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Polish advocate for church victims resigns in scandal

By MONIKA SCISLOWSKAMay 30, 2019
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2018 file photo, head of a Polish organization "Have No Fear", representing victims of pedophile priests, Marek Lisinski left, sits with activist Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska, center, and opposition lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus during a meeting that demanded strict criminal punishment for pedophile priests at the parliament in Warsaw, Poland. A Polish daily newspaper reported on Thursday, May 30, 2019 that Lisinski resigned after allegations surfaced that he tried to extort money from a victim and demanded money from the producers of a documentary about clerical abuse. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2018 file photo, head of a Polish organization "Have No Fear", representing victims of pedophile priests, Marek Lisinski left, sits with activist Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska, center, and opposition lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus during a meeting that demanded strict criminal punishment for pedophile priests at the parliament in Warsaw, Poland. A Polish daily newspaper reported on Thursday, May 30, 2019 that Lisinski resigned after allegations surfaced that he tried to extort money from a victim and demanded money from the producers of a documentary about clerical abuse. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The founder and head of a Polish organization dedicated to helping victims of clerical sex abuse has resigned following a reports that a victim believes he had cheated her for money and that he demanded money from the producers of a documentary about clerical abuse.

The foundation “Have No Fear” said the head of its board, Marek Lisinski, resigned and that it has opened an internal audit into the allegations reported Thursday by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

“This came as a great shock to us,” said board member and lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus. She did not want to comment before the results of the audit are known.

In a post on Facebook, Lisinski denied the allegations, saying he “never swindled” anyone and insisted that he only borrowed money and intended to return it in December.

“The good of the survivors has always been the supreme goal for me,” Lisinski wrote.

Lisinski, who says he was abused by a priest when he was 13, played a key role in forcing the public in predominantly Catholic Poland to confront the problem of clerical abuse by forming the foundation five years ago.

Pope Francis kissed Lisinski’s hand during a landmark meeting with abuse victims in February at the Vatican. He was part of a group that gave Francis a report on child sex abuse by priests in Poland.

The release of a documentary this month with the testimony of clerical abuse victims, “Tell No One,” has triggered unprecedented soul searching about the problem in one of Europe’s most Roman Catholic societies, as well as vows from the country’s bishops to fight the problem.

The film’s director, Tomasz Sekielski, told Gazeta Wyborcza that Lisinski was the only victim to demand money — 50,000 zlotys ($13,000) — to agree to tell his abuse story on camera. Sekielski did not pay and Lisinski is not in the documentary.

Gazeta Wyborcza also quoted a victim of a priest who said she offered Lisinski 10,000 zlotys ($2,600) as a gift and lent him 20,000 zlotys ($5,200) after he said he had pancreatic cancer and asked for support. She told the newspaper that she has seen no proof of his sickness or medication, only three photos of flesh with some spots.

“That made me sure that he had cheated me,” the woman told Gazeta Wyborcza.

The woman, identified only as Katarzyna, 29, was abducted and abused by a priest when she was 13. A Polish court found the priest guilty last year and ruled that the Catholic order that he belonged had to pay her 1 million zlotys ($260,000) in damages. The order paid, but also appealed the verdict.

A statement on the website of “Have No Fear” said its audit will check whether Lisinski’s actions as a private person had any influence on the foundation’s finances and work.

It vowed to keep working on behalf of victims.

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