For the first time, the Supreme Court in Poland has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held to be liable for abuse perpetrated by one of its priests.
The decision follows on from an appeal made by a Catholic religious Order, the Society of Christ. In the court of first instance, a claimant identified only as ‘Kasia’ had been awarded damages totaling €220,000 (£192,400). Even though the religious Order had paid the damages to the woman, it still launched a final appeal against the lower court’s decision. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the president of the Supreme Court, ordered that the case be heard as a matter of urgency, due to the impact delays were having on the claimant’s health and wellbeing.
Until now, Polish bishops and the leaders of religious Orders have refused to accept that they and the church should be held responsible for abuse perpetrated by their priests.
The ruling follows on from an increasing outcry against the Polish Catholic Church, following the broadcast of a documentary about sexual abuse by Polish priests, called ‘Don’t Tell Anyone’. The film was watched 20 million times in the first week of its digital release.
It is expected that a very large number of claims will now be initiated against the Church, for compensation.
While the issue of various religious denominations being held responsible for abuse perpetrated by their priests has been settled for some time in the United Kingdom (via the doctrine of vicarious liability), this is not the case in all countries. The decision of the Supreme Court in Poland – where 90% of Poles identify themselves as being Catholic – is evidence that even in the most conservatively religious of countries, the issue of clerical abuse is being taken seriously, and the rights of Survivors to seek compensation is being strengthened, worldwide.
We will keep you updated as to the impact this decision has had in relation to the number of claims that are brought against the Polish Catholic church, over the next year.
Written by James Chambers at BLM