“Moving and sad”

A new documentary on child sexual abuse by priests is increasing prere on the Catholic Church in Poland. The reaction of the Polish Bishops' Conference was not long in coming.

Director Tomasz Sekielski's two-hour documentary "Just Don't Tell Anyone," released on the Internet on Saturday, was watched by more than three million people in the first 24 hours, according to the video platform "YouTube". The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, announced a tougher fight against pedophilia on Sunday in view of the film.

Bishops' conference welcomes the film

The Polish Catholic Bishops' Conference welcomed the film and apologized again for child abuse. "On behalf of the entire bishops' conference, I would like to express my deepest apologies to all those who have been harmed," said its president, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki. It thanked the filmmaker for his work. "Moved and saddened" he had watched Sekielski's documentary.

Kaczynski wants to punish perpetrators of abuse in the future "even with up to 30 years in prison", as he said in a campaign speech in Szczecin (Stettin). Opposition politicians called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry into abuse cases in the church. The head of the opposition Civic Platform (PO), Grzegorz Schetyna, said that it was not the Church, but only the state that could effectively settle the matter. At the same time, he praised the statement of the Primate of the Church in Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, as "valuable".

The Polish primate, who is responsible for child protection in the church, had expressed himself "deeply affected" by the depictions in the film in a video of his own, saying, "I thank all those who have the courage to tell of their suffering." He apologized for any "wound" inflicted by church employees.

No scenic statements by bishops

Gadecki, president of the bishops' conference, said the basic tenor of the film coincided with his experience gained in many conversations with injured parties. Documentary will help ensure strict adherence to guidelines for protecting children and young people in the church, he said.

While working on his film, Sekielski said he had unsuccessfully sought statements from bishops. Instead, his work features extensive interviews with victims and some priests.

In the fall of 2018, the bishops' conference had reacted quite differently to the Polish feature film "Clergy," which denounced child sexual abuse by priests and its cover-up. Most bishops had ignored or criticized the strip. More than five million viewers made it the most-watched movie in Poland since 2000.

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