Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Catholic Church in Poland is facing another child-abuse scandal

A new child-abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church last week. Daily Gazeta Wyborcza first reported claims of four former children from the St. Brother Albert shelter in Szczecin, who accused priest Andrzej, a helper at the shelter, of sexual harassment, psychological abuse and rape.

All major dailies covered the incidents last week. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, the Church authorities in Szczecin were informed of the situation in 1995 but did not act on it for years. "The youngest of the children was, at the time, 13 years old," said Father Mogielski, who learned of the issue in 2003 and filed a report with the Church. The prosecutor in Szczecin is investigating the matter, while Father Andrzej has denied all accusations. The Church removed him from his duties as an educator in 2007.

This is not the first time the Church has been accused of ignoring reports of priests abusing minors. In March of last year, Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus of the Diocese of Plock came under attack, alongside other diocese officials, following claims that they had known about priests abusing minors for at least six years, but had failed to intervene.

A spokesperson for British child protection organization NSPCC told WBJ that the right support needed to be given to the victims. She said that running campaigns similar to the organization's "Don't Hide It" campaign could help victims seek aid. Last year 8,637 people called NSPCC's Childline to talk about sexual abuse, while another 150,000 calls were made to its National Protection Helpline.

But there is no comprehensive helpline listed in the Child Helpline International directory for Poland. The country does have a number of emerging organizations that offer some help for abused children like the Nobody's Children Foundation's helpline and Dzieciecy Telefon Zaufania.