The archbishop of Kraków has issued a new set of rules for priests with the aim of protecting children and other vulnerable people from abuse. The decree – which is the first of its kind in Poland – includes a ban on priests receiving children in their homes and on keeping images of them without parental consent.
The document follows a series of revelations in recent years of abuse by priests and of attempts by the church hierarchy to cover the issue up. The Vatican has disciplined a number of Polish bishops for their negligence in dealing with the issue.
The new decree, consisting of 23 articles and published yesterday on the website of the Kraków archdiocese, is titled “Rule on respect for the dignity and personal rights of one’s neighbour, especially children and helpless people”. It comes into effect on 1 January.
Among a series of prohibitions, priests as well as lay people working in the diocese must not be alone with a minor in the latter’s home without the parents’ permission, welcome minors into their own homes, or take them anywhere by car unless warranted by exceptional circumstances.
The rules also prohibit “crossing the boundaries of physical intimacy” by making any bodily contact unless required to ensure somebody’s health or associated with church rituals.
All violence, corporal punishment, and “hostile gestures” are expressly banned, as is encouragement of negative behaviour such as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.
They should also avoid any conversations on growing up or sexuality outside of approved educational programmes, and particularly not refer to their own experiences. They should not have any secrets with children, practise sport with them individually, or keep any images of them without parents’ consent.
The document reminds its recipients of the duty to be faithful to Catholic tradition and culture and particularly refrain from erotic jokes and subtexts, profanities, raising one’s voice unnecessarily, ridiculing sacred things, and presenting or sending pornographic or violent materials.
Those affected by the decree have 60 days to submit a declaration that they are familiar with the new rules, reports Gazeta.pl.
“This is an important and needed document that is a significant phase in the church’s fight against crimes of sexual abuse of minors,” Marcin Przeciszewski, the president of the Catholic Information Agency, told Gazeta Krakowska.
“According to a resolution by the episcopate, every Polish diocese was supposed to prepare a preventive programme for protecting children and vulnerable people even in 2018,” he added. “Today the archbishop of Kraków is issuing a decree summarising these rules as part of cleansing the church and protecting children and young people.”
Work on the decree involved long and extensive consultations and was a response to the Polish episcopate’s rules for prevention of sexual abuses to children and disabled people from 2014, Łukasz Michalczewski, the archdiocese’s spokesman, told Radio Zet.
Main image credit: Joanna Adamik/Archidiecezja Krakowska (under public domain)
Ben Koschalka is a translator and senior editor at Notes from Poland. Originally from Britain, he has lived in Kraków since 2005.