ROME (AP) – Pope Francis has ordered a Polish bishop to leave his central diocese and to be led by someone else while he is being investigated for covering up cases of sexual abuse seen in a second documentary about mental abuse. Has turned Polish Catholic Church upside down.
Francis called the Archbishop of Lodz, Grzegorz Rys, on Thursday to temporarily take over the head of the Diocese of Kalisz.
The Vatican ambassador said in explaining the decision that current Kalisz bishop, Edward Janiak, 67, will retain the title of Kalish bishop for the time being. But the explanation, posted on the Polish Episcopal Conference website late Thursday, said Janiak should leave the territory of the diocese and have no influence on the way it is administered.
In May, the online documentary ‘Hide and Seek’ revealed two cases of pedophile priests Janiak treated, first as Auxiliary Bishop of Wroclaw and then Bishop of Kalisz, who he has led since 2012.
It contained court testimonies about Janiak’s role in transferring a priest, who was subsequently convicted and exposed, from Wroclaw to another diocese, even after a criminal investigation was started. The film also documented another instance of another priest’s alleged cover-up during Janiak’s time as Bishop of Kalisz.
The film suggests that Janiak did not follow the Vatican’s own rules of reporting allegations against the Kalisz priest to the Holy See, and only did so after the case received media attention. The diocese claims that no real victims had made a formal complaint, although the parents of one victim did. An audio tape from their meeting in 2016, in which Janiak berates the parents, makes for one of the more chilling moments of the documentary.
The film was the second about the abuse of Polish clergy by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, after their first film last year ‘Tell No One’ caused a national reckoning in a country where there is no higher moral authority than the Catholic Church and its clergy. That movie provoked an apology from Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, and caused at least one clergyman to leave priestly life.
Polak wrote a letter to the Vatican in May reporting the allegations against Janiak and requesting an investigation into it. Poznan Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki was commissioned to conduct a preliminary investigation. He said he will not comment along the way.
Later in May, the leading priests of Kalisz were asked by a local bishop to sign a letter to the Vatican pledging confidence in Janiak. But most refused and instead sent a letter requesting the Vatican to clarify the charges against him, Catholic magazine Wiez said.
Such a display of priests disobeying their bishop is uncommon in the Catholic hierarchy, especially in conservative Poland, and suggests that public outcry about sexual abuse is growing and changing attitudes within the Church.
In early June, Janiak was hospitalized with the suspicion that he had had a stroke. Further investigation revealed that he was simply heavily intoxicated.
Both Sekielski movies have English subtitles and are available on YouTube. As of Thursday, ‘Tell No One’ had registered 23.8 million views; Playing Hide and Seek has recorded 7.3 million views since its premiere on May 16.
AP writer Monika Scislowska reported from Warsaw, Poland.
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