A bishop of a diocese in Poland has drawn criticism after asking a court to determine whether an altar boy derived "pleasure" from a priest's sexual abuse.
According to Notes from Poland, Janusz Szymik, now 48, initiated legal action against the Bielsko-Å»ywiec diocese last year, claiming he was sexually abused by a priest in the 1980s, when he was only 12 years old.
The priest, identified only as Jan as a result 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 ongoing civil case filed by Szymik, he is seeking 3 million zloty ($755,000) in compensation for the abuse.
However, in a shocking defense, the bishop of Bielsko-Å»ywiec diocese, Roman Pindel, suggested that Szymik may have enjoyed the abuse because he was gay.
Pindel Argued that Szymik Derived 'Mutual Benefits' from the 'Relationship'
Pindel 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 also asked that Szymik be questioned about whether or not he expressed "pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W", and on "deriving benefits" from the abuse, including "material benefits."
The church referred to the abuse â which Szymik claims lasted for five years and totaled almost 500 incidents â as a "relationship" and rejected the notion that it was "based on enslavement or incapacitation." "On the contrary," the diocese argued, "it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits."
Pindel Issues Apology Following Outrage
The diocese's choice of defense has drawn condemnation from the Catholic community. 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 "pedophile'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."
In the wake of the backlash, Pindel was forced to issue an apology. "We apologise to Janusz and to all who have been scandalised," he said before adding that he should not have asked the court to investigate the victim's sexuality or suggested that he derived pleasure from abuse.