11 May 2019, the Tomasz and Marek Sekielski documentary about the paedophilia in the Catholic Church in Poland is released. No major TV wanted to produce it, so the journalist Tomasz Sekielski and his brother collected the necessary resources via crowd founding site and released the documentary on YouTube.
16 May 2019, the documentary “Tell No One” has been watched 16 million times. You can watch it here with English subtitles:
The real problem
The impact this movie has is enormous. It is impossible to predict the full scale effect of the wave it has ignited. The chain of events is very fast.
If you see this movie you know, that the problem addressed in the Sekielskis’ documentary is not paedophilia. It is the Catholic Church cover up of paedophiles among priests.
The bishops of the Catholic Church are apologetic. Even archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź, who was initially dismissive of the documentary, is apologetic now. The leading voice belongs to the country’s primate Wojciech Polak: this film is “an element of crushing down of this reality”.
“The reality” is a reality in which there is a system of cover up, a system where the victims are left alone and left oppressed not to tell. A system in which the Catholic Church is proven a wrong doing and requires soul searching and change.
Can the change be generated from within the Catholic Church in Poland or it requires an external pressure? Vatican sends archbishop Charles Scicluna, who has been sent before to Chile to help the local degenerated clergy to come to terms with their past. Now the Vatican seems to be deeply worried with the situation in the Polish Catholic Church.
There is a major difference between those who saw the documentary and whose who did not see it. Those who did not see it are in a state of denial. Those who saw it are in a state of shock.
Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling party, tries to spin the debate to talk about paedophilia. The millions who have seen the documentary cannot be moved, for the problem is not the general paedophilia, but elsewhere.
It is quite telling that the initial reactions of the bishops (apologetic) are more proper that the reactions of the PiS politicians. Two of the leading PiS MEP candidates have had disqualifying statements in this context:
First, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, PiS candidate in Warsaw on public TV: “It is a baffled problem, specifically invented, to provoke […]. The European Coalition has nothing to say on European issues, and therefore deals with what it should not do”.
Second, Ryszard Legutko, PiS candidate (no. 2) in Kraków claims that Church’s problem is homosexuality. Then, he says, “More than 80 percent of cases of abuse refer to boys from 12 to 17 years of age, well sorry about what is paedophilia? It is not paedophilia, it is simply pederasty”.
The ruling party wants to change the penal code, too. The sentence for the crime of paedophilia will be 30 years, children will be protected until the age of 16, and Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and a former MEP: “There will be no time limitation to punish someone for raping a child”.
The problem is not in the law, the problem is with the application of the law. There is no image of the police arresting priests accused of paedophilia on TVs. There are images of the police arresting activists for provoking religious groups with antireligious posters.
“Instead of kneeling in front of the bishops, you should all kneel before the victims of paedophile priests and beg for forgiveness! You have done nothing for the raped children for years and continue to do nothing!” yelled MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus of the opposition party Spring before showing a map of the case of paedophilia in Poland in the Sejm. Ms Scheuring-Wielgus is running for the EP from Warsaw – the list of Spring, no.2.
Michał Szułdrzyński, a conservative journalist wrote in Rzeczpospolita that “the Church paedophilia film has surprised Law and Justice”. On Saturday morning, hours before the Sekielski documentary is released, Jarosław Kaczyński is talking about the need to defend traditional values. Szułdrzyński: “the Kaczyński party misses out the social mood” and points out all the strategic mistakes and steps that the ruling party did. He concludes: “the European Coalition lead by Grzegorz Schetyna just caught a second breath” and “Schetyna paraphrased Kaczyński words, when the PiS leader was saying a hand raised against the Church is a hand raised against Poland. The European Coalition leader in response to the documentary said, that the hand raised against the Polish state belongs to the one who raises it against a Polish child”.
I agree with Mr Szułdrzyński. Law and Justice misinterpreted the gravity of the Sekielski documentary. The final 10 days ahead of the elections is a moment when Law and Justice has additional problems to motivate their electorate to come out and vote. Their general support may not be evaporating as fast, but the willingness to go out and vote for the reactionary force may be softened.
If Law and Justice stalls and potentially is set to lose out, who wins? The European Coalition is quick to respond properly, says Mr Szułdrzyński. Yet there is the third party of Robert Biedroń, the Spring, who is the most credible with secularisation. Ms Scheuring-Wielgus has been raising the issue for months; she arose to prominence when she handed in the report on paedophilia in the Polish Church to Pope Francis, who embraced the victim of paedophilia Marek Lisiński, head of the foundation “Do Not Be Afraid” back in February. Mr Lisiński travelled to Rome with MP Scheuring-Wielgus.
The issue is bigger that the current EP campaign and most likely will overshadow the rest of the remaining period. Every day new victims come out with their stories and the media are fully reporting on the issue. The group of people who are in denial is cracking. Since the head of the Catholic Church in Poland is no longer in that group alongside many bishops, it will be very difficult for the ruling party to deny the problem. The problem not being the paedophilia, but the Church cover up of paedophilia.
In a normal country MEP candidate Saryusz-Wolski should be forced to apologize for his words and MEP Ryszard Legutko, who has been PiS leader in the EP, should be removed from the ranks.
Yet there is another twist to the politics of the situation. The “hard core” deniers of the Confederation are raising their heads. They, too, can benefit from the softening of the message of the Church, and potentially Law and Justice. A former MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke expressed some understanding for the paedophiles.