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Polish bishops adopting guidelines on sex abuse accusations

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Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland — The spokesman for the Polish bishops’ conference defended its handling of sexual abuse accusations against Catholic clergy as the bishops prepared to adopt guidelines on the issue.

“The church is the only institution in Poland systematically dealing with this; no one else is,” said Father Jozef Kloch, conference spokesman. “Although we’re being used as a whipping boy, we know from data there’s a much lower incidence of pedophilia among Catholic priests than clergy from other denominations, as well as teachers, home care employees, sports coaches and, unfortunately, parents and relatives.”

Father Kloch told Catholic News Service Feb. 22 that, in March, the bishops would vote on new guidelines developed in line with instructions issued by the Vatican last May. The Polish document was prepared by the church’s legal counsel.

However, Father Kloch said he did not know whether the guidelines would be published or whether the bishops had faced resistance from priests over the issue and thus would keep them private.

“These guidelines will be filed with the Holy See and made binding on all dioceses and religious orders,” Father Kloch said. “I haven’t heard of any other organization who’s dealing with the issue so methodically, reckoning with past abuse and acting to prevent it in future.”

Around 50 Polish priests have been convicted or indicted on abuse-related charges in recent years.

Child protection groups say most convicted priests are still serving in parishes and sometimes working with children, after receiving suspended jail terms.

In an autumn special issue, a Catholic monthly, Wiez, said the Polish church still lacked appropriate “norms of conduct” and cited a “lack of cooperation between church and state” on abuse issues.

Father Kloch said the church had no mechanism for tracking clergy sex abuse cases.

“This is a matter of conscience, although every case … is one too many,” he said. “What’s most important now is that our guidelines should work on the ground, as requested by the Vatican.”