The postulator and the commission involved in investigating the life of Pope John Paul II for sainthood cause found no evidence that the pope knowingly neglected or covered up abuse scandals, the postulator said.
Mgr Slawomir Oder, the promoter of the cause, told reporters in Rome during an online meeting May 15 that he and investigators saw nothing “that could possibly be claimed as a shadow of guilt in regard to John Paul II.”
It is not entirely irrelevant that sexual abuse survivors held a protest demonstration when John Paul II was canonised.
Pope John Paul II should not be made a saint because of his abject failure to bring to justice sexually abusive priests and the bishops who covered up their crimes.
The late Polish pontiff could have prevented “thousands” of children from being raped by pedophile priests but instead chose to ignore the scandal in the interests of protecting the image of the Catholic Church and lining his own pockets, victims from three continents said on the eve of his canonization.
Campaigners insist that John Paul’s refusal to tackle the sex abuse crisis that exploded during his papacy means he is not worthy of sainthood. There is irrefutable documentary evidence to show that John Paul II refused to take action that would have protected children during his 27-year papacy. Thousands of victims were abused because John Paul refused to read the reports he was receiving
“Can one canonize a shepherd who let the wolf devour the children?” ask Christine Pedotti and Anthony Favier.
In a forthcoming book in French they claim the late pope “chose to hide his face and opt for silence” when confronted with accusations against Marcel Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.
Juan Vaca was the Legion’s superior in the US from 1971 to 1976, when he joined the diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. In 1979, a year after John Paul was elected, Vaca’s bishop sent the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes a bombshell set of documents in which Vaca and another ex-Legion priest detailed the sexual abuse they and 19 other priests and seminarians had endured at Maciel’s hands.
He later was one of half a dozen former Legionaries who brought a canonical case against Maciel in 1998. It took eight years – and the death of John Paul – for Pope Benedict XVI to sanction Maciel.
“I feel once more outraged, furious with feelings of deception and rebellion at the circus process to make ‘saint’ a Pope who did nothing to preserve the Catholic Church and society from the horrendous crisis inflicted upon them by the Catholic clergy sexual abuse,” Vaca said.
Yet the Legion’s 2009 admission about Father Marcial Maciel’s double life was not news to the Vatican.
Documents from the archives of the Vatican’s then-sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes show how a succession of papacies – including that of John XXIII simply turned a blind eye to credible reports that Maciel was a con artist, drug addict, paedophile and religious fraud.
By 1948, seven years after Maciel had founded the order, the Holy See had documents from Vatican-appointed envoys and bishops in Mexico and Spain questioning the legitimacy of Maciel’s ordination (by his uncle, after Maciel was expelled from a series of seminaries), noting the questionable legal foundation of his order and flagging his “totalitarian” behaviour and spiritual violations of young seminarians.
The documents show the Holy See was well aware of Maciel’s drug abuse, sexual abuse and financial improprieties as early as 1956, when it ordered an investigation and suspended him for two years to kick a morphine habit.
Yet for decades, Rome looked the other way, thanks to Maciel’s ability to keep his own priests quiet, his foresight to place trusted Legion priests in key Vatican offices, and his careful cultivation of Vatican cardinals, Mexican bishops and wealthy, powerful lay Catholics. Vatican officials were impressed instead by the orthodoxy of his priests and Maciel’s ability to attract new vocations and donations.
John Paul, who in 1994 praised Maciel as an “efficacious guide to youth”, was one of Maciel’s fiercest supporters, convinced that the accusations were the typical “calumnies” hurled at the greatest of saints. They were unswayed by testimonies from bishops and others of his greatness, which also feature in the Vatican archives leaked and put online in 2012 by some of his Mexican victims.
John Paul’s longtime assistant, Msgr. Dziwisz received donations in envelopes, as high as $50,000 in one instance from young Legionaries, steering Maciel supporters to private papal Masses in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace. One of the priests called the funds given to Dziwisz “an elegant way of giving a bribe.”
John Paul’s passivity shifted to defiance. Eight former Legionaries of Christ (including a Florida diocesan priest) filed abuse charges from their years as teenage seminarians against the founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. By then, Maciel, like some spawn of grubby Chicago or deep Louisiana politics, had sent young Legionaries with money to grease the palms of curial officials. Allegations against Maciel in Vatican offices well preceded the 1997 Hartford Courant report by Gerald Renner and this writer on eight of Maciel’s victims, and the 1998 canonical case they filed.
In 1994, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, the Spanish prefect of the congregation governing religious orders – in whose files marinated accusations against Maciel — heard a gentle rapping on his door. A young priest dispatched by Maciel, holding an envelope with $90,000, confessed years later: “I didn’t bat an eye. I went up to the apartment, handed him the envelope, said goodbye.”
Awaiting the papal signature, the file by Congregation for the Causes of the Saints approved the canonization of Bishop Rafael Guízar Valencia, one of Maciel’s late Mexican uncles, nominated years earlier by guess who.
How could the Vatican stage the sainthood ceremony with Maciel on display, all smiles, a living symbol of the pedophilia cover-up, displayed for a hungry news media?
On May 19, 2006, the Vatican ordered Maciel to “a life of prayer and penitence.” The communiqué’s language massaged by Sodano praised the Legionaries and did not acknowledge victims. (The ceremony for Guízar and three other saints came that October.)
Maciel, 86, left Rome for his native Cotija, Mexico, and a reunion with one of his former paramours and their 23-year-old daughter, whose support in Spain he had covered from Legion coffers. The Vatican had known about Maciel’s offspring as early as 2005, as the retired Cardinal Franc Rodé — successor to the $90,000 Cardinal Martinez Somalo — told me in a 2012 interview. Rodé had seen a video of Maciel and his daughter from a Legionary, one of several starting to jump ship. Rodé said he told Scicluna, but did not confront Maciel because “I was not his confessor.”
With Maciel gone, the Legionaries’ long defense of Maciel shifted to bizarre spin control, pledging fealty to the pope, while telling followers that Maciel was wrongly accused, like Jesus, but accepted his fate with “tranquility of conscience.”
With Maciel kaput as the fundraising showpiece, the Legion shifted to a project in Israel no novelist could have invented. As the order enjoyed fawning press at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, courtesy of John Paul and Sodano in 2004, they swung into action, targeting affluent believers, for a project under Fr. Juan Solano. When Pope Benedict blessed the cornerstone for a complex on the Sea of Galilee in 2009, the Legion had raised $20 million for a retreat called the “Magdala Center,” according to a 2016 Smithsonian Magazine article.
In 2014, a Legion official told NCR they had raised $40 million. Forty million is a lot of dollars, added to whatever they have raised since, in one of those ho-hum financial mysteries of the church. Does the Vatican have any oversight of the Legion money machine? The plan in 2014 was for a luxury hotel. How many religious orders build hotels?
Solana, according to Ariel Sabar’s 2016 Smithsonian piece, “bought four adjoining parcels of waterfront land. He’d gotten building permits for a chapel and a guesthouse with more than 100 rooms. … All that remained now was an irksome bit of red tape: a ‘salvage excavation,’ a routine dig by the Israeli government to ensure that no important ruins lay beneath the proposed building site.”
Instead came the discovery of a first-century synagogue in the village believed to be the birth place of Mary Magdalene. Poised on its land, the Legionaries of Christ had found redemption as a religious multinational. The work of archeologists and scholars of antiquity continues. Solano writes on the Magdala website: “The construction of the Guesthouse continues, and even if we don’t know yet exactly when we will be able to receive the first group, we are getting ready.”
As the Legion financial machine rolls on, free at last, could Maciel, in some hot zone, be smiling?
Clifford Longley writing in The Tablet lays blame for failure to address sex abuse scandal at the door of John Paul ll. Longley writes:
“In all the soul searching in the Catholic Church over clerical child abuse and its cover-up, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the role played by Pope John Paul II. There seems to be a conscious refusal, particularly in the right-wing Catholic media, to acknowledge the responsibility he bore for years of evasion, negligence and even criminal complicity. John Paul II is their model, their hero. His image must not be tarnished.”
The evidence is plentiful. Excuses are less easy to come by. Karol Wojtyla, even before he was elected Pope, was aware that the Communist regime that ruled his native Poland was ever willing to invent accusations of sexual misconduct as a weapon against the Catholic clergy. That appears to have shaped his response when, as Pope, he was faced with clear information that Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, was a habitual sex offender who included child abuse and incest among his many crimes.
Other priest-pedophile scandals, however, came to light in the late 1980s; the painful reality of sex abuse strikes against the ideal of holiness that John Paul II promoted.
In November of 1989, the U.S. bishops responded to a rising tide of abuse lawsuits by sending a team of canon lawyers to Rome, seeking the authority for bishops to defrock child predators. American bishops were already sending scores of offenders to church-run treatment facilities; they wanted power to the oust the worst of them. John Paul refused.
Take the case of Cardinal Bernard Law. He was hounded out of Boston, Massachusetts, as told in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, and offered refuge in the Vatican to escape the clutches of the Boston public prosecutor. But rather than opt for a quiet life, he became a major player inside the Vatican. He belonged to more dicasteries than any other cardinal, and used his positions to promote a conservative authoritarian agenda. Yet this man had repeatedly protected abusive priests, moving them round his diocese in response to complaints so they would abuse again and again. He caused a vast amount of human misery. Yet in the Vatican he was a major policy influence on John Paul II.
Or take the case of Theodore McCarrick, whom John Paul II promoted to cardinal in spite of widespread rumours about his sexual proclivities. Or the case of Hans Gröer of Vienna, another of his protégés, who had to stand down when his history of sexual wrongdoing was exposed. And indeed, George Pell, promoted by John Paul II to cardinal in 2003 – the same year he promoted Keith O’Brien. And these are just some of the figures he advanced to the top of the Catholic tree.
As the crisis grew, Pope John Paul heard directly from bishops on their ad limina visits (every fifth-year meetings to brief the pope on a given diocese.) In 1993, Bishop Ronald Mulkearns of Ballarat, Australia, spoke of his 18-month “nightmare” over Gerald Ridsdale, a priest with scores of victims before he went to prison for many years. “There has been serious hurt inflicted on many people,”
During John Paul’s pontificate, the Vatican accused the media of being too strident on the issue of abuse.
In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Austria, whom the pope had personally selected as a bishop (impressed by his piety at a Marian shrine), resigned as archbishop of Vienna, accused of making advances on former Benedictine seminarians. Unlike McCarrick, Groër went unpunished.
When John Paul visited Austria in 1998, Groër was a national scandal, bishops who defended him having backtracked. John Paul did not mention Groër at his public events, frustrating the upstart 500,000-member We Are Church lay group, seeking answers. In 2010, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn told Austrian journalists that Sodano had prevailed on John Paul to keep silent on Groër.
The Austrian cardinal was accused of sexual abuse of minors, the pope sent a letter to the Austrian bishops on September 8, 1995 in which he protested against an “attempt of destruction” that amounted to persecution.
He also reiterated his “gratitude” to the cardinal.
In fact, only a few days after sending the letter of support the pope was forced to accept the resignation of Groër whose guilt would be confirmed in 1998 by his successor in Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn.
In spite of everything, John Paul II did not publicly take back his denial of Groër crimes, nor did he address the victims. The ultimate cover-up act by John Paul was the 1994 declaration, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in which he insisted that it was Jesus’s intent that only men, for the rest of human time, should be priests. The pope had no proof. Scripture does not say that Jesus “ordained” his apostles, nor that He banned women, who were vital in his public life. Sixteen months after John Paul’s declaration that the church “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on woman” he retreated into his womb of silence amid the accusations against Cardinal Groër in Vienna.
His studies in history and background in the media industry have given him a keen insight into the use of mass media as a creator of conflict in the modern world.
His favored areas of study include state-sponsored terrorism, media manufactured reality and the role of intelligence services in manipulation of populations and the perception of events.