Polish diocese apologizes for asking if abuse victim is gay

A Catholic diocese in Poland has apologized for asking a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest is gay and whether the sexual contact may have been pleasurable for him.

WARSAW, Poland — A Catholic diocese in Poland apologized Thursday for asking a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest is gay and whether the sexual contact could have been pleasurable for him. .

Following widespread criticism, the Diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec said its letter to the court should not have included questions about the victim’s sexuality or suggested he derived pleasure from contact with the priest. The diocese sent the letter in response to a lawsuit by the victim, Janusz Szymik.

“We apologize to Janusz and all those who were outraged” by the questions, the diocese said in a statement, pledging to change the wording of the letter.

The Catholic bishops of Poland had already strongly criticized the diocese in southern Poland.

Szymik, now 48, was an altar boy when the abuse began in the 1980s. He sued the diocese in civil court last year.

The priest, who was only identified as Reverend Jan W., admitted the abuse and in 2015 was condemned by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Szymik is now demanding 3 million zlotys ($760,000) in compensation from the diocese.

Earlier this week, the Onet news portal revealed the contents of the documents it obtained and which a church lawyer had submitted to the court. The documents show the church wants an expert “to verify the complainant’s sexual orientation” and to determine if he “shows satisfaction in maintaining an intimate relationship with the Reverend Jan W.” or derived from the “material benefits” of the sexual relationship with the cleric.

The Reverend Piotr Studnicki, director of a special office for the protection of children within the Polish Bishops’ Conference, said in a statement released Wednesday that “reliable knowledge and human sensitivity” are necessary for any legal proceedings.

“The issue of sexual orientation or how a child reacts emotionally to a sexual abuse offense cannot constitute an argument against the injured party and diminish the perpetrator’s liability,” Studnicki said. “It must be clear to everyone that a child has never taken responsibility for the violence suffered.”

Szymik said he was surprised at the development of the case, noting that Bishop Roman Pindel of Bielsko-Zywiec had already shown compassion towards him for the abuse he suffered as a child.

“He used to express pain and regret and ask for forgiveness, and now he wants to prove (…) that I am a homosexual person, that pedophilia gave me pleasure, that everything that happened was voluntary , that I took advantage of it,” Szymik said. said in an interview on the TVN24 news channel.

The Catholic Church has long been Poland’s highest moral authority, playing an inspirational role during occupation and foreign rule and supporting the anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s.

But the recent toll of abuse has damaged his credibility. Even Poland’s most famous Catholic, Saint John Paul II, now has his legacy tarnished by his own failure to fight abuse when he was pope.

One of the country’s top religious leaders, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland, recently said the church was witnessing a “devastating” decline in religious practice among young Poles, saying the inability of the church hierarchy to deal with clerical abuse was one reason. for that.

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