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Reverend Henryk Jankowski was well-known in Poland for his support of the Solidarity movement, and its leader Lech Wales, that helped defeat Communism in the country but his reputation was ruined after anti-Semitic remarks came to light together with allegations of child sexual abuse. After Jankowski died in 2010 at the age of 73 the public became aware of more and more evidence supporting those allegations. More of his victims spoke up and he was not there to discredit them so it became clear that the allegations against him are numerous and credible.
As a reaction to all of this, Polish activists toppled the statue of Jankowski, which was sitting outside his home church in the city of Gdansk, just as Pope Francis was at the Vatican convening a summit on sexual abuse. The activists also placed children’s underwear and an altar boy garment on the statue to symbolize and call attention to the suffering of children Jankowski allegedly molested.
In a manifesto, the activists said they were acting to protest a failure by church leaders to fully investigate the Jankowski case and take steps to make future sex abuse less likely. "We accuse the institutions of the Catholic church and its representatives, who with full consciousness of the evil done by Henryk Jankowski, failed to act to put an end to evil, remained silent or — like (Gdansk Archbishop) Slawoj Leszek Glodz — tolerated the risk of there being more victims," they wrote, as The Tribune Democrat reports.
The monument was not entirely destroyed because the fall of the statue was cushioned by tires placed under it by the activists who explained that their goal was not to physically destroy the statue but rather to upend "the false and hideous myth" of the priest. The respect for the priest and his support to the movement lead by Lech Wales was so high that some world leaders, including President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, visited his St. Brygida church in recognition of his anti-communist activity. In the light of the sexual abuse scandal those activists tried to show the world that this particular priest does not deserve to be honored.
This type of activism is very rare in Poland known for its high percentage of religious people. As Patheos reports, in a country that is nearly 90% Roman Catholic, the sexual abuse scandal has really energized the Church’s opponents to speak out against the institution’s crimes and politics. This is only the latest example of people refusing to let the Church get away with pretending to hold the moral high ground. It seems that the position of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland is changing and that secularization is growing.