Poland’s Catholic Church has said it will not pay compensation to victims of priests who sexually abused children.
Rev Jozef Kloch said in comments aired by Polish Radio 1 that responsibility for compensation lies with the perpetrator.
Kloch was reacting to a €47,500 claim made by a 25-year-old victim against his parish and local church authorities after they failed to reach a settlement. The claim could now be taken to court, in what would be Poland’s first such case.
“The Church will not pay compensation to victims of paedophile priests,” Koch said. “The wrongdoer should do it.”
Earlier, Bishop Wojciech Polak, secretary of the Episcopate, apologised to the victims and also offered psychological and therapeutic support.
Some 27 priests have been convicted in Poland of abusing children. Polish prosecutors are also co-operating with the authorities in the Dominican Republic who are investigating allegations that two Polish priests there, including a Vatican envoy, abused boys.
The church’s refusal to pay the compensation has opened the door to legal action by the male plaintiff, identified only as Marcin K, who was molested as a child.
A Catholic priest was last year sentenced to two years behind bars in the case, but his diocese refused to be held financially liable.
“The parties did not arrive at an agreement. The door is now open for a civil lawsuit,” said Slawomir Przykucki, a court spokes- man in Koszalin, northern Poland, after the mediation hearing at the court failed.
“The Church does not feel it bears responsibility in this case. Priests operate independently in their parishes. The parish, diocese and the Church as a whole are not legally liable,” Krzysztof Wyrwa, a lawyer representing Church authorities in Koszalin told Poland’s public TVP Info news channel.
But human rights lawyers have disagreed with the reasoning.
“It’s not possible for the Church hierarchy, whose parishes and diocese are legal entities, to escape responsibility for the behaviour of a person who is part of this hierarchy,” said Artur Pietryka, a lawyer with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
In an unprecedented move, Polish Church leaders apologised last week over alleged paedophile priests, as prosecutors on both sides of the Atlantic began inquiries into two high-profile suspects.
Authorities are looking for Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, 65, a Pole who served as a papal envoy in the Dominican Republic’s Santo Domingo for around five years during which he is alleged to have had sex with teenage boys.
Authorities on the Caribbean island nation are also seeking Wojciech Gil, a 36-year-old priest suspected of raping several young boys while serving there.
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