WARSAW — The Catholic Church in Poland is facing what one official called “a wave of revelations” on Monday about allegations of sexual abuse, as church authorities laid out statistics on the extent of the problem amid an investigation into accusations of a cover-up by a senior clergyman.
Seen by many as a core element of Poland’s national identity, the Catholic Church is a powerful force in public life, but it has been rocked by a series of pedophilia scandals that have contributed to the erosion of its authority, especially among younger Poles.
“We have a wave of revelations,” Adam Zak, the coordinator for the protection of children and young people at the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, said at a news conference. “This is a continuous wave; you can see that this is not a downward trend, but there are persistently quite high figures.”
The church said that between July 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2020, it had received 368 reports regarding the sexual abuse of minors.
Preliminary investigations identified 144 of the reports as verified and reliable; 186 were still under investigation; and 38 had so far been rejected as unreliable.
“I would like to address all those who have been wronged and scandalized by the evil in the church,” said Wojciech Polak, the archbishop of Gniezno, who serves as primate, or the most senior bishop, of the Catholic Church in Poland. “I would like to ask for forgiveness once again,”
The episcopate published its first report on pedophilia cases in 2019, finding that 382 cases had been reported between January 1990 and June 2018.
Human rights advocates say that sexual abuse by members of the clergy is widely underreported because the public authority held by offenders often deters victims from coming forward.
The news comes as the Vatican investigates one of the most senior figures in the Polish church, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served as the archbishop of Krakow from 2005 to 2016 and had been accused of covering up pedophilia allegations.
On Saturday the Vatican Embassy in Poland said Angelo Bagnasco, the former archbishop of Genoa, had been in Poland from June 17 to 26 to investigate allegations that Cardinal Dziwisz neglected his duty.