Church claims Archbishop’s priestly paedophilia comments were ‘a pure slip of the tongue’

ARCHBISHOP Józef Michalik, Poland’s most senior Catholic cleric, was at the centre of a storm this week after he said children with divorced parents were sometimes more vulnerable to sexual abuse by priests

His remarks, according to this report, prompted a storm of outrage, though the Church later said it was “a pure slip of the tongue”.

Michalik’s comments strengthened the view among some younger Poles that the Church is out of touch with modern society and failing to properly confront allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

A while back Michalik, right, was pictured with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill – President of the the International Funny Hats Federation – during the signing of a joint message of reconciliation which urged Poles and Russians to set aside centuries of anger and prejudice and work together to maintain their countries’ Christian identities. (CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

A while back Michalik, right, was pictured with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill – who is also President of the the International Federation of Funny Hats  – during the signing of a joint message of reconciliation which urged Poles and Russians to set aside centuries of anger and prejudice and work together to maintain their countries’ Christian identities. (CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

In comments broadcast on Tuesday by TVN24, Michalik said child sexual abuse by priests was unacceptable, but the debate about it needed to be broadened out beyond the immediate physical or psychological wounds inflicted on the victims.

And one has to say … how many wounds are inflicted when parents divorce? We often hear that this inappropriate attitude [paedophilia], or abuse, manifests itself when a child is seeking love. It [the child] clings, it searches. It gets lost itself and then draws another person into this.

After the comments were broadcast, Polish social media networks reverberated with angry comments.

One appalled listener, who gave her name as Anna, posted on Facebook:

This is disgusting, and is soaked in a sick logic, when a victim is responsible for a crime.

Another poster on the site, who identified himself as Adam, wrote:

While reading this, we can only be happy that this ‘Polish institution’ has committed ritual suicide.

Church authorities later on Tuesday convened a news conference to try to calm the outrage. A spokesman for the episcopate said the archbishop’s comments had been a “a pure slip of the tongue” and the archbishop has been misunderstood.

Michalik himself, who was present at the news conference, apologised .

The context of my comment was as follows: A child is always innocent. But it can be hurt not only by priests but also by its own environment.

Poland is one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic countries. The Church’s role at the centre of public life was cemented when clergymen, led by Polish-born Pope John Paul II, helped bring down Communist rule in the late 1980s.

That role is now being challenged by a generation of Poles who feel uncomfortable with the church’s traditional views on issues such as abortion, divorce and same-sex partnerships.

While the Catholic Church in countries such as Ireland and the United States has taken steps to be more assertive about uncovering child sex abuse by priests, in Poland it remains largely a taboo subject.

Abuse allegations are reported from time to time in the Polish media, but there has so far been no far-reaching public debate about the issue.

Hat tip: Ramichael