts of paedophilia perpetrated by Catholic priests in 1990-2018 more attention should be paid to clergymen’s training.

With the phenomenon of paedophilia on the rise in the Polish Catholic Church, “the prevention system needs to include all areas of Church life and work, namely catechesis, collaboration with families and priesthood. This is necessary for the Church to be a safe environment,” said Fr Żak.

The COD head stressed that the paedophilia crime is perpetrated several to several dozen years after an individual has embraced priesthood, adding that “according to data, boys suffer more often from sexual abuse than girls. This reflects data gathered in other countries.”

The priest said that this should motivate bishops to reject people of homosexual inclinations from entering the priesthood.

Fr Żak also said that some of the priests who sexually abused children were themselves sexually abused.

The priest also stressed that the paedophilia issue is not that of sexual orientation. “In over 80 percent, the problem results from psychosexual immaturity,” said Fr Żak, adding that “30-40-year-old men suffer more from stress [than others], they have a greater propensity for addiction, for instance to pornography and alcohol, and that pushes them to search for newer experiences.”

“What people need is the realisation that the [paedophilia] issue within the Church is a reflection of the same issue in society [as a whole]. This is not relativisation, nor is it shifting blame on someone else,” the priest told Poland’s private broadcaster TVN24.

The effort made

Starting from 2013, COD has carried out a number of paedophilia prevention pieces of training. At the turn of 2013/2014, an e-learning course in preventive and interventional methods was jointly organised by COD and the Georgian University in Rome’s own Child Protection Centre. Forty out of 60 participants have graduated.

“How to approach and adequately respond to sexual abuse of minors in the Church” conference organised by the Polish COD in June 2014 was attended by 180 Church personnel from 26 dioceses, 20 male and 17 women orders. A post-conference booklet was published. Also in 2014, a training session was organised for over 200 priests of the Przemyśl archdiocese and the Pallottines of Ołtarzewo.

The COD also organised an international conference on crisis management for bishops from East-Central Europe. The conference was repeated in 2015, 2016, 2017. In 2015 six four-day workshop for around 130 clergymen were organised. Moreover, other workshops were organised the same year for 142 priests.

Furthermore, the COD trained 1,400 laymen volunteers and priests engaged in the organisation of World Youth Day 2018 that took place in Poland. In October 2016, three-semester-long postdoctoral studies in child sexual abuse prevention were intiated. A total of 21 out 23 people graduated with a diploma in February 2018.