WARSAW (Reuters) - The Polish court of appeal upheld on Tuesday a landmark ruling granting a million zloty ($268,000) in compensation to a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, accepting that the Church in Poland was responsible for its priest’s crimes.
The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors, deeply damaging confidence in the Church in Chile, the United States, Australia and Ireland among other countries.
In January, a court ordered the Catholic Church to pay compensation to a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest as a child.
“The verdict of the Court of Appeal legally decides to award one million zloty compensation ... and an annuity of 800 zloty a month,” the court statement said.
State news agency PAP reported last year that a priest had abused a 13-year-old girl during his tenure in northwestern Poland.
The man, who imprisoned and raped the girl for more than 10 months, was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison, Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported.
The victim successfully sued The Society of Christ Fathers for Poles Living Abroad after she refused to accept the financial offer from the congregation to which the priest belonged.
Poland’s episcopate declined to comment on Tuesday while a spokesman for the Society of Christ Fathers for Poles Living Abroad said it was working on a statement.
“This is the first time the court in Poland recognized the Church as being co-complicit in such a crime,” Marek Lisinski, head of the “Nie lekajcie sie” foundation aimed at helping priest-pedophiles’ victims, told Reuters.
“For sure it will give other victims courage to fight for justice and a faith that it is possible to win even against such a moloch,” he added.
Pope Francis is battling to address the issue worldwide and will meet with senior Catholic bishops at the Vatican in February to discuss the protection of minors.
Nearly a million people flocked to cinemas across Poland last weekend to watch a movie called “Clergy” that depicts Catholic priests in a highly unflattering light, breaking box-office records.
Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, editing by Ed Osmond