Poland’s Catholic church faces first paedophile lawsuit

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WARSAW (AFP) – Poland’s Roman Catholic church is being sued for damages for the first time by the victim of a paedophile priest, a human rights group said Thursday.

A demand for 47,500 euros ($63,500) was made by a 25-year-old male — identified only as Marcin K — who was molested as a child, Adam Bondar of the Helsinki Foundation that has taken up the unprecedented case, told reporters in Warsaw.

A Catholic priest was sentenced in 2012 to two years behind bars in the case, but his diocese refused to be held financially liable.

“It is the first civil lawsuit against the (Polish) Catholic church,” Bodnar said, adding that more than a dozen priests have been convicted of paedophilia in Poland.

“But there has never been a case in which a victim sues not just the perpetrator but also the church as an institution,” he added.

Marcin K decided to launch the civil suit after the Church rejected his initial direct request for damages in October of last year.

The church argued it was not legally liable for the behaviour of one of its priests, who it insisted had operated “independently” in his parish.

The case comes amid mounting allegations of paedophilia involving priests in Poland, one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic countries.

In an unprecedented move, Polish Church leaders apologised late last year over alleged paedophile priests, as prosecutors on both sides of the Atlantic began probes against two high-profile suspects.

Justice authorities are looking into allegations that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a 65-year-old Pole, had sex with teenage boys during his five years of service as a papal envoy in the Dominican Republic.

Authorities on the Caribbean island nation also allege Wojciech Gil, a 36-year-old priest, raped several young boys while serving there.

Despite their apology, Church leaders in Poland had insisted they would not be offering victims any material compensation.

The United Nations on Wednesday condemned the Vatican for failing to stamp out child abuse and allowing systematic cover-ups, calling on the Church to remove clergy suspected of raping or molesting children.

The Vatican says it receives around 600 claims against abusive priests every year, many dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

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