Before Rev. Henryk Jankowski died in 2010 at the age of 73, he was well-known in Poland for his support of the Solidarity movement that helped topple Communism in the country. Later in life, however, his reputation was ruined after anti-Semitic remarks came to light — he said “the Jewish minority cannot be tolerated in the Polish government” — as well as allegations of child sexual abuse. He blamed those allegations on, of course, Jews.
After he died, however, the public learned more evidence supporting those allegations. More victims spoke up. While he’s no longer around to defend himself, it seems clear that the allegations against him are numerous and credible.
Which raises an interesting question: What do you do with the Jankowski monument that sits outside his home church in the city of Gdansk?
Last night, just as Pope Francis was at the Vatican convening a summit on sexual abuse, three local activists toppled the statue.
— Tomasz Sekielski (@sekielski) February 21, 2019
They also placed children’s underwear and a white, lace altar boy garment on the statue to symbolize the suffering of children Jankowski allegedly molested.
The three Gdansk activists wanted to use his statue to call attention to the church’s failure to address clergy sexual abuse. Along with the statue’s toppling, they released a signed manifesto accusing clergy officials of “systemic complicity in the evil done to people by Henryk Jankowski.”
The monument wasn’t entirely destroyed; there were tires to cushion its fall. But the monument was moved to storage by local officials who are now being pressured to put it back up. It’s not clear what punishment, if any, the protesters will receive.
In a country that is nearly 90% Roman Catholic, the sexual abuse scandal has really energized the Church’s opponents to speak out against the institution’s crimes and politics. This is only the latest example of people refusing to let the Church get away with pretending to hold the moral high ground. If they’re not going to do anything about the sexual abuse scandal — or take very minor steps, at best — might as well help nudge them along by letting the world know this particular priest doesn’t deserve to be honored.
(Thanks to Agnieszka for the link)