March 18, 2019 / 5:10 PM / 2 months ago

Polish charity condemns church's response to abuse allegations

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish charity helping victims of child abuse committed by Catholic priests condemned the church’s unapologetic response to its allegations as “offensive” on Monday.

The Roman Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors and in Poland the church responded last week by presenting the findings of a report into sexual abuse by clergy.

“What we heard on Thursday ...is for us offensive because again the will of the church is to stand on the side of the perpetrators, putting them higher, much higher, than the victims,” Marek Lisinski, a former victim of child abuse who runs the charity “Have No Fear”, told a news conference.

The church’s report said as many as 382 children were sexually abused by clergy in Poland between 1990 and 2018, but activists criticized the way in which the church approached the issue.

“The word ‘sorry’ did not come up in that conference once, in that conference there was not compassion and mercy, in that conference there was not a feeling of responsibility,” said Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, an activist and lawmaker from the small opposition party “Now”.

The charity, which on Monday announced details of a new case of abuse being covered up which was not included in its report presented to the Pope last month, has called for the creation of a panel to investigate the full scale of the problem and the dismissal of bishops found responsible for covering up sexual crimes.

The charity said it had not received any official response from Polish church authorities to accusations in its report to the Pope that 24 bishops concealed perpetrators of sexual molestation of minors. It accused church authorities in several dioceses of lying in responses posted online.

“Don’t apologize to parishioners for what happened, but apologize to them for the fact that you lied to them for so many years,” said one victim called Dariusz, close to tears.

In Poland, victims of abuse by priests are often accused of making false accusations, even long after the offender has been jailed, since Catholic priests enjoy high social prestige.

The Polish Episcopate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Alan Charlish, editing by Ed Osmond

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