A Catholic diocese in Poland has been condemned after asking a court to determine whether an alter boy derived “pleasure” from a priest sexually abusing him.
Catholics in the country have criticized the diocese of Bielsko-Zywiec for trying to call an expert to determine whether the victim was gay and “showed satisfaction” in the abuse, which they deemed a “relationship.”
Janusz Szymik, 48, was abused by a priest — identified in court documents as Fr. Jan W. — for five years in the 1980s, starting when Szymik was a 12-year-old altar boy.
A Catholic Church investigation in 2015 found Jan W. guilty of abusing Szymik, banning him from his priestly duties for five years and requiring him to isolate from others.
Szymik later filed a civil suit against the diocese, seeking 3 million złoty ($756,000) in damages.
Bielsko-Zywiec diocese responded by suggesting that Szymik is gay and enjoyed the abuse.
Roman Pindel, bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, submitted a letter to the court requesting “evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant’s sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant’s sexual orientation.”
Pindel wanted to ask Szymik about “showing pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W.” and “deriving benefits” from the sustained abuse, including “material benefits.”
The church called the abuse — which Szymik claims lasted for five years and totaled almost 500 incidents — a “relationship” and rejected the notion that it was “based on enslavement or incapacitation.”
“On the contrary,” the diocese argued, “it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits,” according to Notes from Poland, which translated the court documents.
The diocese’s choice of defense has drawn condemnation from Catholic leaders in Poland. Fr. Piotr Studnicki, of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, rejected the notion that Szymik was in any way responsible for the abuse.
“The issue of sexual orientation or the way a child reacts emotionally to an offense of sexual abuse cannot constitute an argument against the injured person and diminish the responsibility of the perpetrator,” Studicki said. “It must be clear to everyone that a child never bears responsibility for violence experienced.”
Catholic journalist Tomasz Terlikowski called Pindel’s defense “scandalous,” urging him to withdraw it and apologize to Szymik.
He said speculation on Szymik’s sexuality was a “pedophile’s model of thinking,” arguing that Pindel’s letter to court was “sad proof that the bishop does not even know the teaching of the Church that he is to be a shepherd.”
Speaking to Polish news channel TVN24, Szymik said that Bishop Pindel had previously “expressed pain and regret and asked for forgiveness.”
“Now he wants to prove…that I am a homosexual person, that pedophilia gave me pleasure, that everything that happened was voluntary, that I benefited from it,” he continued.
Pindel eventually responded to the controversy on by apologizing “to Janusz and to all who have been scandalized” by the diocese’s defense.
He added that the diocese’s letter to court shouldn’t have included speculation on Szymik’s sexuality or the suggestion that he derived pleasure from the priest’s abuse.
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