Title: Polish Church faces reckoning over sex abuse
Jakub Pankowiak’s story of sexual abuse by a local priest is shaking up Poland’s Catholic hierarchy, amplifying calls for full transparency after decades of cover-ups in the former communist country.
Pankowiak, an organist’s son and a young boy at the time, recalls that Father Arkadiusz Hajdasz was “friendly, open, smiley” when he arrived in the town of Pleszew.
“It started with tea and cookies… until one day he sat down and just started kissing and fondling me,” Pankowiak told AFP in a phone interview.
“I was speechless to the point of no reaction. I just waited for it to end,” said the 35-year-old who still recalls the priest’s bad breath and pimply ruddy cheeks.
Pankowiak, now a musician and lecturer, said Hajdasz molested him hundreds of times, as well as his younger brother Bartlomiej and others.
The siblings tell their story in a documentary called “Hide and Seek” by Marek and Tomasz Sekielski.
Viewed seven million times on YouTube since its May release, it has ignited debate on the issue of clerical sex abuse in Poland.
While the subject has long been taboo in the predominantly Catholic country, Pankowiak and others believe the tide is turning and could lead to the kind of church shake-up already seen in Ireland and the United States.
– Relic of communism –
The documentary says Hajdasz was shuffled from one parish to another and carried out acts of abuse for a quarter of a century, allegedly with tacit protection from higher-ups including bishop Edward Janiak.