It is a bad time for legendary priests in Poland. Merely two months after the statue of Father Henryk Jankowski, one of the founders of Solidarity union, was removed in Gdansk due to accusations of him being a child molester, another statue of a famous priest is about to be pulled down.
The figure of Father Eugeniusz Makulski kneeled in front of John Paul II at the entrance of the biggest modern shrine in Poland, was covered earlier this week by the Marian Brothers of Licheń, in northern Poland.
This is a consequence of the heartbreaking documentary Tell No One about the sexual abuse committed by priests in Poland, available on You Tube since May 11, and watched more than 15 million times around the globe.
Right after the 1989 Polish democratic transformation, Makulski started building a monumental church in Lichen, with the blessing of John Paul II and the support of many people. A primary school boy raised some money and sent it along with a letter to Makulski. The prelate allegedly invited the boy to Lichen, locked him in his room and raped him repeatedly during his stay in the priest’s house.
The film’s director, Tomasz Sekielski, received the victim’s written testimony, saying: “My story is strange, in a way. It is strange because I am a priest today. I am a priest to help all those who suffered like me.”
The Catholic Church in Poland is currently under pressure, after revelations that it has a monumental problem with child sexual abuse. And even more shocking are the revelations that bishops were aware of many of those cases highlighted in Sekielski’s documentary and did nothing.
Immediately after the release of the movie, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland and delegate for the protection of minors of the Polish bishops’ conference, issued a video statement saying: “The enormous suffering of people who have been hurt triggers pain and shame.”
Then, referring to the new papal legislation on sex abuse, he added: “No one in the Church can avoid responsibility.”
This is exactly what many faithful are expecting.
Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, Archbishop of Gdansk, is under the most scrutiny.
The documentary depicts him being indifferent to victims, while organizing a grandiose funeral for Father Franciszka Cybula — another accused priest depicted in the film, who served as the personal chaplain to anti-Communist hero Lech Walesa — and publicly praising him.
Asked for a comment on the movie, Głódź told the Polish TV news program Fakty: “I don’t watch any old thing.”
Głódź later released a statement saying, “I did not intend to offend victims of sexual abuse with my words, and I am sorry.”
The documentary also shines a light on what the Church has done with predator priests.
Three of those featured in the movie were removed from priesthood – two before the movie’s premiere, and another one filed a request for laicization after the documentary’s release.
Two more were banned from public ministry but are still priests.
The movie had also featured in the political campaign ahead of the elections for the European Parliament.
The ruling Law and Justice party issued a statement saying that sexual crimes against children will not be subject to the statute of limitations.
The Minister of Interior Joachim Brudziński declared zero tolerance for all kind of offenders, including priests.
The leader of the opposition Civic Platform, Grzegorz Schetyna, said: “Who raises a hand against Polish children, raises a hand against Poland.”
He was paraphrasing the remarks of Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Law and Justice, who said earlier this month: “Who raises a hand against the Church, wanting to destroy it, raises a hand against Poland.”
Sekielski is urging the authorities to create an independent commission to investigate church archives.
Next June, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Adjunct Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Francis’s point man on sex abuse, is coming to Poland to address both the bishops and the diocesan delegates for sex abuse.
His trip was scheduled months before the release of Tell No One, and even before the February Vatican summit on sex abuse.
Polish media are already referring to Scicluna as “the papal envoy” and are speaking of the situation in Poland as a possible “second Chile,” where the clerical abuse scandal has greatly damaged the reputation of the Church.
The Primate of Poland has confirmed he’s sent the link to the movie to Scicluna, so he will be fully informed.