Sunday 7 April 2024

Cases of abuse reported too late: Polish bishop indicted

After more than a year of investigations, the Polish public prosecutor's office has brought charges against the Bishop of Tarnow, Andrzej Jez. 

He is accused of not immediately reporting cases of sexual abuse by two clergymen in his diocese to the law enforcement authorities, reports the Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" (Thursday). 

A spokesperson for the public prosecutor's office said that the church authorities had reported the two priests, but not immediately as required by law. The offence can be punished with up to three years in prison.

Several Polish media reported on the prosecution's accusation, whereupon the Tarnow diocese published a statement. In it, it rejected the accusations against the bishop and emphasised that it wanted to prove in court that he had fulfilled his duty in accordance with the law.

According to "Gazeta Wyborcza", the bishop only informed the authorities about the priests' alleged crimes years later. The newspaper claims that he punished one of the priests for abuse as early as 2013, but only informed the state authorities about possible criminal offences in 2020. 

According to the newspaper report, the priest in question is alleged to have harmed at least 95 children in various parishes in Poland and Ukraine over a period of several decades and to have "sexually assaulted" 77 of them.

Predecessor knew about the allegations

Investigators had also established that the former Bishop of Tarnow and Archbishop of Katowice until 2023, Wiktor Skworc, had already known about the allegations against the priest in 2002, but had not reported them to the authorities. 

Instead, he dismissed the priest and sent him to Ukraine before he was later allowed to return to the diocese of Tarnow. 

Skworc's actions were not charged as they took place before the law was changed in 2017.

It was only in 2017 that the law, which criminalises the failure to report certain offences to the authorities, was extended to include cases of sexual abuse of minors.

In recent years, the Polish church has been shaken by a series of revelations about the abuse of minors by clergy. 

Only recently, Polish Bishop Andrzej Dziuba resigned following allegations of misconduct, as did the Archbishop of Szczecin-Cammin, Andrzej Dziega

According to Polish media reports, the case of Bishop Andrzej Jez is the first time that the public prosecutor's office has charged a high-ranking church representative.