Poland’s Catholic episcopate will appoint a group of experts to investigate the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.
The decision follows new claims that the future Pope John Paul II was negligent on the issue while serving as archbishop of Kraków.
“The bishops have decided to start work on appointing a team of independent experts to undertake an investigation into the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy in the church in Poland,” announced Archbishop Wojciech Polak, who is the primate of Poland.
“Their task will be to diligently examine the documents both in the state archives and in the church archives in order to show the content in its entirety, taking into account the law and the state of knowledge, as well as the sociocultural context,” he said, adding that all of the bishops were in favour of the decision.
Since Polish broadcaster TVN last week aired the new claims regarding John Paul II, some critics have argued that the findings are unreliable because they are based in part on the files of the communist-era security services, who were hostile to the church.
However, others note that TVN’s reporting also cites other archival evidence and the testimony of victims and witnesses. They also point out that the church has not opened up all of its own files to investigators, leaving them to rely on other sources.
Polak made clear that the new church-appointed team would not only be focusing on John Paul II and Kraków, but would be looking at the Polish church as a whole, reports news service Wirtualna Polska.
When asked why the church was only launching this investigation now, the archbishop said individual dioceses have already been carrying out such work and that the new team is just an “extension of that research intended to help us understand the scale of this problem in a broader way”.
“I hope that the team and its work will be a real help to those who have been wronged and who deserve truth and help in their healing process,” said Polak, who noted that the investigations would include historians, psychologists and lawyers.
The Catholic church in Poland has in recent years been hit by a series of revelations of historical abuse of minors and of cover-ups by the church hierarchy. The Vatican has disciplined a number of Polish bishops for negligence in dealing with the issue.