Poland shaken by documentary about pedophile priests

May 13, 2019 - 7:42 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A new documentary about pedophile priests has deeply shaken Poland, one of Europe's most Roman Catholic societies, eliciting an apology from the church hierarchy and prompting one priest to leave the clergy.

"Tell No One" was released on YouTube on Saturday and by Monday had more than 7 million views.

After the premiere, the primate of Poland thanked the film's creators, brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, for their "courage."

"I apologize for every wound inflicted by the people of the Church," Archbishop Wojciech Polak said.

The film presents new evidence that known pedophiles were transferred between parishes.

One of those featured is Franciszek Cybula, who was the priest of Lech Walesa from 1980-1995, during a time when the shipyard electrician founded the anti-communist Solidarity movement and after the fall of communism was president.

"I am so surprised that I do not know what to say," Walesa said. "If I, as a Catholic, had known, would I allow such a thing? No way."

Most Poles identify as Catholic and attachment to the church is powerful. Poles credit the church with keeping the language and culture alive during more than a century of foreign rule and for backing Solidarity. The late Polish pope, John Paul II, who is now a saint, is revered both as a moral authority and for his opposition to communism.

But like many other countries, Poland has been forced recently to confront the pedophilia in its ranks. In March, Poland's Church authorities said they had recorded cases of 382 clergymen who abused 625 victims under the age of 18 since 1990.

The film opens with a 39-year-old woman, Anna Misiewicz, returning to a parish in Topola, a village near Krakow, to confront an elderly priest who had molested her when she was 7.

Fearful and wearing a hidden camera, Misiewicz tells the priest how his abuse still gives her nightmares and keeps her from sleeping at night. When she reminds him that he had kissed her and used her hands to masturbate, the priest admits his wrongdoing against her and other girls.

He also expresses remorse and blames the devil.

"I know I shouldn't have don't it, shouldn't have touched or kissed you. I know I shouldn't have. Some stupid passion," the priest tells her. He is identified only as Father A. and his face is blurred in the film because he hasn't been convicted.

The film also alleges that a priest who had been convicted of abuse, Dariusz Olejniczak, was allowed to continue working with young people. On Sunday, he resigned from the priesthood.

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