— Rumors that late Polish pope knew of abuse in Poland’s Catholic Church have long circulated, but new film appears to prove them correct
By Jo Harper
A television report on Monday about St. John Paul II alleged that he actively covered up cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in his native Poland before becoming pope in 1978.
John Paul is a Polish icon who was pope during the last decade of the Cold War and is widely credited with boosting the success of the Polish anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s.
“I hope that this report will end the discussion and the festival of blurring reality, pretending that John Paul II might not have known,” Marcin Gutowski, a TVN24 journalist and author of the report, told the channel.
The program will be broadcast this evening on the independent US-owned channel, which has been critical of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), accusing the right-wing party of populism.
Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek made similar accusations against the pontiff in his book, “Maxima Culpa,” which goes on sale in Poland this week.
Gutowski’s film shows previously unknown facts from the life of John Paul before he became pontiff. He served in that position until his death in 2005 and was canonized as a saint after his death.
Gutowski talked to victims of priests who in the 1960s were subordinate to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, as John Paul was then known.
“He talked with people who personally informed him about the crimes committed by the clergy and the church documents confirm the actions and omissions of the cardinal,” Gutowski said.
The reporter also accessed church documents abroad. “Among them are letters of the cardinal personally signed by him, which testify, leaving no doubt, how he acted as the Metropolitan of Krakow against abuses in the church and what he did with pedophile priests,” Gutowski told TVN24.
“Now, to put it bluntly, the ball is in the church’s court,” he added.
John Paul II was criticized by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an abuse victims’ group, for not responding to the sex abuse crisis. In 2008, the church recognized it was a “very serious problem” but estimated that it was caused by “no more than 1%” of the over 500,000 Catholic priests worldwide.
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