Catholic Church in Poland Reports Hundreds of New Abuse Allegations

On Monday, Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski resigned as bishop of Legnica, southwestern Poland, days before his 75 birthday after a Vos estis probe into his handling of clerical abuse cases.

Archbishop Polak, center, at a press conference presenting a report on clerical abuse in Poland, June 28, 2021.
Archbishop Polak, center, at a press conference presenting a report on clerical abuse in Poland, June 28, 2021. (photo: @EpiskopatNews via Twitter / @EpiskopatNews via Twitter)

WARSAW, Poland — The Catholic Church in Poland announced Monday that it had received 368 allegations of clerical abuse in the past two and a half years.

The claims relate to abuse reportedly committed by 292 priests and religious between 1958 and 2020.

A report released June 28 by the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church said that the allegations were made between July 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2020.

The report comes at a time of upheaval in the Polish Catholic Church. Since November 2020, the Vatican has disciplined a series of mainly retired Polish bishops after investigations under Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

On Monday, Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski resigned as bishop of Legnica, southwestern Poland, days before his 75 birthday after a Vos estis probe into his handling of clerical abuse cases.

Days earlier, the Vatican took action against two other Polish bishops after investigations.

Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, a former aide to St. John Paul II, is facing a Vatican investigation into claims that he mishandled abuse cases while serving as archbishop of Kraków from 2005 to 2016.

The new report said that half of the allegations made since mid-2018 were still under investigation. Around 40% were considered confirmed or substantiated at the preliminary stage or by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while 10% were considered unfounded and rejected.

Of the 173 cases that concerned children under the age of 15, 148 were reported to state law enforcement agencies. Of the 25 that were not reported, 13 related to deceased clergy, eight were considered unfounded, and four were still being verified when the new report was compiled.

Sixty-eight of the 368 allegations concerned religious orders, while 300 related to dioceses. 

The new figures follow a previous report, published in March 2019, which said that 382 allegations of clerical abuse made between 1990 and 2018, relating to incidents from 1950 to 2018.

Presenting the new report at a press conference on June 28, Poland’s primate Archbishop Wojciech Polak noted that bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, had highlighted the sin of clerical abuse as he consecrated Poland to the Sacred Heart on June 11.

“Today, as delegate of the Polish bishops’ conference for the protection of children and young people, I turn to the wronged and all scandalized by evil in the Church, once again asking for forgiveness, Archbishop Polak said.

The archbishop also thanked journalists for their role in uncovering clerical abuse.

Dr. John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, discusses religious freedom at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 16, 2013.

Catholic University’s John Garvey (Sept. 25)

Catholic University of America’s president has announced he is stepping down at the end of the school year. John Garvey’s time at the university has widely been recognized as a period of strengthening Catholic identity and shoring up the academic offerings in the Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition. His work has paid off: student retention has increased and fundraising goals have been topped at record levels. President John Garvey joins us today to tell his story about not only about building up a university but about falling in love with Catholic U.