The planned beatification of the late Pope John Paul II is a clear sign that the Catholic Church wishes to ignore the gravity of sex-abuse scandals while it paves the way to sainthood for the man who headed the Vatican during one of the worst periods in its long history.
Yes, the church seems intent on brushing aside the suffering of so many victims of pedophile priests, and it also seems intent on getting this done as soon as possible. Karol Wojtyla’s beatification, slated for May 1, was fast tracked a mere six years after his death, following a declaration from French nun Marie Simon Pierre that she was cured of Parkinson’s disease two months after the pope died in 2005. Apparently, she and members of her order had prayed to John Paul II to heal her. Giving John Paul II credit for this supposed miracle is as absurd as claiming that it was due to the intervention of Pele or Elvis Presley. Much more serious is the issue that the Catholic Church wants to beatify a flesh-and-bones man under whose watch Vatican officials pursued a systemic policy of ignoring of covering up the abuses of criminal priests and protecting the perpetrators.
And we are not talking about one or two victims here — many thousands, mostly children, were stigmatized and ignored for years. The Vatican, of course, has argued that though crimes and cover-ups may have occurred during his papacy, Pope John Paul II was simply not informed about the problems. But this argument is indefensible — it’s not possible to believe that during his papacy, from 1978 until 2005, the pope was unaware of the multiple accusations brought against his priests.
Take, for example, Marcial Maciel, the Mexican-born priest who Pope John Paul II had taken under his wing and with whom he maintained a friendship for years. The abuses Maciel committed are documented and complaints against him go back to the 1960s — including accusations that he molested seminarians and even fathered a number of children. The current pope, Benedict XVI, barred the disgraced Marciel from public ministry in 2006, two years before Maciel died. What Maciel really deserved was to be jailed — but John Paul II favored him over his victims, never even reprimanding him. Why is that?
There are too many cases like this; it is inconceivable that Pope John Paul II was not informed about any of them.
Didn’t he know about the hundreds of children who were physically and sexually abused in Catholic schools and correctional institutions in Ireland for decades? (Read the reports at childabusecommission.com)
Didn’t he know that American priest Lawrence Murphy had been accused of sexually molesting some 200 boys when Murphy was appointed to work at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin between 1950 and 1974? According to a 2010 investigation done by The New York Times (which can be found at nyti.ms/cz2uJ6), complaints had been sent to Vatican officials, yet Murphy was merely transferred to another diocese and died very far from a jail in 1998.
I have heard the argument that John Paul II’s deeds go beyond these cases: That the pope contributed to the fall of communist Easter European regimes, and that he fought to ease divisions between Catholics and Jews and Muslims, and that he traveled the world in order to heighten the church’s influence. But all this does not exonerate him. It does not absolve Vatican officials of the sins of protecting and covering up the crimes of sexual abusers who preyed on underage victims. If the pope did not know about these abuses, as many of his defenders argue, then he was a negligent and apathetic leader who did not fulfill his duty to watch over his brethren and protect the weakest members of his church. If he knew about the crimes, then he was an accomplice to
So was Pope John Paul II the least-informed pope in history? I think not — it’s just not possible that all this happened during his papacy without his knowing. If only as a sign of respect for the thousands of victims of sexual abuse, Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican should stop the process of beatification.
Of course, Joseph Ratzinger, the man who would later become Benedict XVI, was responsible for the investigation of the cases of sexual abuse and rapes that were made known to the Vatican during the papacy of John Paul II. If Benedict XVI were to blame John Paul II, he would be admitting his own incompetence and responsibility for those crimes.
Benedict XVI will not do that. Instead, he beatifies his former superior, using one cassock to cover up another.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos
© 2011 Jorge Ramos
(March 14, 2011)