Poland: The film Catholics can’t look away from
Polish Catholics have just been confronted with indisputable proof of their bishops’ “moral bankruptcy,” said Jacek Gadek in Gazeta.pl. The first evidence emerged two months ago, when the Roman Catholic Church in Poland published its first study of child sex abuse by priests. It revealed that from 1990 to 2018, church authorities received reports concerning 382 priests who abused 625 minors. Even as they revealed their shame, Polish bishops sought to downplay it, saying children need to be protected from many dangers, not just pedophile priests, and speaking “about the need for mercy for the perpetrators.” But the extent of the rot became clear last week with the release of Tell No One, a documentary by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski that follows Polish victims confronting their clerical abusers and the bishops who covered for them. The film—financed through a crowdfunding campaign—shows in appalling detail how church leaders reassigned molester priests to new parishes, giving them no punishment but an admonition to “go and rape no more.” Even now, with all of Poland seething at them, some church leaders are unrepentant. Archbishop Slavoj Leszek Glodz, of Gdansk, who comes off poorly in the film, said he had better things to do than watch the documentary.
Poles can talk of little else, said Jacek Nizinkiewicz in Rzeczpospolita. Two days after the film was put on YouTube, it had been watched an incredible 8 million times—and this in a country of only 38 million people. But let’s hope that Tell No One doesn’t get politicized, coming as it does just six months before a parliamentary election. While the ruling Law and Justice party emphasizes Catholic values, its supporters should understand that this film “is not an attack on the church,” but rather “a cry for truth and consequences.”
Oh, it’s political, all right, said Jacek Karnowski in WPolityce.pl. The Polish Left “hates the church” because of the family values that Catholic priests preach, and leftists are trying to destroy it as an institution. We can’t let that happen. The Catholic faith is the very essence of Poland, and without it this country would be “hell on earth.” Maybe we have to destroy the church—or at least, its hierarchy—in order to save it, said Jakub Kralka in Bezprawnik.pl. In Poland, it has become a “mafia institution.” The church has built a network of political connections that “lets its employees operate outside the law.” Now that they have been exposed in Tell No One, the entire episcopate should resign.
Yet the church’s reaction has mostly been encouraging, said Andrzej Gajcy in Onet.pl. Wojciech Polak, the archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland, thanked the Sekielski brothers for making the film. “I apologize for every wound inflicted by the people of the church,” he said, promising that “no one in the church can shirk responsibility.” If the rest of the bishops, too, “ask the victims for forgiveness and offer them help,” Poland can begin to heal. ■