Polish Sex Abuse Victim Reaches Settlement with Catholic Church

A man who was abused as a child by a priest of the Polish Catholic Church has agreed to settle his civil suit against the Church, but will continue his claim against the priest.

The first person in Poland to bring a civil damages case against the Catholic Church for sexual abuse has agreed to a settlement with the Diocese of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg and a parish.

At the age of 12, Marcin K. was sexually abused by priest Zbigniew R. for a period spanning several months. In December 2012, the priest was convicted of criminal charges for the abuse and sentenced to two years in prison. Although the sentence was affirmed and declared final, the priest has managed to avoid incarceration, citing medical reasons.

'Christian charity'

In 2013, Marcin K. filed a lawsuit against Zbigniew R., the Diocese of Koszalin-Kołobrzeg and St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Parish, seeking compensation for a violation of his personal interests. A first-instance court dismissed the case against the diocese and parish but decided to hear proceedings brought against the priest.

Under the terms of the settlement with the Church, finalized in March, Marcin K. agreed to drop all further civil action against the parish and diocese. The respondents stated that "as a gesture of Christian charity" they compensated the claimant for his costs of psychological treatment.

In the civil suit against the priest, which will continue, Marcin K. is seeking 50,000 złoty (12,500 euros) for moral injuries. This case has been adjourned with no date set for its resumption.

'Landmark case'

"We are pleased to hear about the settlement between Marcin K. and the respondent diocese and parish. This is clearly a landmark case, in which a victim of pedophilia of the Church has finally obtained a just outcome," said Irmina Pacho, a lawyer for the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. "The trial against Zbigniew R. hasn’t finished yet and we are definitely going to follow up on it."

In many other countries, including Germany and the US, the Church has been entering into settlements with victims of pedophile priests, in effect recognizing its own institutional responsibility in such cases.

Marcin K. was represented by Wojciech Dobkowski, an advocate acting pro bono. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights observed the court proceedings in the case.