Listen to this article Pope John Paul II Allegedly Concealed Child Abuse in Poland
People have accused the late Pope John Paul II of having knowledge of child abuse in the Catholic Church in Poland before becoming pontiff and of playing a role in covering it up. Private broadcaster TVN reported the allegations on Sunday, citing an investigation by Michal Gutowski, who spoke to victims of paedophile priests, their families, and former church diocese employees.
Pope John Paul II’s Knowledge of Child Abuse
Gutowski’s report states that Pope John Paul II, formerly known as Karol Wojtyla, had knowledge of cases involving paedophile priests in the church while he served as a cardinal in Krakow. He reportedly transferred the accused priests to other dioceses, one even as far away as Austria, to avoid any scandal. One of Gutowski’s sources claimed to have personally told Wojtyla about acts of paedophilia concerning one priest in 1973.
The investigator alleges that Pope John Paul II wrote a letter of recommendation for a priest accused of abuse to Vienna cardinal Franz Koenig without mentioning the accusations. The then-cardinal explicitly requested that the alleged affair be kept strictly under wraps.
Sources of Information
Gutowski cites documents from the former Communist-era SB secret police and rare church documents to which he managed to get access. However, the Krakow diocese refused him access to its own documentary archives. Thomas Doyle, an American former Catholic priest and canon law scholar, said that Gutowski’s investigation was groundbreaking. It showed that Pope John Paul II knew about this problem before he became pope.
The broadcast of the investigation in traditionally Catholic Poland comes soon after a Polish-based Dutch journalist, Ekke Overbeek, made similar accusations. Overbeek’s book, Maxima Culpa, is due to go on sale in Poland this week.
Response from the Polish Church and the Vatican
The Polish church has in the past refused to provide documents to the judiciary or a public commission of enquiry investigating cases of church abuse of minors. Over the past two years, and amid several reports of abuse of minors in the Polish church, the Vatican has sanctioned several high-ranking church officials for having covered up paedophilia by members of the clergy.
These allegations against Pope John Paul II have rocked the Catholic Church, particularly in Poland, where he is regarded as a national hero. The accusations have sparked renewed debate about the church’s handling of child abuse cases, particularly regarding the role of the Vatican in covering up such abuse. While the Vatican has taken steps to address the issue of child abuse within the church, some critics argue that the reforms are inadequate and call for further action to ensure justice for the victims and provide them with the necessary support. The controversy surrounding Pope John Paul II’s alleged cover-up of child abuse will no doubt continue to be a subject of debate within the church and beyond.