Polish Catholic leader expresses ‘deep pain and sadness’ as report on charismatic priest faults Dominicans

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

A press conference launching a report by a commission of experts on the activities of Polish Dominican priest Paweł M., Sept. 15, 2021. / Screenshot from the Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna YouTube channel.

Warsaw, Poland, Sep 17, 2021 / 05:35 am (CNA).

A Polish Catholic archbishop expressed “deep pain and sadness” this week following the publication of a report concluding that the Dominican Order failed to support victims of a charismatic priest.

In a Sept. 15 statement, Archbishop Wojciech Polak thanked the victims for coming forward and contributing to the 261-page report on the actions of the priest, identified only as Paweł M.

The report, released on Wednesday, found that the priest, regarded by young people as a “charismatic guru,” created sect-like groups while engaging in physical and sexual abuse.

Polak, the Primate of Poland and the Polish bishops’ conference delegate for the protection of children and youth, said: “First of all, I would like to express my closeness, sympathy, and support to the wounded people who, although they were adults, were defenseless against psychological manipulation based on pseudo-theology, as well as against physical violence and sexual abuse on the part of the friar.”

“Unfortunately, they were also harmed by the lack of understanding and support from the order’s authorities. We all owe these people a debt of gratitude and respect for their courage and determination in exposing the evil they experienced and the consequences of it that they still face today.”

The priest, Paweł M., was placed in pre-trial detention in March and is subject to a canonical trial.

Fr. Paweł Kozacki, Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of Poland, asked an independent commission of experts that month to investigate the actions of Paweł M. and the Dominican Order’s response.

In a Sept. 15 statement, Poland’s Dominican province said that the report “reveals — in a fuller form than known so far — the enormity of the evil committed by Paweł M.”

“We sincerely apologize for all this evil, for which we ourselves are horrified and for which we are responsible in various ways. First of all, to those who have suffered the most direct and painful harm, but also to all those who have been affected by it and whose faith is thus put to the test,” it said.

“We are ready to make reparation for the wrong that has been done, we want to seek with determination to repair the damage and the mistakes, and above all we want to continue to serve you, realizing — as never before — that we are not worthy to do so.”

“Therefore, we dare to ask you to pray for all those who have been wronged. We also ask you to pray for us, Dominicans — for conversion and for us to be able to fulfill our vocation and serve you, the Church, and God better, more responsibly, wisely, and zealously.”

The Catholic Church in Poland is undergoing a reckoning on clerical abuse.

It announced in June that it had received 368 allegations of clerical abuse in the past two and a half years.

The claims relate to abuse reportedly committed by 292 priests and religious between 1958 and 2020. The allegations were made between July 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2020.

Since November 2020, the Vatican has disciplined a string of mainly retired Polish bishops after investigations under Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

Polak thanked those involved in the work of the commission, which was led by Tomasz Terlikowski, a journalist and philosopher.

The archbishop said: “I know what a tremendous amount of work they did and how taxing it was for them. I have no doubt that they did it out of genuine concern for those who were wronged and genuine love for the Church.”

“I am also close to the Dominican friars and those they minister to. I appreciate the courage and humility to stand in the truth that hurts and shames, but also cleanses and enables healing.”

“All of us in the Church must draw conclusions from the work of the commission, and especially take to heart its recommendations, in order to stand unequivocally on the side of the disadvantaged and effectively protect the weakest.”

He added: “I pray for all of us who are wounded and aggravated by this evil, that we may emerge from this trial strengthened, trusting that Jesus is with us in this painful experience.”

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