Poland's Roman Catholic Church faces first abuse lawsuit

Priests stand in front of a crucifix. File photo The Roman Catholic Church is facing growing pressure to act over child abuse claims

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A Polish man who was abused as a child by a priest is suing the country's Roman Catholic Church - the first such civil case in the country.

The man - who is only identified as 25-year-old Marcin K - is demanding 47,500 euros ($64,500; £39,550) in damages.

The priest has been convicted and is now serving a two-year jail sentence.

The church leadership apologised to all child abuse victims last year, but insisted it would not pay damages for the crimes of individual clergymen.

On Wednesday, the UN said the Vatican should "immediately remove" all clergy who were known or suspected child abusers.

In a report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also denounced the Holy See for adopting policies which allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

Apology demand

Marcin K - who was abused by Father Zbigniew R between 1999 and 2001 - launched his case with the support from the Helsinki Foundation (HF) human rights group.

Catholic Church abuse scandals

  • Germany - A priest, named only as Andreas L, admitted in 2012 to 280 counts of sexual abuse involving three boys over a decade
  • United States - Revelations about abuses in the 1990s by two Boston priests, Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, caused public outrage
  • Belgium - The bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April 2010 after admitting that he had sexually abused a boy for years
  • Italy - The Catholic Church in Italy admitted in 2010 that about 100 cases of paedophile priests had been reported over 10 years
  • Ireland - A report in 2009 found that sexual and psychological abuse was "endemic" in Catholic-run industrial schools and orphanages for most of the 20th century

"It is the first civil lawsuit against the (Polish) Catholic church," HF representative Adam Bondar was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"But there has never been a case in which a victim sues not just the perpetrator but also the church as an institution," he added.

Marcin K is also demanding a printed apology in the national press.

The church has argued that it not legally liable for the behaviour of the convicted priest, saying he had operated "independently" in his parish.

The Catholic Church is still influential in Poland, and it has largely been spared the sex abuse scandals that have made so many headlines in the West, but that is starting to change, the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw reports.

Last year, the Polish Papal Nuncio to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, was accused of molesting boys.

The 65-year-old archbishop, who has since been recalled to Rome, is one of the highest ranking Vatican officials to be investigated for alleged abuse.

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