Should a Pope’s Legacy Be Judged On Child Sex Abuse Cover Up?


Click here to read: “Popes John Paul II and John XXIII: a rush to sainthood?” by Josephine Mckenna, Religion News Service, The Salt Lake Tribune, April 22, 2014

Excerpt: “One of the questions here is whether a pope can be a saint and also make managerial mistakes,” Thavis said, “and I think Vatican officials would say yes. Most people would agree that, as bad as the sex abuse scandal has been, it cannot be used to define John Paul’s legacy.”

Editor’s Note: Jesus was pretty clear on this issue. Would He issue a millstone or sainthood?

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32 Responses to “Should a Pope’s Legacy Be Judged On Child Sex Abuse Cover Up?”

  1. This is a question that can be answered by many people in different ways.

    If you are a survivor or a family member of a survivor of clergy sexual abuse I believe a high percentage of us will answer the question as yes. When a Pope wishes to protect the image of an institution instead of protecting the heart, mind and soul of a child from being sexually abused and in addition protecting the abuser it should be a major memory of that individual. This is not a managerial mistake. We will see with Pope Francis if he will be able to change the thinking of many of his past actions.

    Then you have the old school Catholics mainly those in their late fifties, sixties and seventies who with all the proof and all the facts will turn a blind eye because in their minds a Pope a priest or bishop can do no wrong. They were raised to idolize these men as they can do no wrong.

    And finally you have the younger generations who are still out on this question. We have seen many individuals leave the Catholic Church because of the sexual abuse cover-ups and its leaders but we have also see many stay.

    • I don’t think God would be happy with the sainthood, or any pope, priest bishop or cardinal with blood on their hands, but I’m more of a realist…….there are no favourites in heaven therefore no special dispensations., all being made of one flesh and one spirit; no thems or us.

  2. There is nothing saint-worthy, miraculous, or holy about a man who, given his tremendous authority and power, treated the raping of children as a nuisance.

    The true miracle would be opened eyes and justice served.

    As now “outsiders,” you can understand how ridiculous it appears to have thousands of people rush to Rome to witness what I believe to be a cruel PR twist to gain favor with remaining Catholics.

    A twist of the knife in the side of every survivor.

    • The key moral challenge Pope Francis faces as pope is to restore Catholics’ trust in leaders who too often risked children inexcusably for years. If a pope cannot be trusted to protect children and to demand that his bishops be held accountable for failing to do so , what can he be trusted with?

      Ominously, Francis has generally avoided this challenge for over a year. He now has recently failed to meet it on several occasions; most noticeably by unnecessarily jamming through the sainthood of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Both these popes risked children’s safety continually and shamefully. Francis could have indicated his seriousness about holding bishops accountable by holding these two popes accountable to a thorough and independent review of their record. But instead he rushed to their sainthood on a superficial and biased investigation by papal subordinates. Why?

      John XXIII apparently steered 2,000+ bishops at the Second Vatican Council away from addressing the child abuse scandal in the 1960′s. John Paul II and Benedict XVI steered them away from the scandal from the 1970′s until last year. Francis seemingly continues this cover-up and now honors popes who earlier dishonored children. Again why?

      As to “why”—that is, Francis strategy in pushing these “saints” now, SW, please see my:

      http://christiancatholicism.com/pope-francis-honors-popes-who-failed-kids-why/

      • Gerry,
        I’m certain Catholics have no idea to the extent they are being used by their own hierarchy.

        Outside democratic pressure…very interesting and informative read!

      • Katherine FitzGerald Reply April 26, 2014 at 2:30 am

        I’ve been all over the “NO” map on the double canonizations.

        First, I focused on the stab in the back it is for sexual abuse survivors and dead victims. Over it. What hasn’t been a stab in the back? The hierarchical response to the crisis has been one deplorable act or lack of action after another. One, huge, deep, hurtful, relentless stab. A medieval, utterly foreign to the rational and moral mind, circus of unconscionable behavior and inept leadership. The survivors will survive because decent people, DA’s, politicians, and advocates– NORMAL, CARING PEOPLE– will support and defend them. Justice will prevail.

        Second, who cares if the candidates are holy, saint-material, or saints? Sainthood is an infantile idea. Invented for the lame brained. A mechanism of emotional control. A faith-based award ceremony of sorts. Catholic “purple haze.” Grow up! Today, my 24 year old said, “Mom, sainthood?” It’s so stupid. Will the Church EVER act smart?” (“No, Chris, not as long as the laity won’t.”)

        Third, I read Jerry’s article to mean that Francis’s association with the secular world, today, is unlike any other pope in the history of the Church. In the past, infallible (ha ha ha) popes and papal gangsters kept the world at bay while simultaneously ruling it from their Vatican underground. But, today, the secular world is confronting them, armed with arrest warrants, grand juries, UN and Royal commissions, inquiries, investigations, guilty verdicts, orange jumpsuits and the nasty like.

        From his crumbling monarchy, Francis said, “what’s a ‘poor’ pope to do??? Democracies and their new fangled systems and methods are killing us!” Drones will come next!

        So the seminary educated, cultish, clericalism-softened boys dressed in dresses put their heads together…

        “Let’s canonize a conservative and a progressive pope. The global-televised pomp and circumstance will hit the core of conservative Catholics, progressive Catholics, exited Catholics, the hungry-for-a-faith soon-to-be Catholics, and the impressionable. The churches will be bulging with Catholic sheep! Then, we’ll indoctrinate the herd to influence and quell the bad democratic forces that are intent on exposing our sins and crimes and delivering justice”

        You can’t make this stuff up.

        My position on the canonizations? A monumental joke.

        • Thanks for that, Kate. I infer you also are not in favor of the canonizations :-).

          Please tell Chris about Tom Doyle–a hero who has survived this swamp. Please see his revealing new NCR piece about JP II linked below. Jerry

          http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/records-show-john-paul-ii-could-have-intervened-abuse-crisis-didnt

          • Jerry where is the comments section on your site..I see where links can be shared but can’t find where to comment?

          • Kathy, as you might have expected by now, I have no space for comments. I don’t have enough time now to draft the articles and reply there to comments too. Plenty have commented to me, pro and con, on the National Catholic Reporter, Bilgrimage, here and elsewhere. In any event, I am about to severely decrease my blogging, having made the case I wanted to by the blogging medium.

          • Jerry you managed to make me laugh on a sort of crappy day..you of all people know that people like the dialogue when they read something..a chance to comment and talk with each other..people are not always looking for an interaction with the author..let the people speak Jerry! The king of all commenters has no comment section! I can’t imagine running this blog but having to communicate with people through other sites, what a pain in the neck for you and the other sites.

            But your plan about the blogging does sound like a good one..I was reviewing a lot of our old posts recently and see how much the site has changed in many ways and it needs to because other wise just the same message over and over. Get out and enjoy the beautiful weather once it finally stays warm for more than a day or two! And write that book!

        • And now here’s Paul VI in the rear, Kate. The Papal Saints Keep Marching In–will Fats Domino be next?

          Paul VI (Humanae Vitae/contraception prohibition) is reportedly to be beatified before the November US elections that may turn on contraception insurance in part.

          Please see my:

          http://christiancatholicism.com/three-pope-saints-a-synod-the-vaticans-last-hurrah/

        • In the infamous words of my 14 year old daughter to her Catholic grandmother about sainthood, “isn’t that believing in superstition and false idols.”

          After Gram stammered around, my husband explained sainthood to daughter with an analogy from Buddist beliefs. No place for the inlaws to go as we were all trapped in the same vehicle for 2 hours. Happy Easter!

          Kate…with these latest dramatic productions on canonization and the flimsy criteria for their made up spiritual awards ceremony, you put into words what I had been feeling for a long time. When they have to ” sell” their faith, that isn’t really faith.

      • Crimen sollicitationis (Latin: crime of solicitation) is the title of a 1962 document (“Instruction”) of the Holy Office codifying procedures to be followed in cases of priests or bishops of the Catholic Church accused of having used the sacrament of Penance to make sexual advances to penitents.[2][3]

        The 1962 document, approved by Pope John XXIII and signed by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, Secretary of the Holy Office, was addressed to “all Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries, including those of Eastern Rite”. It gave specific instructions on how to carry out the rules in the Code of Canon Law:[5] on dealing with such cases, and directed that the same procedures be used when dealing with denunciations of homosexual, paedophile or zoophile behaviour by clerics. Dioceses were to use the instruction for their own guidance and keep it in their archives for confidential documents;[6] they were not to publish the instruction nor produce commentaries on it.[7]

        If this is the RCC institutional policy promulgated in 1962 re clergy sexual abuse of children, then it is no wonder that decades of torment, evil, destruction and devastation has rained down on innocent victims, children and their RCC families.

        Michael Skiendzielewski

  3. John S. Wintermyer Reply April 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Sainthood and Holiness are in the eyes of the beholder. Before JPII, I would place many wonderful parents and family persons who have struggled so hard to live lives of goodness but never recognized. Each family could and should declare as saints, those in their own families or friends who are living or lived the real meaning of the Gospel of Love. Their miracles are their lives and the legacy they have left to their families. Don’t wait for Rome to declare them saints. Declare them publicly now!!!

    Those many victims of sexual abuse who in deepest depression have taken their own lives are true martyrs. They lost their lives because the “community”, the Church, who was supposed to protect them failed t do so and then covered up their own lies and deception.

    JPII was also a real culprit in the death of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador in 1980. The pope made him wait in Rome for three weeks before seeing him to hear the story of the persecution of the people and the priests of El Salvador for standing up for justice and then being murdered by the military (US support SOA). JPII failed to support the Archbishop and then after his assassination (he should have been declared a Martyr-saint) this Pope failed to ever support the cause of naming him a Saint.
    In my list of saints, JPII is not one of them. His tenure as Pope will not be one of the “Greatest” as so many wish to give him that title, Much like Pius IX (the ninth), it could be one of the worse because of how he used power to “bully” and denigrate good people who saw things differently than he did. “Infallibility” went to his head.

  4. I don’t know if it’s my recent sensitivity with acknowledging my abuse after so many years, or if in reality more truth is coming to light throughout the entire church. It seems every day it gets worse and worse pushing me further away. Easter was always a joyous time. This year as mentioned on other post it was just a PTSD Fest. Tried to go to church and came home physically and emotionally stressed. Don’t know now how I could ever go back. Had no idea about Romaro who was a saint and how he was treated by JP.
    Wonder how Teresa of Avila hung in there with the Inquisition?! Is it possible to pick a few things from a smorgasbord when you are allergic to the rest of the table?

  5. All these responses have been voiced so perfectly. This sainthood thing is a joke for JPII. I used to admire the man until 2002 when I saw what had been really going on in “my” church and covered up possibly at his behest. And now even Francis is just another politician who is playing to the remaining pew sheep who loved JPII and who are now voluntarily blinding themselves to the reality of unbounded child abuse in the church with JPII’s help. It’s all about the money. Doesn’t it all come down to that in the end? The church and its leaders are grasping at straws in desperation to clean up its act and draw attention away from the real issue.

  6. Throughout its long history the Catholic Church has never rushed to do anything. I am reminded of Archbishop Chaput when questioned about those priests who were suspended due to allegations of improper conduct with children. He told those who questioned him that he didn’t like to be rushed. That is the Catholic Church that I have come to know. Change comes about at a snails pace or more likely not at all. So why the rush? I strongly suspect that this is about the only positive PR that they can muster these days. As long as they can talk about the sainthoods of these two men , even with all the controversy, they need not talk about the sexual abuse of innocent children and the cover up by the Church’s Hierarchy. They will say and do anything to avoid that issue.

  7. There does not appear to be any intense involvement from this Pope. Because of his age he would need to maintain an inner disconnectedness from his activities. At his age he would naturally physically and emotionally not push himself to hard intellectually or physically lest he get either too stimulated or too exhausted. Because of his disconnect he is not thinking of the consequences of his actions or in fact his omission will have any consequences. Thus, Pope Francis making John XXIII and John Paul II saints just canonized denial.

    Denial is extremely difficult to deal with. Denial maintains itself as vagueness and is an uninvolved distance. It creates a sluggish complacency, intellectual laziness and emotional indolence. Life just begins to happen. There is no real contact with the environment and seems to slip into indifference, “take or leave it” attitude. It prevents anyone from getting too excited or overly involved. This Pope’s denial appears to be his inability to feel anything very deeply and how could he at his age.

    Because of this Pope’s age I do not see how he can face his denial and this fog of dissociation. He needs to ignore what is wrong so he is not disturbed. This Pope’s denial may be protecting him from guilt and anxiety. Denial, a penny-wise and a pound foolish, seems to be our worst enemy. So from my observation we are dealing with a deeply ingrained human problem called denial. It wards off reality rather than dealing with it.

  8. Katherine FitzGerald Reply April 26, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    In 1969, the Vatican inquired into the validity of ALL of the saints on its Roman Calendar. It discovered that there was no proof that many of the saints lived, let alone lived holy lives. Legend was rampant. Christopher and 92 others were dropped from the calendar.

    It’s possible that 400 years down the road, the Vatican will take a re-look at saints. It’s possible that the “holy” lives and sainthoods of John Paul II and John XXIII will be called into question due to some legendary, holy attributes mistakenly attributed to them.

    400 years down the road, in retrospect, will hierarchs acknowledge the legendary, holy attributes? Or will they still be denying the sex abuse crisis, protecting themselves, and covering it up?

  9. Pope John Paul II Crucifix Falls, Crushes Man to Death

    A man was crushed to death when a giant crucifix dedicated to Pope John Paul II collapsed and fell on him, ITV News reports. The accident came just days before a historic canonization that will see the late pope declared a saint.

    Could it be someone else does not believe in these public relation canonizations from taking place.

    Each person must decide on their own.

  10. This comment is certainly off target, but something has been stuck in my craw for several months now. Back when the scandal about Father Paul was breaking, several fellow alumni from Bishop McDevitt came forward to write about their experiences with Father Paul. The one experience that I have not been able to shake and I believe it was Crazed And Confused who made it was that confessions were held in classrooms and that Father Paul was hearing her confession and she refused to speak and was crying and he simply laughed at her. Now aside from being about the most evil thing I have ever read, it also got me thinking about my own abuser and the belief I have that he used things that he heard in confession, not my confession but that of my parents to target me. I suspect that priests for years have used very private conversations to target victims.So much for the holy sacrament of confession.I have had many questions about this sacrament and lo and behold one day I was reading something on one of the websites and a book jumped out at me titled “The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession” written by John Cornwell. The book traces the history of Confession from the early Church, through the current day. I found this book to be extremely interesting, although a little tedious to read. This is definitely not light reading and one will not finish at one sitting. But it is loaded with information. I am not finished reading it , but many of my questions have been answered. While I was growing up, confessions were always held in the confessional box , located inside the Church.I still remember the fear and dread, I felt as a young boy sitting in that darkened box. Since reading this book.I have learned that the confessional box was invented by Cardinal Charles Borromeo, who happened to be the nephew of Pope Pius IV in the 1500″s. Why was the box created? You guessed it. The confessors were getting a little too touchy feely with the penitents. Borromeo came up with this idea to keep confessor and penitent apart. We all know that didn’t work so well.Another question I have always had is why that first confession for a child should start so young. Throughout much of the Church’s history, the first confession was held around the age of fourteen. Think sex had anything to do with that? In 1910, Pius X decided to move that date up to age seven. So education about sins , punishments, heaven and hell would be moved up to the age of five or six. I don’t believe any six year old should have to deal with that.This also made much younger children targets of abusive clergy. Another drastic change that was made was that Confessions were required yearly for most of the history of the Church. That was changed to weekly before I was a child. So not only were priests given access to children at an earlier age, they were given access to children on a weekly basis. Is there any wonder the abuse scandal has been the albatross around the neck of the Church. They brought it on themselves.

    • Thanks, Jim. If I might expand a bit on the implications of Pius X’s drastic, unnecessary and “infallible” decision on lowering the age of First Confession by setting out a comment I added today to NCReporter:

      Pius X had in 1910 lowered the designated age for First Confession and First Communion to seven years old from twelve, thirteen or even older, as had been the Catholic custom for centuries. Obviously, this facilitated a papal goal of earlier and more effective indoctrination of young Catholics, especially on matters like papal infallibility, papal primacy and clerical privileges generally. It also, however, greatly increased the risks of sexual exploitation of especially vulnerable children by predatory priests, which apparently contributed to the need for the 1922 secrecy order particularly to protect priests. This was quite important, it appears, at a time when the Catholic hierarchy was under considerable external pressures following World War I, particularly in Italy.

      John XXIII in March 1962, in his own name, reissued to bishops worldwide, secretly and seemingly unnecessarily, the outstanding 1922 confessional sexual abuse secrecy order of Pius XI that apparently was still in effect in 1962. John XXIII, of course, highlighted this secret order just several months before more than 2,000+ Catholic bishops were to arrive for the Second Vatican Council in Rome to discuss publicly pressing pastoral issues. The 2,000+ bishops apparently got John XXIII’s message and avoided any serious public discussion of (1) confessional misuse, (2) raising the age of First Confession, and (3) priest child abuse generally. If the Vatican II bishops had not earlier gotten the word on hiding priest child abuse, this reissued order made sure they did get it.

      It is clear now from numerous investigations that priest child abuse, inside and outside the confessional, was a significant problem when John XXIII seemingly sought to keep the Vatican II bishops from addressing it. Had he asked, as he could and should have, the Council Fathers to consider the abuse scandal then, including reviewing the half century of evidence of the failed experiment of requiring very young children to confess privately, it seems likely worldwide that tens of thousands of Catholic children and their families could have been spared the horrific effects of priest child abuse.

      Moreover, a more courageous approach by both or even either Pope John XXIII or Pope John Paul II, a Vatican Council II bishop, then or in John Paul II’s case, later, would likely also have enabled the Catholic Church to have avoided the billions of dollars in abuse related expenses, as well as the lost billions in contributions of disgusted Catholics who left the Church or reduced their contributions over the child abuse scandal. In the USA alone, the Church has spent over $3,000,000,000 in recent decades on the few thousand of the abuse survivors who have settled claims, out of the estimated 100,000 estimated USA survivors of priest child abuse, most of whom are, in effect, viewed almost as non-existent by the Catholic hierarchy, including Francis

      • Thanks Gerry for expanding on my comments. The more information that I come across, the more anger I feel towards those in the Hierarchy. This issue was fixable. All it would have taken was for one of these saints to step up and expose all the secrets .No, they decided to make sure all those secrets never would see the light of day. These are men of God?

        • Jim speaks of feeling angry at those in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The worst part for me is my association with the Catholic Church becomes mentally overheated. I become trapped in my overheated mind and then I feel overwhelmed and violated. One intense thought will lead to another and I will focus on the contradictions in the church. For example, the Vatican that is to uphold moral law becomes the lawbreaker in the name of the law and my mind just burns. The evil within the church is like an enormous stumbling block to God. Yet I feel like my faith needs to move into non-attachment with the Catholic Church and even God. This non-attachment is a statement faith because I can no longer cling to my ideas.

          This non-attachment feels like the Buddha’s emptiness. It feels like this place where everything arises and disappears into stillness and peace. This emptiness is faith in that I no longer can attach myself to information and experiences; otherwise my mind consumes me into mental terror. This “nothingness” also reveals the void from within, completely empty, and yet I want to take things apart intellectually. So if my faith is speaking non-attachment, this is a leap into the unknown and the Divine awareness is a given. This real faith feels like an unshakable confidence and a confidence to rest in hope. This hope is this deep felt serenity, safe and at ease. I also feel edgy, yet this faith is everything.

          My faith feels schizophrenic in this emptiness, yet the serenity communicates sanity. This is all strange and maybe this faith is where symbols are left behind.

        • Yes, the issue was fixable and is fixable, but the hierarchy has a good deal and will only fix it if forced to by outside government, The hierarchy knows it has a good deal and that they remain non-accountable.

    • Jim you bring up a lot of things I didn’t know or had not thought about. Thankyou.

      • Beth: You are more than welcome. I believe I mentioned it earlier , that I was a history major at LaSalle, back in the late sixties and early seventies. I truly believe that history can teach us so much. I am sure I had courses in Church history back then ,but so much that happened throughout the history of the Church was kept secret .So I am fascinated by how much I didn’t realize happened in the past and how much that lack of knowledge protects those in power and hurts those who are most vulnerable.

  11. The canonization of John23 PJP2 has no bearing on what cover ups, silencers and enablers occurred and continue to occur in Dioceses across the U.S. In the 1970’s and 1980’s it was a call from the pastor to the Diocesan Vicar for Clergy or Cardinal/Archbishop secretary to start the moving van. There was zero accountability then and there remains zero today. The focus needs to shift on what can be done ……constantly……to keep applying pressure to seek justice and true healing.

    • Katherine FitzGerald Reply April 30, 2014 at 12:42 am

      Mike, I know this sounds repetitive, but the single most effective way to “reach” the corrupt clerics is NO MONEY. NO money! A global campaign aimed at no money.

  12. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/secrets-of-the-vatican/

    PBS- “Secrets of the Vatican” This is worth watching if you haven’t seen it, also worth watching again if you have seen it.

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