JOHN PAUL II ON SEXUAL ABUSE IN CHURCH
Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz
Appearing opinions that John Paul II was neglectful in directing the respond of Church to sexual abuse of the under-aged by some priests are harmful and are negated by historic facts.
As pope, John Paul II did not replace bishops in particular countries in their responsibility. Observing the local life of Churches, he saw, how they are dealing with appearing problems. When it was necessary he was ready to help them, often from his own initiative. He was also doing it to the request of local episcopates.
It was just how he reacted to the crisis concerning sexual abuse of the under-aged. When in the 80s of the last century that crisis began to ferment in the Church of the United States, the Pope first observed the behavior of the American Episcopate and when he concluded that it needed new tools for a fight against those crimes, he provided the church superiors with new rights. Bishops found them an explicit indication of a direction at which their fight should aim. One can only remind that in 1994 John Paul II edited an indult for the United States and two years later – for the Church in Ireland, approving the policy known under the name ‘zero tolerance’. The Pope was flurried. He did not intend to tolerate crimes of pedophilia in Church and vowed a fight against them.
When it turned out that local episcopates and religious orders superiors still cannot cope with the problem, and the crisis is overwhelming onto other countries, he decided that it did not concern only the anglo-saxon world but has got a global character.
We know that in 2002, in the United States there were waves of revealing books known under the name ‘Spotlight’. However, not everybody remembers that a year before those events, in May 2001, from the initiative of the Holy Father a document ‘Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela’ (Protection of sacraments holiness) was proclaimed. Also at that time the Pope promulgated norms ‘About the most cruel crimes’. We know the breakthrough significance of this legal act. John Paul II reserved all sexual crimes on the under-aged before the age of 18, committed by priests, to the jurisdiction of the apostolic tribunal of the Faith Teaching Congregation. He also committed every bishop and superiors of religious orders to report on all these crimes to this congregation, whose probability was confirmed in the preliminary investigation, envisaged by the Codex of Canonic Law. Further proceeding took place under the control of the apostolic tribunal.
The analysis of the crisis was presented by John Paul II in April 2002 to American cardinals who had been called up to Vatican after the publication of the ‘Spotlight’. Thanks to clear principles indicated by the Pope, the scale of abuse decreased in the United States. Till now this analysis has been a reference point for everybody who began a fight against crimes of sexual abuse on the under-aged. It helps in diagnosing the crisis and point out a direction of getting out of it. It is proven by a summit meeting in Vatican, summoned by pope Francis, who is consistently continuing the way of his predecessors in the fight against this problem.
Finally I must refer to the issue of Marcial Macielo Degollado. What is attributed to John Paul II is concealing his criminal activity. Facts speak completely differently, though. I will only remind that the Faith Teaching Congregation began an investigation into the issue of accusations during the pontificate of John Paul II, and, particularly, in December 2004. At that time a promoter of justice, and today archbishop – Charles Scicluna and a lawyer were sent to Mexico and the United States to carry out proceedings necessary in that matter. Only through knowledge and approval from John Paul II could a decision be made about beginning that investigation. It was not stopped even at the time sede vacante after John Paul died and that is why it could be finished with a verdict at the beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
Cracow, 20 March 2019
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 13/2019 (31 III 2019)