Pope John Paul II covered up child abuse while cardinal, says report

The late Pope John Paul II knew about child abuse in the Catholic Church in Poland years before he became pontiff and helped cover it up, private broadcaster TVN said on Sunday.

Michal Gutowski, the researcher behind the show, said Karol Wojtyla, when he was at the time, knew about the issue of priests having sex in churches when he was still a cardinal in Krakow. He transferred priests to other dioceses – as far away as Austria – to ensure no scandals occurred, he said. Wojtyla, who was pope for 27 years from 1978 until his death in 2005, wrote a letter of support to Vienna Cardinal Franz Koenig for a priest accused of abuse to the Vienna cardinal, without mentioning the allegations, Gutowski says.

During his investigation, Gutowski said he spoke to priests who had sex with men, their families and former employees of the diocese. He cites former Communist-era SB secret police documents and rare church documents he managed to obtain.

But Gutowski said the Diocese of Krakow refused him access to his own archive. In the past, the Polish Church has refused to give documents to judges or public hearings investigating cases of child abuse in the church.

Similar charges

One of Gutowski’s journalists said on condition of anonymity that he himself told Wojtyla about the abuse of the priest in 1973. “Wojtyla wants to make sure it’s not confusing at first,” the source said.

“He asked not to be mentioned anywhere – he said he would take care of it.” The then cardinal had clearly requested that the allegations be kept strictly confidential, he added. Thomas Doyle, a former Catholic priest, legal scholar and author of one of the first reports on abuse by Catholic priests in the United States, said Gutowski’s investigation was groundbreaking.

It showed that Wojtyla knew this problem existed even before he became pope, he argued. This investigative campaign on Polish Catholic culture comes shortly after a Dutch journalist in Poland, Ekke Overbeek, made similar allegations.

Overbeek’s book Maxima Culpa will go on sale in Poland this week. In the past two years, and in the midst of many reports of child abuse in the Polish church, the Vatican has banned many church leaders for covering up the illness of children by priests.

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