Catholic radio head defends controversial comments on sex abuse allegations

Referring to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church Father Tadeusz Rydzyk said: "That a priest sinned? Well he sinned. And who is not tempted?" Tytus Żmijewski/PAP

A priest who is the director of an influential religious broadcaster has defended describing a bishop accused of hiding sexual abuse by priests as a “martyr”.

Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, director of Radio Maryja, triggered a storm of controversy for remarks he made last week about Edward Janiak, a former bishop of the Kalisz diocese.

Rydzyk said Janiak, who is facing allegations of covering up sexual abuse committed by priests serving under him, was a modern-day martyr and a victim of the media.

Referring to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church he also said: "That a priest sinned? Well he sinned. And who is not tempted?"

His comments provoked accusations that he was trying to excuse incidents of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

Despite the backlash, Rydzyk, in an interview for the newspaper Nasz Dziennik, reiterated his belief that Janiak, who he also said was suffering from cancer, was a martyr.

"Father Janiak is a media martyr. (...),” said the priest. “I saw what the media, filming, did to him. Pictures and words can lift a person's soul or they can kill him. I remember how they killed Father Miroslaw Drozdek, when in the local press they accused him of collaborating with communist forces. How terribly he suffered, how quickly cancer gripped him from the stress. If slander is spread in a small group it hurts a lot, let alone worldwide. And that is why I talk of martyrdom."

Rounding on the press Rydzyk added that "media people are not entitled to judge, courts are for judgements, there is the law, which must be in line with natural law, with Divine law.

"The media, journalists, if they want to really serve people, must tell the truth - the truth in love and love in the truth, truth without love is terror," he continued.

But the priest also claimed that his original words had been spontaneous and therefore incomplete, and that they should not be taken out of context.

He also said Janiak was not alone in his martyrdom and that many priests and spiritual people were martyrs, and that only 0.3 percent of all court convictions for child sex abuse were members of the clergy.