WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In its latest report released Monday on the sexual abuse of minors, Poland’s Catholic Church lists 292 clergymen who are alleged to have abused over 300 boys and girls from 1958 through 2020.
The cases were reported to church authorities from mid-2018 until the end of 2020. The reports came from the victims, their families, other clergymen, the media and from other sources.
At an online conference in Warsaw, the head of Poland’s Catholic Church, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, apologized to the victims and asked their forgiveness, echoing apologies he has made before.
According to church statistics gathered from all dioceses, 368 reports of abuse of people under the age of 18 were made to church authorities between July 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2020. They cover a period ranging from 1958 through 2020.
Of them, 144 cases have been confirmed or considered credible at an initial stage of an investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Another 186 are still being investigated and 38 have been rejected as not credible.
“What is clear to see is that we have a wave of reports” in high numbers, since the time of the previous report published in March 2019, said Monsignor Adam Zak, the official in charge of tracking down and preventing abuse.
The church’s first report, for 1990-2018, listed cases of 382 clergymen having allegedly abused 625 minors.
The current report reflects new allegations that have been made since then.
Forty-two of the alleged perpetrators’ names are the same as in the previous report, church officials said.
The new report comes as the Vatican investigates signals of abuse and of a lack of reaction by church leaders in Poland, a predominantly Catholic nation where the clergy enjoy special esteem.
The Vatican recently punished a few Polish bishops and archbishops for negligence and barred them from church and lay ceremonies. The Holy See is also investigating reports of negligence by retired Krakow archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who before that served as personal secretary to the late pope, St. John Paul II.
In the latest such development, Pope Francis on Monday accepted the resignation of Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski from the Legnica diocese in southwestern Poland. That follows the Vatican’s probe into reports of the bishop’s “negligence” in the case of a priest who abused a minor in the Siedlce diocese when Kiernikowski was its head from 2002-2014, a communique by local church authorities said.
Poland’s Catholic church has long enjoyed special respect in the nation due to its historic role in preserving Poland’s national identity during periods of foreign occupation and rule, and during the decades of communist rule that ended in 1989.
However, the church has recently seen some young Poles turn away from it due to anger over the view that the church has done too little to fight clerical abuse, and due to the church’s support for the right-wing government and its policies, including a recent tightening of a restrictive law on abortion.