Map of child abuse in the Church released in Poland

Child abuse in the Catholic Church has been on everyone’s lips in Poland for the past months. Recently, a foundation that supports survivors created an interactive map detailing the problem.

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Map of child abuse in the Church released in Poland - NewsMavens
Priests, Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Data collection in cases of child abuse has been a challenge worldwide. The Church itself rarely proves helpful -- most often, it pressures survivors into staying silent, refuses to inform the police about potential crimes, obstructs investigations by notifying the perpetrators in advance, destroys evidence, or moves the accused priest to a different parish.

map of child abuse by Polish priests

This is why the creators of the map, the Nie Lękajcie się (Do Not Fear) Foundation, believe that their findings are only the tip of the iceberg.

“The majority of sexual crimes against children never come to light,” their statement reads. “When committed by priests, they become an even greater taboo due to the social standing and authority of the Church.”

The map is an invitation for other survivors to share their stories. So far, hundreds of people have called their helpline. The foundation verifies their claims before adding them to the map.

“I’ve waited 37 years for this moment,” Marek Lisiński, head of the Do Not Fear foundation, commented. “I was abused at the age of 13. It is very difficult for us to talk about it… This map is not complete and it will never be. If 10% of us speak out, it will be a success. The rest will remain silent.”

It seems that, after decades of denial, we are finally witnessing a breakthrough.

Details from the story:

  • The map was released in October 2018. It was created by the Do Not Fear Foundation with MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, as well as journalist and activist Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska. It includes four types of information:
    • Black dots signify places where priests committed sexual crimes against children for which they were sentenced (63 cases).
    • Orange dots show where priests probably molested children. The map includes links to articles with accusations not resolved in court, usually because they were outdated. The foundation gathered 50 such cases.
    • Grey dots mark places of abuse of survivors who contacted the foundation but wish to remain anonymous (35 cases).
    • Maroon dots point to the location of survivors who shared their story anonymously -- refusing to share the place of abuse (259 cases).
  • Poland has been discussing child abuse in Catholic Church for years, but recently the debate was reheated following a string of events.
  • On November 19, 2018, the Polish Episcopate officially apologized to all of the survivors of child abuse committed by priests.
  • In a 2014 interview, Pope Francis estimated that 2% of priests are pedophiles.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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