Poland's Kaczynski vows crackdown on child sex abuse

Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is regarded as the country's de facto powerbroker (AFP Photo/Janek SKARZYNSKI)

Warsaw (AFP) - The leader of Poland's governing right-wing party vowed Sunday to crack down on child sex abuse as an in-depth documentary on paedophilia among Polish priests went viral in the Catholic country.

"Those to whom children have been entrusted will be especially severely punished (for sex abuse), and this applies to priests, of course, but also to all including... well-known celebrities," Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted by Polish media as saying.

Those currently found guilty of abusing children under 15 years of age face up to 12 years behind bars.

Kaczynski, regarded as Poland's de facto powerbroker, suggested that prison sentences could run to up to 30 years, but did not indicate which celebrities he might be referring to.

He spoke at a rally for May 26 elections to the European Parliament amid a campaign in which the PiS has railed against gay rights and accused opponents of unjustly attacking the Catholic church.

Meanwhile, "Just don't tell anyone", a documentary on priestly sex abuse in Poland by independent Polish journalist Tomasz Sekielski has been viewed more than four million times in the 24 hours since it was posted Saturday on YouTube.

The two-hour-long film includes compelling hidden camera footage of victims who are now adults confronting elderly priests about the abuse they suffered decades ago at their hands.

Several of the priests admit to the abuse and apologise for it, sometimes hinting at monetary compensation.

The film also documents how priests who were accused or even convicted of child sex abuse were transferred to other parishes where they were able to continue their duties and work with children.

"I apologise for every wound inflicted by the Church's people," Polish Primate Wojciech Polak said in a statement, while vowing to do everything he could to help victims.

Liberal opposition leader Grzegorz Schetyna welcomed Polak's pledge but said it was "clear" the church had failed to confront child sex abuse and that now "only the state will be able to be effective".

Recent opinion polls show that the PiS and Schetyna's European Coalition are running neck-and-neck ahead of the European ballot.

The ground-breaking Polish documentary concludes that Polish-born pope and Catholic Saint John Paul II turned a blind eye to sex abuse by priests when the Warsaw's communist regime was working to undermine the church, then Poland's only independent institution.

Pope Francis on Thursday passed a landmark new measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to superiors, which could bring many new cases to light.