Ian Kershaw wrote of the common German’s reaction to Nazi excesses and atrocities:
the myth of ‘if only the Fuhrer knew’ was already at work. Many genuinely believed that matters, especially if unpalatable, were deliberately kept from Hitler, and that if he learned of them he would act swiftly to set things right.
A similar attitude characterizes most Catholics’ reaction to the possibility that John Paul II was guilty of a major failure in tolerating sexual abuse by clerics. They can’t believe that John Paul knew what was going on and didn’t act. His subordinates most have kept things from him or he must have been disabled or…or…or well something!
But the evidence is very strong that John Paul knew (or had every reason to suspect) what was going on and decided not to investigate and not to act against it. We do not know his motive for not acting – probably something to do with clericalism. He feared, probably, that cleansing the Church of this evil would necessarily involve revealing the extent of the evil, a revelation which would discredit the Church, from Marciel Maciel and Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos down to the abusers in isolated rural parishes. Better the children suffer (however regrettable that might be) that the great work that the Church was doing be undermined. I doubt that he ever put it so baldly to himself, but as far as we can tell from the evidence and his actions and inactions, that in fact is what was in his mind.
It is the temptation of all those in authority, taking the broad view, looking at the greater good. Another high priest advised, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Rod Dreher did a good job of gathering together some of the threads of this, including Sodano’s corruption and JP2’s willingness to lie in a good cause:
Following Dreher’s logic, one can perhaps sympathize with the dilemma Ratzinger faced as head of the CDF under JP2, when his freedom of action was restricted by Sodano’s machinations and JP2’s weakness or corruption. But this does not explain his behavior once he became pope himself, and presumably was finally free to do as he pleased.
Like many people at the time, I cheered Ratzinger’s election in the belief that he was fundamentally a good and decent man, and in the hope that the “filth” in the Church (as he himself famously put it) might finally be swept out. But to my mind all this is falsified by the fact that he continues to give sanctuary to Cardinal Law, continues to surround himself with such holdovers from the old regime as Sodano and Bertone, continues to elevate people like Levada and Burke to high positions in the Vatican, continues to appoint “predator-friendly” bishops to diocese after diocese–and now is fast-tracking the canonization of his predecessor despite the fact that JP2’s allegedly “heroic” virtue is crumbling before our eyes.
The inevitable consequences of such policies are so blindingly obvious that one has to wonder what in the world the man is thinking.
“But the evidence is very strong that John Paul knew what was going on and decided not to act against it.” Is it possible? Sure. Is it plausible? Sorry, I don’t see the evidence that because a Vatican cardinal or priest decides to squash an investigation, that this implicates the Pope. More dots need to be connected. The secrecy motive doesn’t work for a pope who grew up in a nazi-then-communist country. It’s a highly implausible premise that a bishop from a diocese in a communist country could ever really believe that there were secure secrets about such matters anywhere in the world. Assuming that JP2 believed that such things could be kept secret for long in today’s world counts as an argument in favor of his senility.
Father Michael Koening
Rick, again I need to point out that Father Tom Doyle sent a detailed report on clerical sexual abuse to JPII. The document was stamped by the Papal Nuncio to the US Pio Langhi and hand delivered by Cardinal Krull. If I’m not mistaken, this was in the 90’s. Church governance as you know and have writen is not under the protection of infallibility. I fear that JPII may simply have dropped a very big ball.
Father Koening, the report from Father Tom Doyle was handed to Pope JPII by Cardinal Kroll in 1985.
Rick, Karol Wojtyla was born in May 1920. That makes him nineteen years old when Poland was invaded by the Nazis on September 1, 1939 on the false pretense that the Poles had attacked Germany.
The Nazi policy against Poland was genocide. That means that the ruling and educated classes should be executed and that the strong peasant working class should be preserved to do slave labor for the comfort of the master race. This differs from the policy towards to Jews. They were targeted for extermination.
Fr Michael & Janice. Several years ago, I closely studied the Peterson, Mouton, Doyle report. You can read it at the link below (it is very long.) I think you will find the following: (1) it did NOT provide a comprehensive view of the problem, in fact it specifically stated that the problem was not well defined. (2) It did NOT state, nor does it seem to imply, that there was a systemic negligance by bishops in managing the crisis including helping the victims, a negligance that requires immediate action by the Pope personally.
This report is not the smoking gun that it has been reputed to be. Indeed, a quick read of it (which is what JP2 may have given it), would indicate that the bishops were in the process of getting a handle on the problem. Note that the authors themselves are not bishops, and the bishops had not formed an authoritative statement on the report. Thus, (to play devil’s advocate) I ask how is JP2 to read this? He could read the introduction and the conclusion. See that there is no assertion of malfeasance or negligance; see also that it was reviewed by the bishops and that a review committee was under consideration. After reading it, JP2 hands it to his subordinate and says something like: “Keep me informed.” The subordinates don’t have any real interest in the problem. JP2 is in the middle of an international crisis that has engulfed all of Eastern Europe.
JP2 may have been complicit in a cover-up, but I have not seen any such evidence to that effect, and the Peterson, Mouton, Doyle report by no means demonstrates neglicance or cover-up on the part of the bishops requiring immediate action by the JP2.
What Pope John Paul II and the present Pope Benedict and their minions failed and continue to fail to comprehend is this: There is nothing on this earth as holy as the soul of a child, not all the sacraments, not all the popes and all their rituals and exhortations, nothing.
At the end of the movie “Judgment at Nuremberg” there is that wonderful piece of truth, where the Spencer Tracy character is told by the respected German jurist sentenced to life in prison, that “we never knew it would come to this,” the death camps, the genocide. And the Spencer Tracy character responds with this: The first time you sent an innocent man to prison, it came to this. The very first time.
The first time any bishop on earth allowed a pedophile priest to continue having access to children, the annihilation of the gospel began. They still call themselves priests, these men, enabled by bishops, cardinals, and popes. And they still refuse to understand the evil of their systemic crimes against children, and canonizing John Paul II is proof of this.
Fifty years from now, unless we have a miracle of grace, catholic school children will be taught about St. John Paul the Great, as his life will be held up as the “efficacious guide to youth.” Anyone trying to remember the truth of his protection of pedophile priests will be branded a heretic.
It is the work of demons that these men do as they bring their hearts of stone into the Sacred and cause destruction of children all over our beautiful earth.
Thank you, Mr. Podles, for all you do to bring the light of truth to this subject.
Rick, you raise good points. However, the problem of clerical sex abuse is at least as old as St. Peter Damian, who documented the problem a millennium ago in his Liber Gomorrhianus (the last word says it all). That also mitigates the idea that JPII viewed the idea in terms of his personal experience w/Communist propaganda in Poland. Of course, the Communists (as the Nazis did before them) did anything they could to destroy the Church’s credibility as morally legitimate opposition. But neither Communists nor Nazis lived during St. Peter Damian’s time.
If JPII’s role is circumspect, then so is the role of every Pope since St. Peter Damian’s time (except JPI, aka Albino Luciani, who only held office for 33 days).
Rick, are you sure this is the same document that was delivered to JP2? Doyle described the latter this way in an interview with NCR: “I prepared a 42-page detailed report explaining the issue in graphic details. My boss, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Pio Laghi, signed it. The document was personally given by Cardinal John Krol to the pope. I distinctly recall Laghi saying many times that ‘my superiors in Rome’ said this or that in response. There was a great deal of telephone traffic about it too.”
Comparing this with the information about the report to the American bishops that you linked to, there are significant differences, including the number of authors, the page count, the intended audience, and the nature of the material. In fact, other than the time frame and the overall topic of abuse, there doesn’t seem to be much similarity at all.
I also find it odd that such a detailed history of the document as the ones provided under your link would fail to mention that it had been personally handed to the pope by a cardinal.
Rick, you’re right. There is no evidence that JPII was complicit (whether directly or indirectly) in the coverup of abusive priests, but there is also no evidence that he wasn’t complicit. And this is the precise reason why it is insensible for the Holy See to proceed with the beatification without a complete revelation about what he knew and when he knew . I think JPII showed heroic virtue and sanctity during much of his life, from his underground seminary studies to boldly confronting godless communism. But he failed us at a time when the Church needed an earthly Holy Father to guide her. We ought to ask why and get answers.
Joseph D’Hippolito: The pederasty/homosexual problem is ancient, as you point out. But it probably comes and goes in waves. For example, in recent times, the John Jay data clearly show that the level of pederasty was very low in the early 1950s. Even so, many popes could be complicit in these sordid affairs, but my opinion is that no modern pope has been willfully negligent–the strong condemnation that JP2 gave in 2002 was sincere, in my view, and indicative of his thinking that the wonton abuse of minors is abhorrent. (My point about the Nazi/Communist context was only intended to address the supposition by Leon that JP2 thought he could keep the scandal secret. JP2 was very shrewd and knew that there were no sex scandals in the communist block that could remain secret.) That being said, I also believe that there are people in the Vatican who would for their own evil motives suppress the truth. Of course, there is also room for simple petite selfishness and complete muddle-headedness too, as well as the complexity of the problem of governance when dealing across international boundaries–see Phil Lawler’s website just today has a very astute analysis of the Irish situation. ‘
Sardath: It is my understanding that the Doyle document (circa 1985) was a synopsis of the Peterson, Mouton, Doyle (1984) report. If so, my point would still stand, to wit, the Peterson, Mouton, Doyle report was not a smoking gun–despite what is being said about it today. If the ’85 report to the Pope was different, do send along a link.
Mere Catholic: I agree to the extant that the timing of the beatification is awkward, at best.
Rick, here’s Doyle’s detailed description of what the documents consisted of and how they came to be:
It seems clear from his narrative that they were indeed two distinct and rather different documents, and that the one delivered to JP2 by Cardinal Krol in March 1985 pre-existed the one sent to the American bishops later that year. (As far as I can tell, the Peterson-Mouton-Doyle “1984” report you refer to above does not exist, and could not have existed, since Doyle had never even met Mouton before January 1985.)
Sardath: Thanks for the link. The “1984” reference evidently should have been 1985. However, is there a link to a version of the report given to JP2? Does the report delivered to JP2 clearly assert that victims were mistreated or neglected by bishops and that bishops were shielding the perps from justice?
Doyle says that he gave JP2 “a 42-page detailed report explaining the issue in graphic details”, which implies it was much more hard-hitting than the calculatedly inoffensive materials that were later distributed to the American bishops.
As far as I can find, no public copy of the papal report exists; I doubt Doyle himself even has one, or if he does he probably can’t make it public since he wrote it as a canon lawyer employed by the papal nuncio. On the other hand, I’m sure the Vatican still has a copy; and if the report really was as bland and non-committal as you suggest, they could easily have sunk Doyle a long time ago by just releasing their copy to the press and saying, “See, there’s nothing here. We were never informed. Doyle is just blowing hot air.” The fact that they have not done this suggests that it would not be in their interests to do so.
Consider some of the other instances where we know JP2 dropped the ball (or worse):
– He actively participated in covering up the Vatican Bank scandal.
– He turned a blind eye to ecclesiastical collusion in torture and assassination during the “dirty war” in Latin America.
– He gave Cardinal Law sanctuary in Rome despite his demonstrably criminal behavior in protecting serial rapists in Boston.
– He remained silent about Cardinal Groer’s notorious abuse of seminarians even when urgently pressed to speak out.
– He continued to protect and endorse Maciel long after it had become clear what a monster he was.
Given all that, is it really such a stretch to believe that he could also have shrugged off Doyle’s warnings about the growing sexual abuse crisis in the U.S.?
We are contacting Tom Doyle to see whether he has a copy of that report and whether it can be released. Hementioend it in a talk a few years ago and said it was as strong as he could make it.
More from Doyle in a recent article:
“When the sexual abuse scandal started coming to the surface in 1985 in a case in Louisiana, the Vatican was alerted,” Doyle said. “I know because I saw the letters. The Vatican did nothing.”
Doyle said the pattern was repeated for the next decade and beyond.
“The Pope received notices from bishops and others of the situation, of the abuses and the cover-ups, and he did not respond. He did not even acknowledge the letters,” Doyle said.
“John Paul knew precisely what was going on and did not address it,” Thomas Doyle said. “When the matter came up publicly, he blamed secularism, he blamed the media, he blamed the priests. But he never blamed the bishops or the Vatican. And now they want to make him a saint.”
Sardath: “Given all that, is it really such a stretch to believe that he could also have shrugged off Doyle’s warnings about the growing sexual abuse crisis in the U.S.?” Yes, if these are givens, it is no stretch at all to agree that the Pope could have ignored an evident and believable assertion by Fr Doyle. The problem is, none of these are “given” as far as I know. It really depends upon who is to be believed. These “givens” a very serious claims. Any of them could be true or false, or their credibility is amplified ex post facto. For example, on Maciel, it is widely believed that Sodano and the JP2’s personal secretary were each bribed by Maciel, and that Sodano was the Pope’s closest advisor. JP2 took the advice from Sodano and others. We know that Maciel was evil; we suspect that Sodano is evil, but does that make JP2 evil? It would if JP2 knew that his personal secretary and Sodano were evil. If JP2 took the advice of evil people, knowing they were evil, he would be guilty as charged. But is it evil to unwittingly take the advice of evil people? We are told that JP2 was confronted with conflicting reports about Maciel. Who is he to believe? How can he know for sure? Must we condemn JP2 for not being able to read souls? Is he complicit in crime if he takes the advice of evil people we are committing crimes? He would be, if he had reason to believe that he was being deceived.
Father Michael Koening
Whatever the facts may be (and I truly hope JP was somehow sincerely ignorant about the abuse situation and Maciel), the whole mess amkes very clear that governance and prudential decisions by popes iare not covered by the gift of infallibility. That will come as no news to you Rick as you’re evidently well read in Church teaching and theology. But it does come as news to many conservative Catholics who feel they have to do intellectual gymnastics to support and explain away every papal action or lack thereof.
The problem with all these defenses of JP2 is that they require us to believe that for two and a half decades he was hopelessly out of touch with what was going on around him and helplessly bamboozled by his evil advisers–an impossible scenario given that he was one of the smartest, best educated, most energetic, most widely read, most widely traveled, and most worldly wise popes the Church has ever had.
This is a man who survived the Nazi genocide against the Poles, out-maneuvered the Soviets, and utterly crushed liberation theology; and yet we are to believe that he had no idea what he was doing when he signed false bank documents, had no idea that bishops and priests in Latin American were giving aid and comfort to state terrorism, and had no idea what Law, Groer, and Maciel had been up to all those years?
The “santo subito” people can’t have it both ways. If JP2 really was the intellectual and spiritual titan that he pretended to be, then he must have had the capacity to know and understand what his own people were up to. If he knew and did nothing, he was an accomplice in their crimes; if he could have known but chose not to, then he was criminally negligent, which is almost as bad. Either way, they have no business putting him up for sainthood, because he doesn’t even remotely qualify.
There’s also a big problem with some of the theological positions that Ratzinger staked out on these issues while he was head of the CDF, including the claim that while the pope may not be infallible in his disciplinary decisions, those decisions are nevertheless “not without divine assistance” and therefore “call for the adherence of the faithful.” So if JP2 was not without divine assistance in the way he ran his shop, why has everything come to ruin? What sort of saint is it who holds the position of “Vicar of Christ on earth” but somehow consistently fails to avail himself of the divine assistance which, we are assured, was always available to him if he only asked for it?
And now Ratzinger is pope himself, and so is also presumably not without divine assistance in the decisions he makes–and yet he is not only rushing headlong toward a disastrous premature canonization of his predecessor, but has continued to surround himself with the same people who, we are now being told, wrecked the papacy of JP2 with their lies and corruption. We have been told that it was Ratzinger who tried and tried to clean up the corruption around JP2, but was checkmated at every turn by the evil Sodano. So what is his excuse now? He of all people must know what Sodano and the others were up to, and he of all people has the power to send them packing. Why has he not done so?
At some point you have to stop making excuses for these people, or you become complicit yourself.
Sardath: You do not mention me by name, but allow me to assume your post is directed to me. Let me repeat, that I am not making excuses for JP2, I am only pleading ignorance. I asked you for documentation of the correspondence between Doyle and JP2. You have not been able to provide it. You believe that Doyle provided the smoking gun to JP2. I have not stated the opposite. I only stated that the 1985 document that I studied did not implicate any bishops in malfeasance–contrary to fact, since many bishops were negligent but the 1985 document does NOT say so. Indeed, it could give the reader the OPPOSITE impression.
Sardath, if you want to know why the Church is in the state it’s currently in, I suggest you do some research about Pope Leo XIII’s vision about Christ and Satan conversing while he was saying Mass at the Vatican…and Christ giving Satan power and permission to destroy the Church within a century. I also suggest you read 1 Samuel 2: 16-35.