Saint John Paul II knew about sexual abuse of children by clergy under his authority and tried to cover it up when he was archbishop in his native Poland, a television news report has alleged.
In a story aired late Monday, Polish channel TVN24 named three priests whom the future pope, then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, had moved between parishes or sent to a monastery during the 1970s. were given, one of whom was sent to Austria when he was charged. abuse of minors.
TVN24 said that its 2 and 1/2 year investigation found that two priests, Eugeniusz Sargent and Józef Lorank, eventually served short prison sentences for abuse. Wojtyla served as Archbishop of Kraków from 1964 to 1978, when he became Pope John Paul II. He died in 2005 and was declared a saint in 2014 after a fast-track process.
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TVN24 quoted from documents from Poland’s communist-era secret security services, who were trying to discredit the Catholic Church and had informants. The documents are kept in the archives of the State Institute of National Remembrance. Journalist Marcin Gutowski also spoke to several victims and one person who said they informed Wojtyla about abuse by Sgt. during the 1970s. None of the priors were defrocked.
The TV channel also quoted a letter Wojtyla had written to Franz König, Archbishop of Vienna at the time, recommending a priest in his care. Wojtyla did not say in the letter that Bolesław the monk had abused young boys, and that he had been made a parish priest in Austria. Even after becoming Pope, Wojtyla remained in contact with the monks.
TVN24’s investigation concluded that there is no doubt that Wojtyla knew about abuse by clergy in his archdiocese and tried to cover it up.
The broadcast featured a journalist who had written about cases of priestly abuse in the Krakow diocese and who argued that Wojtyla reacted in line with Catholic Church procedures at the time.
Dominican friar Paweł Gużynski said on TVN24 on Tuesday that the findings would gradually “disintegrate the image of John Paul II” that we have been used to until now, noting that some people are not ready to face the new facts. Can be
Guzinski insisted, however, that “sanity in one’s actions and the complete absence of mistakes, even crimes, do not indicate any equality.”
Polish church officials in charge of protecting minors said in a release Tuesday that more research was needed before an “impartial assessment” of Wojtyla’s actions could be made. Officials stressed that the church was ready to listen to and support abuse survivors.
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The Channel investigation has sparked heated reactions in Poland, with some observers deriding it as an attempt by left-wing forces to destroy the memory of John Paul II and others calling for the Catholic Church to reveal the truth.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a Catholic, tweeted a picture of John Paul II greeting a crowd in Poland and added the late pope’s motto “Do not be afraid,” without comment.
A Polish Jesuit priest, Krzysztof Madel, wrote on Twitter that the focus should be on the victims, who needed to tell the truth.
Radosław Brzozka, an education ministry official, said on Twitter that John Paul II’s reputation was under attack by those who want to eliminate Catholicism from Poland’s national identity.
John Paul II isn’t the only pope to come under scrutiny for his handling of predatory priests.
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His immediate successor, Benedict XVI, who had a much tougher stance and removed hundreds of offending priests, was faulted by an independent report for his handling of four cases by the German Catholic Church while he was Munich bishop.
Accusations of failing to react to cases of abuse by priests in his native Argentina and Chile, while bishops and then-pontiffs have also been addressed to Pope Francis.
Commentators noted that the Catholic Church hierarchy sought to protect the institution’s image mostly over the needs of the victims.
The election of Wojtyla to Pope in 1978 galvanized Poland’s predominantly Catholic population to openly oppose and eventually overthrow the country’s communist system.
Until recently, the Catholic Church in Poland has played an important role in the country’s public life. Revelations about pedophile priests and the church’s close ties to the current right-wing government have tarnished its reputation.
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