He described the steps that the Polish Church had taken in response to a series of abuse scandals, highlighting the bishops’ appointment of Archbishop Wojciech Polak as their delegate for the protection of children and youth, and the creation of the St. Joseph Foundation supporting abuse survivors.
Gądecki also noted that the Church had established the role of a “guardian” for accused and convicted clergy.
“We also recognize that clergy accused of sexual abuse — also when convicted — fall into a loneliness that creates a frustration that is dangerous to the accused or convicted priest, as well as to his potential victims,” he explained.
“That is why we have created the role of the guardian of accused or convicted clergy to supervise these individuals, to require them to comply with all restrictions imposed, and to support them in moments of depression or despair.”
He added that lay people had created an organization called Wounded in the Church providing a hotline for victims and access to therapists and lawyers.
“I mention these people and institutions to show the magnitude of the effort made by the Church in Poland, and also to thank those who have done much good in this area over the years,” he said.
“We take to heart the call of the Holy Father Francis not to care first of all about the image of the institution, about the ‘external side of the cup and bowl,’ but first of all about the good of the victims.”
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But he added: “There is also the danger that all these actions will lull our sense of responsibility into the belief that, after all, we are already doing so much for this cause.”
“However, coming into contact with the tragedy of so many people who have been wronged, as I was able to experience personally when listening to a number of people before the Vatican summit in 2019, reveals that in the face of the enormity of the wounds, many efforts remain insufficient.”
Pope Francis sent a video message to participants in the Warsaw meeting in which he urged leaders to put the welfare of victims ahead of the Church’s reputation.
“Our expressions of sorrow must be converted into concrete pathways of reform to both prevent further abuse and to give confidence to others that our efforts will bring about real and reliable change,” he said.
“I encourage you to listen to the cry of the victims and to dedicate yourselves, with each other and with society in a broader sense, in these important discussions because they truly touch the future of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe — not only the Church’s future, but the hearts of Christians as well. This is our responsibility.”
Speaking on Sept. 20, the Czech philosopher and theologian Msgr. Tomáš Halík said that clerical abuse was one aspect of a profound crisis in the Church today. He pointed to several root causes in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including clericalism, triumphalism, and the abuse of power. Only thoroughgoing reform can overcome the crisis, he said.
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