It is not clear from the ministry’s statement whether the requested meeting with the U.S. ambassador concerned U.S. ownership of TVN.
The bishops’ March 7 statement was jointly authored by Father Adam Zak, the Polish bishops’ coordinator for the protection of minors, and Father Piotr Studnicki, director of the bishops’ Office of the Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth.
The statement said that allegations the late pontiff covered up abuse in the case of two priests had already been reported by Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek in December 2022. Overbeek’s book “Maxima Culpa” was published in Polish this week, Reuters reported.
The bishops said Overbeek’s work had been refuted by two other journalists, Tomasz Krzyżak and Piotr Litka. According to Krzyżak and Litka, Wotjyla removed Loranc from his parish, suspended him from priestly service, and then forced him to live in a monastery where the civil authorities ultimately arrested him. After Loranc was released from prison, he was allowed to celebrate Mass but not catechize children and youth or hear confessions.
Surgent, who would be imprisoned for abuse, was a priest of the Lubaczów Diocese. Wojtyla made “several decisions” regarding this priest but he left “the final word on possible sanctioning” to the Bishop of Lubaczów.
The third claim from Gutowski’s broadcast has not been previously reported. It concerns an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse of young boys allegedly committed by Father Boleslaw Saduś. Wojtyla allegedly knew of the accusations against the priest but recommended him to an Austrian diocese without noting this.
The documentary presented evidence “not on the basis of a prosecutorial or judicial investigation but on the files of the security services of the People’s Republic of Poland,” the bishops’ statement said, adding that it is “impossible to determine” the nature of the acts attributed to the priest on these sources.
The Security Service was the secret police and counter-espionage agency for the atheistic communist government that ruled Poland and sought to subvert and control the Catholic Church in the country.
Gutowski interviewed several victims and a man who said in the 1970s he informed Wojtyla about Surgent’s abuse, the Associated Press reported.
In a March 9 statement, TVN24 said the documentary is “the result of many months of work, based on multiple-source documents, eyewitness accounts and — most importantly — (it) gives voice to the victims themselves.” The report underwent “several stages of verification” and was made following “the highest journalistic standards.” The role of independent media is “to show the facts, even if they are difficult and painful to accept.”
The Polish bishops’ conference noted that today there is much greater awareness about the damage of sexual abuse and the development of church procedures to respond.
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“To all those who were harmed in this way by the clergy years ago and still bear the consequences of the evil experienced, we as the Church provide acceptance, listening, and support,” the statement said.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.