Scandal over polish archbishop

Polish Catholics react indifferently and indignantly to a statement by the president of the bishops' conference on the sexual abuse of children. The accusation: Archbishop Jozef Michalik trivializes abuse cases and blames the victims for them.

"Francis, get to work," wrote an angry citizen on the website "gazeta" on Wednesday.pl". Michalik, speaking to journalists at the start of the bishops' plenary session on Tuesday, blamed broken relationships between parents for their children becoming victims of sexual violence. Such a child seeks love, he said: "It leans, it seeks. And it loses itself and drags another person into it." Abuse cases could have been avoided if there were more with parents intact partnerships.

In the evening, the archbishop retracted the remarks at a press conference called at short notice. "I apologize for the misunderstanding," said Michalik. He said he had made an "obvious mistake" that needed to be corrected. "A child is innocent and must not be victimized." Responsible for the cases of abuse are only the perpetrators. The press spokesman for the bishops' conference, Jozef Kloch, spoke of a "linguistic lapse". It is clear there is "zero tolerance for abuse" in the church, he said.

Despite this, Michalik has received unprecedentedly sharp criticism by Polish standards. The editor-in-chief of the liberal Catholic weekly "Tygodnik Powszechny," Piotr Mucharski, sees the archbishop's statement as a "scandal". Michalik's testimony had "nullified" important initiatives by church officials against child abuse. The editor-in-chief of the Catholic monthly magazine "Wiez," Zbigniew Nosowski, stressed that there was "no justification" for Michalik's words. "The spontaneous statement shows that the archbishop "knows nothing about child abuse".

The leader of the opposition Social Democrats and former prime minister Leszek Miller also had harsh words in a radio interview Wednesday. Michalik has shown he doesn't care about Pope Francis, he said. Archbishop's words were 'very scandalous'.

Apologized to the victims

Poland's bishops planned to discuss how to deal with abuse cases at their plenary meeting in Warsaw on Wednesday. The Secretary General of the Bishops' Conference, Auxiliary Bishop Wojciech Polak, and Military Bishop Jozef Guzdek had recently apologized publicly to the victims.

Guzdek had visited the former parish of a military chaplain in Legionowo near Warsaw on Sunday. The cleric is in pretrial detention for allegedly raping girls and inciting abortion. In light of the "sin of the chaplain," Guzdek said he wanted to be with the church community there and strengthen them in the faith, he said at a service. Last week, the military bishop also found the clearest and most humble words of a diocesan bishop so far in the abuse scandal: "I personally deeply regret what has happened and apologize to all those who have been injured."In addition, Guzdek requested the Vatican to transfer the priest to the lay state.

The public debate on child abuse by priests was sparked in early September by the case of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Polish-born Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He was removed from office by Vatican over abuse allegations. In addition, a Polish religious, also suspected of abusing minors in the Caribbean nation, was sought by police and tracked down last week in his home country.

Poland's church wants to prevent abuse cases in the future through special training for clergy and church employees. The program also involves the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the child psychology department of the University Hospital in Ulm, Germany. But the project is currently almost forgotten amid the furor over Michalik's statement.

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