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Home News Pedophilia in the Church: Victims Add a Prayer to the Building

Pedophilia in the Church: Victims Add a Prayer to the Building

With the support of a diplomat, Marek Lisinski gained direct access to Pope Francis. The meeting was brief, just minutes, Wednesday, during the general audience in the huge hall Paul VI in the Vatican, which was attended by several thousand people. For Marek, it was the culmination of years of intense research, a long fight led first alone. To the pope, Marek, the founder of Do not be Afraid, an organization for the defense of victims of pedophile priests in Poland, gave a detailed report, implicating more than twenty Catholic leaders in his country for covering the Pedocriminal acts of clerics. The investigation that Marek Lisinski passed on to the pope in Rome was made public that same day in Poland.

Read alsoPedophilia: a summit in the Vatican to end the omerta

To mark the spirits, the statue of Henryk Jankowski, the former chaplain of Solidarnosc, who died in 2010, was debunked on the night of February 21 to 22 by three activists. This priest is suspected of acts of pedophilia, practices that would have been widely known to his hierarchy and his parishioners. Yet the diocese of Gdansk still refuses to open an investigation about Jankowski.


The case is emblematic of the omerta that still reigns in the last Catholic bastions of Europe, such as Poland and Italy. Elsewhere, in Africa or Asia, it is even more serious. "At the general audience, the Pope had tears in his eyes when he met Marek Lisinski. He kissed her hand, " says Anna, his lawyer who accompanied him. By this gesture, Francis often has the habit of honoring those whom they consider as persecuted. Beyond the tribute, the founder of Do not be afraid especially expects from the pope that the bishops implicated in his report are quickly sanctioned.

In Rome, dozens of activists, former victims of pedophile priests, leaders of associations such as Marek Lisinski take the floor loud and clear these days while the world meeting against pedophilia in the Church stands in camera, behind the walls of the Vatican. An "off" summit, in a way, which reveals, in a very concrete and quite novel way, the global scale of the sexual scandals that hit Catholic institutions.

This Saturday morning, under the aegis of ECA (Ending Clergy Abuse) a new international NGO fighting against sexual abuse committed by priests, they organize the first step of the survivors ("Survivors") (the Anglo-Saxon term for victims), a march to claim zero tolerance in the Church. Symbolically, the protesters will go up Via della Conciliazione, the main artery that leads to St. Peter's Square.

A little later, the two hundred bishops and cardinals who take part in the Vatican summit will meet at St Peter's Basilica for a penitential liturgy; which, in Catholic jargon, means a request for forgiveness for the sins committed. The sign may be that shame has now changed sides.


At the Vatican, it is the moment of a face-to-face meeting that never really took place, a face-to-face meeting in the reality of proximity. At the end of each press conference of the Vatican officials, representatives of ECA come, in turn, to the grids, comment on the work in progress … "It is the victims' associations that really made things happen in the Church. Without them, nothing would have happened, willingly admits Father Stéphane Joulain, who lives in Rome and one of the best experts in pedophilia in Catholicism. A significant number of bishops and cardinals (especially those from Africa and Asia) even discover, during the Rome summit, in their in camera discussions, the seriousness of the issue of sexual abuse.

Read also"The culture of secrecy has always been practiced in the Church"

Opposite, the victims are determined not to let go. "We are fully aware that we have to keep up the pressure," explainsJean-Marie Fürbringer, abused when he was a child by a Capuchin monk. This physicist trades in the Swiss association of victims Sapec, founded in 2009, one of the pioneers in Europe. In 2016, she obtained the establishment of a commission of compensation of the victims, a real advance and a very rare case in the world. Jean-Marie Fürbringer first began his fight alone, almost a quarter of a century ago. "I wrote a letter to a judge who received me very sympathetically, He says. But he told me it was too late, that it was prescribed, that nothing could be done. I did not have the idea at that time to tell him that there may have been other victims. Nor did the judge ask the question. "

The Capuchin, sent to France for a time, had, however, committed many other abuses. "The Church is an international organization, continues Jean-Marie Fürbringer. We are victims, we also need a structure on a global scale. " That is why the Swiss activist actively supports the development of ECA, founded last year. The idea of ​​an NGO was first brought by Barbara Blaine (read opposite), one of the figures in the fight against pedophilia in the United States, who died prematurely before she completed the project.


In Rome, activists against pedophilia in the Church create, these days, between them, new solidarities. Like a big adoption family. Belgian activist Lieve Halsberghe accompanies and supports Benjamin Kitobo, a "survivor" Congolese who now lives in the United States. "I lost my innocence at the end of my primary studies," says the latter, abused when he was a child by a Belgian priest, moved to several countries.

Read also"Snap": in the United States, the weight of a group of "survivors"

These international networks of protecting predators, Lieve Halsberghe knows them well, assures that they are still functioning, evokes in front of us the case of two Italian priests refugees in Mozambique. For her, zero tolerance in the Church would mean the systematic dismissal of abusers from their priestly function. The measure does exist in the Vatican texts. But to apply it, it's still a long way …

Bernadette Sauvaget Special Envoy to Rome



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