As a cardinal, Pope John Paul covered up child molestation, according to a report; SNAP Responds

For Immediate Release March 6, 2023

Canonized Pope John Paul II reportedly knew of child abuse before heading to Rome. His papacy started in 1978. The issue of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests was first publicized in 1985 when a Louisiana priest pleaded guilty to 11 counts of molestation of boys. It was again brought to national attention in 2002 following a series of publications by The Boston Globe. We now know that the most senior clerics in the Catholic Church shielded molesting priests, as many survivors of clergy abuse feared 24 years before the "Spotlight" scandal made their suspicions public. Since then, tens of thousands of victims have come forward, and thousands of perpetrators have been identified.

Pope John Paul II was ordained as a priest in 1946. The fact that abuse by Catholic clergy is now being examined from 1950 to the present, basically throughout his entire priesthood and beyond, is not a coincidence. It should not be shocking that the Pope moved abusers around while he was a cardinal. It was done by Pope Benedict, and we worry that Pope Francis may have done this as well. We already know that Pope Francis unquestionably supports his clergy. You only need to consider his criticism of Chilean victims who approached him. The facts and the secular press obliged him to retract his accusations of slander against them. Pope Francis' egregious clericalism revealed a fundamental predisposition that solely promotes the Vatican's objectives.

Pope John Paul II died before his crimes were revealed. Pope Benedict was accused of cover-up during his life. Whether or not Pope Francis will be shown to have also shuffled perpetrators remains to be seen.

What Pope John Paul II helped to enable is a multigenerational deception, where the mother church established policies of secrecy that evolved into the "Bishops' Playbook." Part of that playbook was for hierarchs to strategically dive on grenades to protect the Vatican, its priests, and its wealth. Cardinal Bernard Law did that by fleeing the United States and hiding in a gilded cage until his death. Cardinal William Levada did it by refusing to publish lists of abusers. Cardinal Sean O'Malley continues the tradition by shorting the Boston list and ignoring the reality that his own province is riddled with abusers and does not publish a list of the accused. Cardinal Robert McElroy is doing it by preparing San Diego for bankruptcy instead of revealing his files. From the very top on down the line to auxiliary bishops, advocates worldwide can cite complicity, all of which ends up wounding children for life while permitting the institution to continue collecting money and political power. 

We already know of about 8,000 accused clerics in this country and we have barely begun counting. The recent Child Victims Act in California revealed annual abuser presence rates of 14% and higher. By our calculations, 1 in 7 priests ordained during Pope John Paul II's ministry sexually abused minors in the US.  There have been 120,000 clerics who have cycled through this country since 1950. 

It is past time for the federal government of the United States to exercise its power and investigate the Catholic Church. For too long we have ignored institutional abuse by allowing bishops to effectively circumvent the system, functioning in this country as a multibillion-dollar nonprofit. It should be handled like any other company that abuses its power; it should be dismantled or regulated so that it cannot keep causing harm while receiving government assistance. We now know that both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II looked the other way. Our government and society should NOT.

CONTACT:  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is


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