IN ORDER TO ATTACK A PRIEST
MARIA FORTUNA - SUDOR
Everyone who wanted could find out from journalists and editors where Fr. Wojciech Gil lives, whom mainstream media hailed with the 'priest pedophile', without any verdict or proof.
I am going to the family house of Fr. Wojciech with Fr. Ryszard Chyliński, from the Congregation of St. Michael the Archangel. We are driving through an open gate into the yard. We are welcomed by loud barking of a dog. In the entrance door a man is standing straight. When I am approaching him I notice his attentive look. An older man turns out to be the father of Fr. Wojciech. When Stanisław Gil recognizes Fr. Romana in the dark, he opens the door wide and invites us inside.
In the family home
It is my first meeting with the accused and attacked with slanders priest whom I wanted to meet. Priest Wojciech is looking at me attentively, similarly as his mother, Elżbieta Gil. Surely, it is easier for them because I have got references from Fr. Roman. But, in the beginning, before we start talking, Mrs. Elzbieta brings coffee, tea and biscuits, I am taking out my telephone and voice recorder, showing that they are off. I add that I am not going to record anything without their permission. That evening I am listening to a report, among the others, about how the owners of the house: Stanisław and Elżbieta Gil and their second son Grzegorz with his wife and daughters were treated by journalists, who were coming to Modlnica not only from Poland. I am asking whether I could describe it. They do not express their permission but promise to think over it and give me an answer.
A week later, when I found out that I had 'a green light' for an article, I was going to Modlnica again. There, except for the family of Fr. Wojciech, I also meet his neighbours, young people from the parish of St. Wojciech and sellers of the local shop. Each of my interlocutors experienced the activity of media people in their various ways, who looking for evidence of the guilt of Fr. Wojciech, were able to use the whole arsenal of means and ways in order to attack him.
- What we experienced at the time of successive waves of journalists' interest in Fr. Wojtek, will be difficult for us to forget - says Mrs. Elżbieta Gil. - However, the worst was in September and in the beginning of October. It was an attack: from the early morning hours till the late evening hours. Even after 10 p.m. somebody was trying to ring an intercom to ask for an interview. Our answers that we did not want to talk were in vain. Nobody cared that we live in this house, that we have a right to sleep because children go to work in the morning and grandchildren to school.
In front of the gate
Mother of Fr. Wojciech says that methods in which attempts were made to gain their answers or information about her son were ruthless. She give an example of a journalist from the 'Fact'. - I just arrived from Cracow with my daughter-in-law - she says, being outraged, although a few weeks have passed since those events. - When this editor went through the gate and asked if I would talk with her, I said that I would not because they write whatever they like anyway. Then she said she believed in the innocence of Wojtek. She also asked if it was true that Wojtek had run away from Dominicana with a counterfeit passport. So, I answered her that it was not true and brought her that passport with stamps in it. Then she asked if she could make a photo of the passport. I agreed and on the following day the 'Fact' published the photo with the sentence: 'Mother of a pedophile priest'. But no more words about what I was holding in my hand.
Also Mr. Stanisław Gil has its opinion about the mentioned text. He is giving me the newspaper with his shaky hands ('Fact' of 9 September 2013) and said in a shaky voice: - Those people from the tabloid entered our yard and the one who had a camera, took a photo of me. So, I am asking him who allowed him to and demand to cancel this photo. He promised that he would do so and went away. Later in this article in which my wife was called 'mother of a pedophile', quoted my sentence which had not been said at all - says the elderly man and adds that he would like to know if those journalists writing a lie about his child had thought what the father felt. Being upset, he confesses: - You know, I have not gone to church for three weeks, I have been praying here, at home. After what these newspapers wrote and what was said on TV, I found it hard to look into the eyes of the local people.
At the cost of children
The pursuit for sensation was experienced by Grzegorz Gil and his family, wife, daughters - pupils of a primary school.- It was a difficult time for us - says Brother Fr. Wojciech. - It was hard to live normally here, or to go to work, or do anything at home. It was impossible to go out, because they were twirling around and photographing what was happening here. Even at night journalists were lurking in bushes, in order to take a photo of Wojtek. One of them was even disguised as a priest, being followed by a boy and a girl who were ostensibly praying on Rosary. Somebody was introducing himself as a journalist from the Television Trwam.
However, Grzegorz Gil admits that it was the most difficult to explain his daughters this whole commotion. - They were scared of returning home alone - he says. - And at school other children were asking why our house was shown in newspapers, on TV, why they said about their uncle in this way. The father of the girls admits that the family were afraid about them, everybody was trying to protect them from the widespread information, but he was also aware that, in fact, it was impossible.
Brother of Fr. Wojciech calls what his family experienced an attack on the priest, relentless search for sensations and an occasion to earn money. Pointing to successive reports: these ones from particular TV stations and these ones from press, he proves that their authors were manipulating facts, creating a reality, instead of describing it in a reliable way. - The best example is the case presented in 'Super Express' (from 3 October 2013), as media allegedly, including just this tabloid, helped to determine the place of stay of Wojtek - he says. - The truth was different. Police called us in order to talk with Wojtek, and because he was not in at that moment, it was me who was talking with the police and I told my brother that they wanted to interview him. Wojtek went to the police with his attorney and having submitted appropriate testimonies, he returned home. It was on Saturday and in the following week, on Tuesday the police came to us, being followed by a line of cars with journalists. Whereas, two days later, after that attack, the mentioned 'Super Express' wrote that their journalists had contributed to defining the address of the place where Wojtek was staying. There is also a photo of the police spokesman from the Police Station and information as he had allegedly thanked the newspaper for helping him define the place where Wojtek was staying, and who was again called a 'pedophile'. However, the police knew very well where Wojtek was.
Also the neighbours of the Gils suffered a lot. Difficulties with their returns to their houses, being caught by journalists who were looking for opinions which would have confirmed the widespread opinions about Fr. Wojciech. - It was a very difficult time for us- says a neighbor Bożena Bogucka. - Journalists were driving onto our private roads, they did not ask anybody for permission. I also know that they were also interviewing children, especially those from junior high school. My youngest son was among the interviewed, who knows Fr. Wojtek very well because he used to go for summer camps with him. However, I found nowhere what my son had said. Certainly, journalists, greedy for sensation, were not interested in good, true information.
Also another neighbor, Elżbieta Machlowska, says that what was happening at that time in Modlnica, was and is still difficult to accept. - One day I was coming back from my afternoon shift , at about 9.30 p.m. And at that moment, I and my daughter were being controlled by police. When I asked what was happening, they made up a story about a theft. However, the worst was the inquisitiveness of journalists and photojournalists, their interfering into somebody's life.
Mrs. Elżbieta admits that she is shocked with what she observed. - You know they were terribly pushy, and the worst thing is that they said what they liked - she says. - My friend was speaking and, later, she found in a newspaper only a little of what she had said and in such a way so that her words would harmonize with the message of the article. And, having this all, my daughter said she would not take the newspapers into her hands, which give a verdict to a man who has not been sentenced by the court and which do not have certain evidence.
Outside the church and a shop
Another place near the family house of Fr. Gil and the parish church where media people were willingly arriving, there was a local shop. - They were very insistent - says the owner of the shop, Anna Karcz, about the journalists. - Some of our customers were afraid of entering the shop because they did not know how to cope with the whole situation. Various journalists also came to me, but I did not want to speak. Because you know what one can say, how they sentence a man in advance and state that he is guilty? - she asks and emphasizes that these visits of journalists among some customers hounded by journalists, even raised aggression.
Krzysztof Styrylski and Dominik Krawczyk are certain about falsifying the reality by journalists, about their searching for evidences for the thesis stated in advance. Both of them say that they are in friendship with Fr. Wojciech and they are very emotionally agitated by what happened to him. Having observed what happened in Modlnica during next visits of media, they are sure that their definite majority were not looking for the truth.
- What the journalists were doing while looking for Fr. Wojtek and information about him, was an illegal invasion into the house, hindering the life of the whole family, and, in fact, the life of many inhabitants of Modlnica - says Krzysztof Styrylski. - The journey itself to the local kindergarten: there were days, that, in fact, it was impossible because broadcasting cars and journalists were blocking roads. Either I was travelling nearby, and there are cameras directed at the house of the Gils, at every window of their house. Practically it was difficult to get to the yard of the house. When I was approaching the gate, suddenly journalists were appearing who were trying to ask me questions.
Whereas Dominik Krawczyk, engaged in volunteering in the parish church in Modlnica, says that he decided himself to go out to journalists: - When I heard that the journalists from TVN arrived near the church again, I came up to them because I thought that I would say what man Fr. Wojtek is like. The journalists were asking how we knew each other and why I wanted to express my opinion about it. Finally, none of my words appeared in the material, apparently I did not meet their expectations (laugh).
Friends of Fr. Wojtek add that the journalists of various media were even trying to gain opinions from underage people, for example, student of the junior high school. - I do not know how it exactly looked like, because I was not present then, but Bartek from the local junior high school said that one of TV journalists was even trying to bribe him, only if he would say 'something' about Fr. Wojtek.
A separate thread of creating story of Fr. Wojciech Gil on the background of Modlnica and its inhabitants is a visit of a Dominican journalist Alilcia Ortega from the television station Noticias SIN. Surely very few people in Poland know that the journalist together with the journalists of TVN and an interpreter arrived at the house of the Gil family. - She has been twice here - says the mother of Fr. Wojciech. - The first time in the evening, but we were not talking with her, because our intercom was broken and nobody was going out to the gate of the house, where some journalists were still gathering. We found out from our neighbours that there had been a journalist who spoke Spanish. Elżbieta Gil adds that on the following day a team of TVN arrived at the house, and the Dominican journalist with them. - She came up with an interpreter to the gate and was asking me to persuade Wojtek to talk with her. She was saying that she believed in his innocence and wanted to apologize to him on behalf of Dominicana and explain many issues. So, I answered her that we would not talk with anybody because it did not make sense. Mrs. Elżbieta adds that the team with which the journalist arrived, remained for a while and later went away.
A few hours later, on the Market Square in Cracow, Alicia Ortega publicized alleged evidences of guilt of Fr. Wojciech - films in which there were children sexually abused by a Polish priest. I recommend those who know Spanish, one of the Spanish websites (www.elnacional.com.do) where one can find out that Alicia Oertga and the team accompanying her, were………attacked by the neighbours of the Gil family near their house in Modlnica. One of the neighbours was allegedly trying to smash (in the literal translation) a car of the television station. The others were allegedly hitting the car of the journalist and tease her.
My interlocutors, including the neighbours, do not know anything about it, and Mrs. Elżbieta Gil repeats that after a talk with her, the journalist drove up to the gate and was not teased by anybody.
I was listening to successive stories of the inhabitants of Modlnica with horror. And although in the beginning I found it hard to believe them, the facts composed a logical whole. It lets me think that the activity of the journalists was an ordinary hunt for the priest. Mainstream media have already given a verdict, and because there were not any evidences, they decided that they could create them.
Are the journalists participating in this process aware that they used honesty of many people in a cynical way, that they were hurting them and deceived them? Are they aware that in pursuit for sensation they shows the worst testimony of themselves and media they represent? How will they cope with it?