John Paul II and Paul VI did not listen to the cries of violated children. Why?
I have a few sources with Vatican connections and have received fairly reliable second-hand information, and my guess at the scenario is this.
John Paul, for reasons he refused to explain even to a cardinal who questioned him, would not act against abusers. John Paul was a lousy judge of character. His priest–“friends” in the Krakow chancery were all in the pay of the Communist secret police, and gave them detailed information about the precise location of Wojtyla’s bed, which medicines he took, who his pharmacist was, etc. The priests were supplying information potential assassins in return for permission to study aboard for career advancement. When this was finally discovered after the fall of communism, John Paul’s secretary kept it from him - why disturb an old man, he explained.
The only explanation John Paul gave for his refusal to act against prominent abusers is that “they” wouldn’t let him act – a nameless they, but in the context, the curia. There are persistent stories that the Vatican offcials recieved gifts, such as $100,000 mass stipends, from Maciel, and priests who belonged to the Legion and to the congregation founded by fake stigmatist Gino Burresi worked for Sodano, protecting their corrupt bosses
Ratzinger was an academic; I presume his first contact with the case of a sexually abusive priest was in Munich; he did not handle the Hullermann case well- he simply turned it over to a subordinate and did not check up on it. When he became head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger, as John Allen explains, got only a few abuse cases, mostly involving solicitation in the confessional. The others went to other dicasteries, which mishandled them.
Ratzinger was determined to crack down, and therefore took over all the cases in 2002. He was horrified by what he read, but was limited in what he could do by John Paul and especially by Sodano. He was determined to end the abuse if he became pope, and has done a lot, although not enough, especially in regard to bishops.
But the full truth has not come out, and secrecy lets the cancer spread. There have been worse situations. As the book Fallen Order demonstrates from contemporary documents, a 17th century pope appointed a man he knew was a sexual abuser to head the Piarists – which then collapsed as the members who were sincere Christians rebelled against the papal attempt to make them a pedophile organization.
Secrecy may bring about worse disasters. Probably 7-10% of priests have had sexual contact with minors; maybe a smaller percentage of bishops, but still a substantial number of bishops are abusers. Have cardinals abused minors? Suppose one of them becomes pope? The papacy survived the pornocracy of the 9th century and the corruption of the Renaissance, but the internet would flash the news around the word if a pope was accused of abuse. Could the effectiveness of the papacy survive that?