Francis defends John Paul II against accusations; SNAP is not shocked
(For Immediate Release April 17, 2023)
It has not been a good couple of years for the late Pope John Paul II, from documentaries that have demonstrated that he covered-up sexual abuse in his native Poland to a formal Vatican document naming him as the person chiefly responsible for Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s years of abuse. Now, the Vatican is defending the late Pope from accusations that he himself may have molested at least two children.
We are not surprised that Pope Francis is vigorously defending his predecessor against accusations he may have molested underage girls. For years, the Church’s stance has been to circle the wagons around prelates suspected of abuse, and given that former Pope John Paul II has already been canonized, we are not at all shocked at the actions following this news. Yet we urge Catholic leaders to tone down the public displays of outrage and instead double down on transparency and an examination of what might be true.
Given all that has been revealed about the world-wide Catholic abuse epidemic, the fact that an accusation could reach the very top of the Church is not as shocking as it once may have been – after all, nearly 150 bishops worldwide have been accused of abuse, including at least 11 Cardinals: Theodore McCarrick (USA), George Pell (Australia), Hans Groer (Austria), Marc Oullet (Canada), Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (UK), Jean-Pierre Ricard (France), Henryk Gulbinowicz (Poland), Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien (UK), Anthony Bevilacqua (USA), Humberto S. Medeiros (USA), and Francis Joseph Spellman (USA).
It may be a coincidence that SNAP's advocacy first began while Pope John Paul II was leading the Church. Certainly, sex abuse preceded his rise to Pope, but under him it seems to us that it absolutely flourished. There are thousands of known priest perpetrators and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of victims yet to be inventoried. We can only wonder if Pope John Paul II looked the other way because he, too, was an abuser.
So we are not surprised or shocked, either at these new accusations or at the outrage shown by current Vatican leadership. But from our perspective, if Pope Francis wishes to use his bully pulpit to defend a pope who is accused of molesting young girls, then he should also use that bully pulpit to end the secrecy. If Pope John Paul II is innocent, the best way to prove that is to undertake an investigation into these accusations that opens every secret archive of every bishop in the world. A vigorous public defense demands a vigorous public inquiry, and so we call on the Vatican to follow the evidence. Only that will tell us if Pope John Paul II was simply an enabler of abuse, or something worse.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) David Lorenz, SNAP Maryland leader ([email protected], 301-906-9161), 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 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)