Friday, June 14, 2024

After incendiary letter: Poland's bishops approach those affected by abuse

Poland's bishops support several reform proposals from victims of abuse for the protection of minors. 

In a letter published on Wednesday, they pledged, among other things, to speak out at the Synod on Synodality in the Vatican in October in favour of victims being involved in church proceedings in future as a party in their own right and not just as witnesses. 

According to the 15 members of the Permanent Council of the Bishops' Conference, the function of the victim's representative must be anchored and regulated in canon law.

In addition, the request of the victims that at least one woman in each diocese be the contact person for those affected - instead of only men - will be honoured. 

The letter is a response to an open letter to the Permanent Council of the Bishops' Conference and the Pope's ambassador in Poland, Archbishop Antonio Filipazzi, which 46 people signed in May - some of them anonymously.

The bishops have now apologised to those affected by sexual abuse: "We are sorry that we were not always there to support you." They also honoured the request for a meeting with a delegation of those affected by abuse at a bishops' plenary session and invited them to the next meeting in November.  

The bishops wrote that they wanted to listen to those affected and "relearn sensitivity for the wounded in our communities". They added: "We hope that this dialogue will be an important step towards mutual understanding and cooperation that will contribute to better protection of the youngest and most vulnerable."

Call for the suspension of Archbishop Wojda

In their response to the incendiary letter from those affected by abuse, however, the bishops do not comment on the call for the suspension of the conference chairman, Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda, until the accusation of negligence in dealing with cases of abuse levelled against him has been clarified. 

Wojda has asked the Holy See for an investigation, the bishops said. 

"In this attitude, we see the archbishop's trust in the Holy Father Francis, in the actions of the Holy See and in the established ecclesiastical procedures." 

Wojda is accused of allowing a priest in his archdiocese of Gdansk to continue working with children, even though two women had reported him for sexual abuse in 2021.

One initiator of the widely publicised open letter to the bishops welcomed the response. "For me, the bishops' response is a small sign that they are beginning to treat us as partners and not as objects without rights," Robert Fidura told the Catholic News Agency (KNA). 

In 2021, in protest against the behaviour of bishops, he ended his involvement on the management board of the church's St. Joseph Foundation, which aims to help those affected by abuse. 

Previously, those affected had only held talks with individual bishops, but did not join forces. 

The bishops had already apologised to those affected in the past.