ROME (AP) – The Vatican says Pope Francis has been informed of a call by a group of Catholics in Poland to intervene in cases where bishops continue to cover up for priests who sexually abuse children.
The group “EnoughHarm” got a newspaper ad from La Repubblica in Rome on Monday, addressed to the Pope. It urged Francis to “restore our church” and heal the wounds of victims of abuse.
“Failure to take a decisive response from the church hierarchy to reports of objectionable behavior by some bishops has sparked public scandal and is damaging the well-being of the Church,” the ad said. “It harms its unity because it divides those who are concerned about the image of the institution and those who envision victims’ well-being.”
Largely Roman Catholic Poland has become the newest country to face an account of sexual abuse by priests and cover-up by their superiors. The scandal has been particularly hard hit in Poland, given the enormous authority and influence of the Church in all aspects of life and the pride of many Poles in their native son, St. John Paul II.
However, two recent documentaries have put the spotlight on individual cases of abuse and how bishops ignored victims, discredited their claims, and left abusers to protect them and the reputation of the Church.
Last week, Francis appointed a temporary commissioner to lead the central diocese of Kalisz and set aside his bishop, Edward Janiak, after he was placed under Vatican investigation after allegations in the most recent documentary that he concealed two cases of abuse.
And Monday, the Vatican bureaucracy announced that the same Polish prelate that commissioned the preliminary investigation of Janiak, the Archbishop of Poznan, Stanislaw Gadecki, would also conduct an investigation into the seminary in Kielce.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis had been informed of the appeal in the Repubblica ad, which displays an online petition published in several languages under the Polish domain of the “EnoughHarm” group www. dosckrzywdy.pl
“The Holy Father was informed of the appeal and prays for those who sent it,” said Bruni. “The Church should do everything possible to apply canonical standards, expose cases of abuse and punish those guilty of the crimes.”
Francis updated Church ecclesiastical law last year to also punish bishops who hide from abusers after the Vatican turned a blind eye to local church leaders for decades who did not protect their flocks from predators. The standards contain detailed steps for investigating negligent bishops, as well as whistleblower protection provisions they report.
It is known so far that a handful of bishops are being examined according to the new standards.
AP correspondent Monika Scislowska contributed from Warsaw, Poland.
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