Polish Catholic Church Argues 12-Year Old Sex Abuse Victim Was Willing Participant

Saturday January 15, 2022

Is being gay a mitigating factor in sexual abuse cases?

That is the argument of Polish Catholic Church officials in a case of a 48-year-old man who has sued the church over sexual abuse as a 12-year old in 1984.

"The lawsuit was brought by Janusz Szymik against the diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec. Szymik says that he was abused by a priest, identified as "Jan W." in court documents, for years starting in 1984 when he was an altar boy," writes LGBTQ Nation.

In their defense, the Church contends that the teen was gay and enjoyed the sex. "The church also wants to be allowed to question Szymik about him "showing pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W." and "deriving benefits [from it], including material benefits," adds LGBTQ Nation.

A Polish news website published portions of the church's response to the lawsuit, which include a request for "evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant's sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant's sexual orientation."

The website Notes from Poland reports that the diocese "denies that the relationship was based on enslavement or incapacitation; on the contrary: it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits," according to the document cited by Onet. It points to Jan W.'s testimony during the church trial, in which he admitted to sexual contact with Szymik beginning only in 1987, not in 1984 as the victim claims."

It also argues that, although Szymik was an altar boy, because meetings between him and the priest took place outside the church, and because Szymik "participated voluntarily," they "were not related to Jan W.'s ministry" and "the sexual contacts did not take place during the performance of the duties entrusted to him."

The church also opposes Szymik's claim on technical grounds. It says that the statute of limitations for civil action has expired and that the abuse took place before the Bielsko-Zywiec diocese was established, when Jan W. was under the authority of the Kraków diocese.

Prominent Catholic commentator Tomasz Terlikowski called the church's actions "scandalous" and "sad proof that the bishop does not even know the teachings of the church of which he is supposed to be a shepherd." He adds that the line of questioning by the church represents a "pedophile's model of thinking" and will cause "the victim harm again," tweeted Terlowski, who called on the bishop to withdraw the document, appoint a new lawyer, and apologize.

"The church's internal court already found Jan W. guilty of sexually abusing Szymik in 2017. The church banned Jan W. from conducting priestly ministry and hearing confessions for five years. Szymik's lawsuit is asking for three million Polish zlotych ($755,000 U.S.) in damages from the church," writes LGBTQ Nation.

"In 2021, the Vatican disciplined the diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec for "neglect" in responding to Jan W.'s alleged sexual abuse following a two-year investigation that found that Szymik told church leaders about it twice, but it still took years for the diocese to do anything about Jan W."