WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, met with Poland’s Catholic bishops on Friday to share his experience in tracking crimes, after the Polish church admitted knowing about hundreds of cases over the years where priests abused minors.
Scicluna attended the bishops’ plenary session Friday in Walbrzych, southwestern Poland, for a discussion about “protecting children and youths,” the Episcopate said.
Bishop Piotr Libera tweeted that Scicluna’s remarks were “extremely interesting.”
Scicluna told Poland’s Catholic news agency KAI that he would like to “encourage Poland’s bishops to implement the very good guidance points that they themselves adopted” in 2013.
He later told a news conference it was not enough to have rules but “we need to implement what the documents say” and people in parishes should know who to turn to in the church when they suspect abuse.
Scicluna urged every person aware of a cover-up to report it to higher church authorities or in case of high-ranking bishops, to the papal nuncio in Poland.
Scicluna, a Maltese archbishop, and expert in church law, has been instrumental in revealing facts about priestly sex abuse and cover-up by Chilean church leaders for Pope Francis. In February at the Vatican, he gave a tutorial on preventing sex abuse to a summit of church leaders convened by Francis in reaction to the global sex abuse and cover-up crisis that has undermined credibility in the church.
Poland’s bishops acknowledged in March they had almost 400 predator priests on record. In this predominantly Catholic nation, the church has been strongly criticized for covering up cases of abuse by priests, moving them to new parishes and failing to ban them from working with children.
Only a limited number of cases have been tried by civilian courts. In one case, the court found a clergyman guilty of abducting, detaining and abusing a 13-year-old girl more than 10 years ago and ruled that his order pay her 1 million zlotys ($265,000) in compensation.
An independent documentary in May revealed testimony from people who as children were raped or abused by Polish clergy. It led Poland’s Primate Archbishop Wojciech Polak to apologize to the victims, but some other bishops initially shrugged at the film.
Some believers say sex abuse is a problem of individual priests or claim the church has been unfairly attacked by critics.