The founder and former president of a foundation set up to support victims of clerical paedophilia in Poland has been charged with defrauding a woman abused by a priest as a child whom his organisation had helped to get one million zloty in compensation.

The man, known as Marek L. for legal reasons, allegedly asked the woman, known as Katarzyna, to lend him 30,000 zloty to cover what he claimed were the costs of a life-saving operation for pancreatic cancer, but which it transpired he was not actually suffering from.

Marek L’s foundation, called Nie lękajcie się (“Be not afraid” – the famous words of Pope John Paul II), had recently helped Katarzyna in a court case which resulted in an award of one million zloty compensation from the Society of Christ Fathers. As a child, she had been imprisoned and repeatedly raped by a priest belonging to the Catholic order.

According to Rzeczpospolita, Marek L. was charged with fraud before Christmas by prosecutors in Szczecin. The newspaper quotes a prosecutor, Maciej Joźwiak, as saying that “formally he has not admitted the charge, although he has testified that he did indeed mislead the aggrieved party by claiming to be ill.” Marek L. claims that he intended to return the loan. If proven guilty of fraud, he faces up to eight years in jail.

The deception first came to light in a story published by Gazeta Wyborcza in May 2019. Katarzyna said that she had given Marek L. a loan of 20,000 zloty and an additional 10,000 zloty as a gift after he had approached her saying that he needed it to help beat his supposed illness and asking for discretion. But Katarzyna soon became suspicious when the NGO head did not have the operation or show her any medical documentation.

When the allegations came to light, Marek L. resigned from his position as president of the foundation, admitting that “with my actions I have broken the trust of the victims of clerics themselves, who approached me for help, as well as the people in the foundation’s board and advisory board, who did not know about my actions jeopardising the foundation’s good name and credibility”.

The Nie lękajcie się Foundation gained renown in 2018 when it published an interactive map of church paedophilia cases in Poland.


In February last year, Marek L., himself a former victim of a paedophile priest, accompanied opposition MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus when she presented a report on paedophilia in the Polish church to Pope Francis. The pontiff paused for several moments with Marek L. and kissed his hand.

Katarzyna was 13 when a priest known as Roman B. took her away from her parents, imprisoned her in a rented flat and raped her on numerous occasions for more than a year. Now in her mid-20s, she has made several suicide attempts. When she received compensation for her ordeal, Marek L. told Wirtualna Polska, “She needs constant therapy. For the rest of her life. This money will ensure her the necessary specialist care.”

In November 2019, Katarzyna successfully sued far-right Catholic commentator Stanisław Michalkiewicz, who had responded to her compensation award by saying “even whores don’t earn so well”. Michalkiewicz countered by publicly revealing her name and address while appealing to his followers for donations to help him pay her the 150,000 zloty damages.

Paedophilia in the Catholic church – and the church’s perceived failure to deal with it appropriately – has been an increasingly controversial subject in Poland in recent years, In late 2018, the Nie lękajcie się Foundation reported that since the release earlier the same year of the feature film Kler, which covered various abuses and excesses of the church, including paedophilia, it had been contacted by more victims than in the previous five years combined.

This was followed in 2019 by the groundbreaking documentary Tell No One, produced by the Sekielski brothers, which featured testimonies from victims of paedophile priests, who in some cases confronted their abusers, and also showed inaction from church authorities.

Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Gazeta

Pin It on Pinterest

Support us!