“He combined the sacred with the profane. He was so twisted that he prayed with me, and then he took me to bed. So now prayer recalls a disgusting memory in me. And when, for example, my parents call me to prayer, I normally cry.”
Those are the words of a woman from south-east Poland who alleges that at the age of 12 she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a young Roman Catholic priest, straight out of the seminary.
The woman’s accusations have been recorded in a new book called Be Afraid: Victims of Paedophilia by the Catholic Church Speak (Lekajcie sie. Ofiary pedofilii w polskim kosciele mowią), by Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek. It is just one of 27 cases of abuse by Catholic priests in Poland, explored in the book.
Overbeek said it had taken a great deal of courage on behalf of those who told him their stories, because many were terrified of speaking about their trauma. And, he added, that while other European countries were making progress in talking publicly about paedophilia in the Church, Poland was not.
However, the Polish Episcopate has rejected Overbeek’s findings as ‘one-sided’. Father Józef Kloch, spokesman for the Episcopate, said the book omitted many important facts, notably the highly publicised statement last year that the Church was committed to ‘zero tolerance for paedophilia, and full protection for victims and their loved ones’.
Father Kloch added that Overbeek never approached him to discuss the book, despite living in Poland and knowing the Polish language well.
He added: “[it is] fairly easy to find techniques of manipulation used in the book… including the omission of facts, objectivity and neutrality, and of the simulation and manipulation of emotions. On reading the book, any journalism student would quite quickly finds passages which use these methods, and are misleading to the reader.”
For the woman from Podkarpackie quoted in Overbeek’s book, though, there is no doubt that more should be done. Her tormentor was jailed for his crimes but, she said, the Church had shown no remorse for a tortured childhood that led her to attempt suicide.
“I have never heard the words ‘I am sorry’”, she added.
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