A Catholic diocese in Poland has asked a court to decide whether a 12-year-old altar boy was “pleased” that he was being abused because he was gay.
According to Notes from Poland, Janusz Szymik, now 48, launched legal action against the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese last year, and claims that he was sexually abused by a priest in the 1980s, beginning when he was just 12 years old.
The priest, identified only as Jan W because of Polish privacy laws, was found guilty by a church court in 2017 of abusing Szymik as a child. His punishment was a five-year suspension from his duties as a priest, and he was required to live in isolation during this time.
In the current civil case, Szymik is seeking 3million zloty (£552,000) in compensation for the abuse.
But in a shocking defence, the bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec diocese, Roman Pindel has asked the court to hear “evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant’s sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant’s sexual orientation”, to decide whether he was voluntarily in a “relationship” with the priest.
Pindel has asked that Szymik be questioned on whether he expressed “pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W”, and on “deriving benefits” from the abuse, including “material benefits.”
While Szymik says that the abuse began in 1984 when he was 12, the diocese insists that it began in 1987, when he was 16.
Bielsko-Żywiec diocese insisted that “denies that the relationship was based on enslavement or incapacitation; on the contrary: it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits”.
The diocese’s shocking defence of the abuse comes as Poland uses religion and “morals” as and excuse for increasing attacks on LGBT+ rights.
But even some within Poland’s Catholic community have spoken out.
Tomasz Terlikowski, a Catholic commentator, wrote on Twitter: “Bishop Roman Pindel should withdraw the scandalous letter, change his lawyer, and apologise to the victim.”
He added that the diocese’s request that a court interrogate Szymik on his sexual orientation was a “paedophile’s model of thinking”, that would cause further trauma to the victim.
Piotr Studnicki, a Catholic priest and director of an office for the protection of children within the Polish Bishops’ Conference, said in a statement: “The issue of sexual orientation or the way a child reacts emotionally to an offence of sexual abuse cannot constitute an argument against the injured person and diminish the responsibility of the perpetrator.
“It must be clear to everyone that a child never bears responsibility for violence experienced.”
Eventually, Pindel offered a half-hearted apology.
On Thursday (13 January), according to ABC News, Pindel said: “We apologise to Janusz and to all who have been scandalised.”
He admitted that the diocese should not have asked the court to investigate the victim’s sexuality or suggested that he derived pleasure from abuse.