Photo Credits: YouTube
oland is going to double jail terms for pedophiles after a groundbreaking documentary on child sexual abuse among Polish priests prompted public outrage. The sentence for rape of a child, which is currently up to 15 years in prison, would be increased to 30 years if the plans are passed by Parliament. The announcement comes 10 days ahead of the European Parliament elections.
“Tell No One," by independent journalist Tomasz Sekielski, has been viewed nearly 18 million times since it was posted to YouTube on Saturday. The revelations have rocked Poland’s powerful Roman Catholic Church to the core. In March, the Polish Church admitted that almost 400 clergy had sexually abused minors over the past 30 years.
As the Guardian reports, the two-hour documentary includes hidden camera footage of victims who are now adults confronting elderly priests about the abuse they suffered decades earlier. Several of the priests admit to the abuse and apologize for it.
The film also details how priests accused, or even convicted of child sexual abuse, were transferred to other parishes and able to continue their duties and work with children. The documentary concludes that the Polish-born pope and saint John Paul II turned a blind eye to sexual abuse when Warsaw’s communist regime was working to undermine the church, then Poland’s only independent institution.
Poland Prime Minister said it was the government's "strong conviction" that suspended sentences should not apply in cases of pedophilia. "It is difficult to imagine a more serious offence than the betrayal of the trust of the youngest people, those placed under someone's protection," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said. "Therefore, people, who are guardians in various institutions, including all secular and Church institutions, all such persons will have to bear even more severe penalties."
The Law and Justice government, which is closely allied with Poland's Catholic Church, said parliament would debate the proposed changes within days. "I am deeply moved by what I saw in Tomasz Sekielski's film, and I apologize for all the wounds inflicted by the men of the Church," the Polish primate Archbishop Tomasz Polak said in a statement.
Police have prevented the documentary from being projected on to the façade of churches in Warsaw and Gdansk.
BBC reports that the government has scrambled to react, rushing through tougher sentences for child sex abusers but simultaneously sending mixed messages about the documentary, with some branding it an attack on the Church. Even some Church leaders have denied that and have been quick to apologize to the victims.
That may not be enough. There are demands for the creation of an independent investigation. Next month, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a papal envoy who investigated child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Chile that resulted in the resignation of several bishops, will arrive in Poland on a visit to discuss the issue.