Polish bishops hotly reject John Paul abuse claims

abuse claims

Abuse claims regarding Pope St John Paul II are unfounded, say Poland’s Catholic bishops.

The fact that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla — the future Pope John Paul II—knew about abuse when he was an archbishop of Krakow, Poland, is neither new nor surprising, experts say.

Others agree and are defending Poland’s national hero.

Government figures, including the Prime Minister, have strongly defended John Paul as a national hero and the country’s highest moral authority.

The lower house of parliament passed a resolution defending John Paul as the “most outstanding Pole in history,” but many opposition members walked out or abstained from voting.

Leftist politicians, seized on allegations that he knowingly protected predator priests. Some called for John Paul’s name to be taken off street and school names.

Polish bishops’ conference president, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki,is strongly defending the late pope and appealing to “all people of good will” to not destroy his legacy.

“Further archival research” is needed to fairly assess a new allegation, the conference says.

At present, the abuse claims are based on communist secret police records. These allege the late pope covered up child sexual abuse by a priest.

The bishops conference has invited the American ambassador to Poland for “talks” about the claims, which were raised in a report on a U.S. company Warner Bros Discovery channel.

The report named three priests whom John Paul allegedly moved around during the 1970s after they were accused of abusing minors.

The cases are “proof” John Paul “covered up” abuse. But for historians and experts in Poland, the situation is much more complicated.

The allegation was included in a documentary broadcast March 6 on Polish television channel TVN24.

What remains to be answered is what he knew, from whom he knew it, and how much of his decisions regarding abusive priests were influenced by the anti-church actions of the communist Security Service (SB), Polish experts say.

The SB often falsely accused good priests of immoral behaviour only to discredit them, they point out.

“The type of complaints about the priest should be in his personal file in the curia,” Rafal Latka, professor of history at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, said.

“If the curia in Krakow decided to open the archives to historians, we could investigate the reasons for the cardinal’s decision.”

Furthermore, “we could verify whether there was any more communications regarding that case,” Latka said.

It is improbable that at the time of communism, Wojtyla would specifically point out in a letter to another cardinal that a priest he was sending to him was an abuser.

“The regime was checking the letters sent through the national post,” he said.

The Church should decide on an independent commission to investigate the past, one that is “independent and lay-based,” Latka added.


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