(Bloomberg) — Poland’s Catholic Church admitted to failures amid a growing scandal about pedophilia among priests, but bishops took no specific action to punish wrongdoers, pending an investigation.
The admission followed the release of a crowd-funded documentary film, “Tell No One,” that detailed how the church moved priests who abused children from parish to parish while largely neglecting the victims. It has become a political lightening rod in the run-up to Sunday’s European Parliament elections.
The ruling Law & Justice party, which has close links to the church, has downplayed the documentary, saying the sexual molestation of children is a scourge across all of society. With the topic dominating the campaign, the government has mounted a counter-offensive, raising prison terms for the crime and vowing investigations “into pedophilia in all spheres.”
“We admit that, as the shepherds of the Church, we failed to do everything in our power to prevent suffering,” the Episcopate, which comprises Polish bishops, said after a meeting on Wednesday. Their letter will be read out in churches across the country on Sunday.
“Let’s not apply collective responsibility and let’s avoid extending the blame of specific people in black robes to all priests,” the letter said. “These were deeds of specific people and they should be punished.”
The Catholic Church has been accused of trying to deflect responsibility after bishops refused to take a “zero tolerance” approach to offenders in March and compared such proposals to the Nazi Holocaust.
More than four fifths of Poles favor an independent inquiry into pedophilia in the church and said its leaders weren’t doing enough to protect minors, according to a survey by Pollster. The documentary garnered more than 21 million clicks since its release this month.