SAMMANFATTNING I en artikel specialskriven för Mänsklig säkerhet redogör här Kinga Stanczuk om ett uppmärksammat rättsfall i Polen, ett land som före murens fall 1989 gick i bräschen för krav på ökad frihet för människor. Stanczuk pekar på hur det regerande partiet ”Lag och rättvisa” med stöd av katolska kyrkan sedan länge för ett krig mot kvinnorna. Politiken bedrivs i namn av att stärka ”familjen” i form av nya lagar som kraftigt inskränker kvinnors rätt till abort och förbjuder sexualundervisning åt unga människor. Detta riskerar att leda till allt fler oönskade graviditeter och att unga kvinnor får avbryta sina studier. Den patriarkala polska inställningen leder också till att EU, som under årtionden var en ledande förkämpe för kvinnors rättigheter, nu blockeras i detta arbete (vilket också bromsar framsteg på FN-nivå).
Fallet ”Katarzyna (en pseudonym) rör en trettonårig flicka som kidnappades och våldtogs av en polsk präst. Hon lyckades som Stanczuk visar få prästen dömd, bl a genom att journalisten Tomasz Sekielski dokumenterat utbredda övergrepp inom kyrkan och genom att många människor stödde ”Katarzyna”. Dessutom dömde Högsta domstolen den katolska kyrkan i Polen, som försökt tysta ner fallet, att betala ersättning till flickan.
Under de senaste dagarna har frågor om pedofili inom den polska kyrkan åter kommit i fokus. Anledningen är en ny film av Sekielski och hans bror, som redogör för systematiskt arbete inom den katolska kyrkan i Polen att dölja pedofili inom kyrkan. Filmen har föranlett ärkebiskopen i Gniezno, Polak, att uppmana Vatikanen att undersöka frågan. Detta kan bl a komma att innebära ett skärskådande av den roll den polske helgonförklarade påven Johannes Paulus II kan ha haft i hanteringen av pedofili inom den polska katolska kyrkan.
KATARZYNA’S VICTORY: how a victim of pedophilia won against a priest and the Catholic Church in Poland
ANALYS The relationship between Polish women and the Catholic Church has in recent years become somewhat of an open ideological war. The Church, in liaison with the Government, not only supports laws banning abortion and sexual education for adolescents but also covers up for sexual abuses committed by priest. However, a legal case shows that both priests and the Church can be sentenced.
Poland, a country once highly regarded for its smooth transition into a liberal democracy is now one of the most conservative states in the European Union. In early 2020, two new bills were introduced in the Polish parliament: up to three-year imprisonment for teachers providing sexual education to pupils in secondary schools and a total ban on abortion, even in case of lethal fetal abnormalities. The ideological message is clear: sexuality in general, particularly women’s bodies, should be controlled.
The current Polish government as the most conservative ever in modern times
The Catholic Church has played a notorious role in this rapid ideological transformation. Since the signing of the 1993 concordat between Poland and the Vatican, during the pontificate of the Polish Pope Johannes Paulus, the Catholic Church has enjoyed a number of privileges, such as guaranteed funding of religion classes in state schools and having the ear of consecutive governments.
The ruling party, Law and Justice, is known for its close relationship with the prominent patriarchs of the Church. Back in 2019, the Archbishop of Cracow, Marek Jędraszewski, said in one of his sermons: “The red plague no longer walks this Earth, but a new one has emerged: a neo-Marxists force which wants to control our souls, hearts and minds. It’s not red, it has the colors of the rainbow.” The council of Cracow members wanted to punish the bishop for hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community, but Law and Justice blocked any such measures against the archbishop.
Similarly, the relationship between Polish women and the Catholic Church, which has never been easy, has in recent years most adequately been described as an open ideological war. While officials of the Catholic Church have become more and more extreme in terms of denying LGBT rights, sexual education and abortion laws, Polish women are increasingly supporting more liberal views. While the Church does everything in its power to cover up abuses and sexual violations perpetrated by priest and others within the Church, its victims are more determined than ever to stand up, organize and go to trial.
The documentary Tell no one – a gamechanger
In 2019, an influential TV journalist, Tomasz Sekielski, published a crowd-funded documentary called Tell No One, which in a couple of days reached tens of millions of views. The documentary, funded, produced and circulated outside the national TV channels, revealed the terrifying reality of the victims of sexual abuse, perpetrated by priests in the Catholic Church. In one particularly shocking take, a priest agrees to meet his victim and admits all the abuses before the camera, reluctantly adding an ill-conceived apology. The contrast between the calm and courage of the young woman who suffered his abuse and the petty responses of the perpetrator leave the viewers in the state of disgust and rage.
Predictably, since the success of Tell No One, the topic of pedophilia in the Church has gained more attention. Against this backdrop, another story hit the headlines. A catholic priest, a member of the Society of Christ Fathers, was tried for kidnapping and multiple rape. The priest kidnapped and imprisoned a 13-year-old girl in a rented apartment and raped her repeatedly for several months. The court did prosecute the priest and sentenced him to four years imprisonment, a remarkably light sentence. Adding insult to injury, once the priest left jail he was allowed to return to his pastoral duties, and even permitted to continue to work with children.
The Katarzyna case
His victim, Katarzyna, decided to continue her struggle. She sued the Society of Christ Fathers, demanding compensation. She won a million zlotys worth of compensation and a monthly payment to cover the cost of medical and mental health care. Thus, she became the only pedophilia victim in Poland to win in both instances against an organization representing the Catholic Church.
In September 2019, the Society of the Christ Fathers made an appeal to the Supreme Court with the aim to avoid paying compensation to Katarzyna. Throughout the court proceedings, the Society maintained it had no knowledge, control nor influence over its members. Meanwhile, the victim managed to encourage an impressive media presence and create an independent information campaign on wide-spread pedophilia within the Church.
Katarzyna also exposed the systematic obstacles facing victims of sexual abuse: massive negative reporting in media, double-victimisation, lack of institutional support etc. Rather than being a victim, she received significant support from anonymous volunteers associated with the social campaign “Murem za Katarzyną” (“Standing behind Katarzyna”). The supporters assisted Katarzyna on every step of the way: they organized gatherings in front of the court, gave press conferences and assisted Katarzyna during the proceedings to guarantee her physical safety. For safety reasons, they took every precaution to remain anonymous and consistently referred to ‘Katarzyna’, a name which became a recognized symbol of the anti-pedophilia struggle.
The Supreme Court decided in Katarzynas favor
In early 2020, the Supreme Court decided in Katarzyna’s favor, and the Society of Christ Fathers was obliged to pay the biggest pedophilia-related compensation payment in Polish history. The remarkable perseverance of Katarzyna as well as the activists who supported her, from online campaigning to physically protecting her during the court proceedings, proved that despite the conservative backlash and the increased politicization of the judiciary, the voice of victims could – and can – finally be heard.
In May 2020, Sekielski brothers released their newest documentary about the systemic cover-up of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, entitled Zabawa w chowanego (‘Hide and seek’), which was again made available exclusively on social media. This time the archbishop of Gniezno, abp. Polak, reacted immediately with a televised address officially requesting the Vatican to investigate the issue. Thus, an important milestone is reached as the Church admits is complicit in the systemic cover-up of sexual abuse perpetuated by its priests.
Today, when the political and legal landscape is increasingly hostile to women, minorities and victims of violence and sexual abuse, such individual victories do restore a sense of faith in justice and the legal system. It also serves as a reminder that joint action, activism and the struggle for justice can bring about change.
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