Punishment for abuse cover-up lopsided, Polish bishops tell Vatican

Polish bishops abuse punishments

According to a Polish church leader, in a meeting with Vatican officials, several Polish bishops criticised the Vatican for its handling of sex abuse cases.

In particular, they highlighted the “disproportionate punishments” inflicted on bishops accused of cover-ups in comparison with convicted abusers.

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency, KAI, that Polish bishops met with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, at the Vatican Oct 12.

Gadecki said the bishops were trying to be faithful to Pope Francis’ May 2019 motu proprio, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi”. This revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable for protecting abusers.

“Our task is to work with the Holy Father in clearing up our church’s current situation. This has undermined trust among certain people,” Archbishop Gadecki told KAI after the meeting with Cardinal Ouellet.

“But critical remarks have been made about the Holy See’s treatment of bishops who have had punishments imposed for shortcomings, transgressions or acts of forgetfulness in dealing with clergy accused of paedophilia.

Some (Polish bishops) highlighted the disproportionate, lasting penalties imposed on bishops after initial investigations, when paedophile criminals can leave prison after five years and begin a new life with a clean sheet.”

“We’re talking about the civil death of an accused member in the hierarchy who isn’t a paedophile, who’s removed from office, falls into infamy and is effectively annihilated by the media”, Archbishop Gadecki told KAI.

“The cardinal was rather surprised by my words”, Gadecki continued. “But he accepted we were not being aggressive toward the Holy See, just asking questions whether all of this conforms with the principle of proportionate guilt and punishment.”

Ten mostly retired bishops have faced sanctions for ignoring abuse complaints in Poland, where allegations of past cover-ups are surfacing.

Archbishop Gadecki told KAI Cardinal Ouellet pledged to take account of the Polish bishops’ criticisms when procedures set out in “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” were reviewed in 2022.

The archbishop said the aim of the review should be “not to release bishops from responsibility for their actions, but to reflect on a possible gradation of punishments.”


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