The tasks of individual entities of the sexual abuse response system, the assistance to victims and the prevention in the Polish Church, as well as their activities in 2020, are presented in the annual report prepared by the Office of the Delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference (KEP) and the Saint Joseph Foundation of the KEP.
Systemic measures taken in the Church to prevent new instances of sexual abuse and to provide professional help to individuals – although they often go unnoticed by the media and do not reach the public – are critical to changing mentality and procedures. The annual report „Protection of minors and assistance to victims of sexual abuse in the Church in Poland” presents basic information on such activities in the past 2020, as well as shows the very structure of the system of protection of minors and the calendar of previous activities of the Church in Poland.
Developing and implementing systemic solutions for the Church in Poland, which serve the protection of minors and help for victims, monitoring the assistance system at the national level, internal and external communication, as well as individual assistance to victims – these are the areas of activities undertaken in 2020 by the Archbishop Wojciech Polak, delegate for protection of minors of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, and his office. One of the main challenges of last year was the organization and launching of the Saint Joseph Foundation of Polish Bishops’ Conference (FSJ), financed from the funds donated by individual dioceses in proportion to the number of bishops and priests belonging to them (fees determined by the KEP is: PLN 2,000 from bishop, PLN 150 from presbyter).
In the first year of its operation, the Saint Joseph Foundation KEP had the amount of PLN 3,539,874.50 at its disposal. PLN 713,872.38 was allocated to the projects. They included: financing individual therapies for 13 people from 9 dioceses, supporting the activities of the Child Protection Center and projects undertaken by it (including work on a preventive program for people with disabilities, a prevention system in Catholic schools and an e-learning program for youth leaders) and projects from 11 dioceses. In 2020, 10 people from 5 dioceses benefited from the Foundation’s fund for specialized post-graduate studies, raising their qualifications to work with injured persons. Two dioceses (Archdiocese of Poznań and Archdiocese of Gniezno) jointly established the Regional Consultation Point for Injured Persons in the Church, with its seat in Poznań. Thanks to the financing of the FSJ, two support groups for people injured by sexual violence in the Church were also able to start: in Warsaw (led by the Initiative „Wounded in the Church”) and in Krakow (run by the Family Association Foundation). In cooperation with the Saint Joseph Foundation and the Office of the Delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, two websites were created: zgloskrzywde.pl – which is a kind of guide for people who are injured or have knowledge of harm or neglect in the Church, and Wspolnotazezranymi.pl – supporting pastoral activities.
In 2020, the system of „basic structures” was expanded, i.e. people responsible in dioceses and male orders for responding to and preventing harm. Apart from the acting delegates for the protection of minors (they receive persons who report harm and initiate appropriate actions), persons or teams responsible for the prevention of sexual abuse and priests of injured persons (spiritual support of the victims, their relatives and communities), coordinators of the Saint Joseph Foundation KEP were appointed, as well as probation officers of clergy suspected, accused, convicted or acquitted for the crime of sexual abuse of minors. The KEP coordinator for the protection of minors, Father Adam Żak SJ, is responsible for training these groups. In 2020, the activities of basic structures were subject to comprehensive evaluation for the first time. The surveys carried out (over 70% of those working in the structures filled them in) show that in 2019-2020 reports of sexual abuse by clergy were received by 64% of delegates who had contact with over 270 injured persons.
The scale and internal dynamics of the problem are better understood by the „In-depth analysis of data on the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious” developed by the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church and financed by the FSJ, which also aims to provide an appropriate diagnosis and a realistic answer to the problem of sexual abuse of minors in the Church. Last year, the Polish bishops also decided to continue the statistical research covering the period from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020. In addition, in 2020, an analysis of diocesan and religious guidelines was carried out along with recommendations aimed at increasing the protection of minors at pastoral and educative work of the Church.
The „Protection of minors and assistance to victims of sexual abuse in the Church in Poland. Annual Report 2020” was prepared by the Office of the Delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for the Protection of minors and the Saint Joseph Foundation of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.
Office of the KEP Delegate for the protection of minors
(translation from Polish: M. Olmo / Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference)