Polish court orders Catholic order to pay sex abuse victim
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An appeals court in Poland ruled Tuesday that a Roman Catholic order should pay damages to a woman who was abducted and sexually abused by one of its priests when she was 13.
The court in the western city of Poznan said the Society of Christ Fathers must pay damages of 1 million zlotys ($270,000) and a monthly compensation of 800 zlotys ($190) to the woman, identified by her lawyer only as Katarzyna.
The priest, identified only as 42-year-old Roman B., was arrested in 2008 and convicted of pedophilia. He has served four years in prison, and was removed from the religious order last year.
Lawyers for the Catholic order indicated they will appeal the verdict to Poland’s Supreme Court, and lawyers acting for the woman also want to seek a higher compensation amount. If they do, it will be a major test for the court, which recently had some of its judges replaced under a reform carried out by the conservative ruling party, which supports the church.
Poland’s Catholic Church is working on a report on the scale of abuse of minors. Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, has said the church needs to be more sensitive and open in discussing the problem.
“There must be zero tolerance for the sins and crimes of pedophilia,” Polak said on private TVN24. “We are facing a long-term struggle.”
Poland’s bishops are working on a document to be published this year that will assess the scale of pedophilia among priests and will have guidance for preventing it.
Last week, the archbishop of a Warsaw district apologized to the victims of sex abuse by priests there.
Tuesday’s verdict came amid a heated debate about sex abuse of minors by priests that was ignited by the recent release of the Polish movie “Kler” (The Clergy,) which deals with the issue. Members of the ruling Law and Justice party have voiced criticism of the film, and the Catholic Association of Journalists and others have called for a boycott of it.
Still, almost 1 million viewers saw the movie on its first weekend in theaters, an all-time box office record.