New research in Poland: John Paul II is said to have known about abuse

As of: 03/08/2023 7:22 p.m

According to new documentation and a book, Pope John Paul II, while archbishop was archbishop, is said to have known about child sexual abuse by his priests and covered for them. Poland’s government reacted with resistance.

By Sophie Rebmann, ARD Studio Warsaw

During his time as Archbishop of Kraków, the future Pope John Paul II is said to have known about the sexual abuse of pastors under his authority and covered up the crimes. This is reported by two investigative journalists from Poland and the Netherlands.

On Monday, private Polish television station tvn broadcast the report “Blinders. John Paul II knew” by journalist Marcin Gutowski. Since then, more than a million people have watched the documentary, the broadcaster said. A book on the same subject by Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek was also published today in Polish. The title is “Maxima Culpa”. Overbeek said in December that he had found “rock-solid evidence” that the Polish Pope knew about sexual abuse.

Documents should prove complicity

Using the example of three pastors who were already known to have abused children, journalist Gutowski proved that the late Pope was aware of their wrongdoing. Documents from Karol Wojtyła’s time as archbishop should prove this. Accordingly, the bishop transferred his close confidant, Pastor Saduś, to Austria without informing Archbishop Cardinal Franz König about the allegations against the priest in his letter of recommendation.

In a report from the time, the secret service of communist Poland noted that the Curia was very concerned “that it is impossible to hide this scandal caused by Saduś’s behavior”. In his documentary, Gutowski also speaks to a witness who claims to have drawn Wojtyła’s attention to the abuse 50 years ago in a one-to-one conversation. Wojtyła did not respond.

John Paul II is omnipresent in Poland: projection of the deceased Polish pontiff at the Bishop’s Palace in Kraków. (archive picture 2014)

Government reacts defiantly

The Polish government does not respond to the allegations against John Paul II. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki posted a photo of the Pope from one of his first pilgrimages to Poland – along with the Pope’s famous quote to the Polish population at the time: “Don’t be afraid.”

On Wednesday, Morawiecki tweeted an entire film of footage of the Pope set to classical music. Morawiecki also appears in the picture next to a Polish flag and says: “Today the war is not only raging outside our eastern borders. Unfortunately, there are groups in our society who are trying to declare a war here in Poland, not a military one, but a war civilizational.”

And Radosław Brzózka from the Ministry of Education said: “John Paul II attack those who want Poland to commit cultural suicide. They bank on the intellectual illiteracy of the masses and the cowardice of the Catholic elites.”

Now the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) wants to check what information can be found in the archives of the communist secret service in relation to sexual crimes committed by priests. This is reported by the daily newspaper “Rzeczpospolita”.

Pro-government media outraged

The pro-government television channel TVP reported: “Many years after his death, he is increasingly being attacked in his home country by private media that sympathize with sections of the opposition.” TVP questioned the report on Wojtyła, saying the revelations were based largely on secret service documents. Their credibility is therefore questionable, according to the experts interviewed. A TVP documentary proves the opposite: John Paul II took action against sexual abuse during his time as archbishop.

Magdalena Paczuska, a member of the National Council for Radio and Television, spoke of a “harmful attack” and warned: “The limit has been crossed.”

And Kraków Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski said at his service on Tuesday evening, according to the diocese, that the report contained “lies and insinuations”. He described the documentary as an “operation to destroy the luminous memory” of the Pope. At the same time she was a defender of man, marriage and family. He only called the sexual abuse “evil,” adding that it was far more prevalent in other areas.

Majority of Poles according to poll for investigation

The revelations come at a time when the role of Pope John Paul II is being debated in Poland. According to a survey by the Polish opinion research institute IBRiS at the end of December, almost two-thirds of Poles spoke out in favor of investigating how John Paul II dealt with cases of abuse.

The late pope is still considered by many in Poland to be an important authority in the country, a national hero: photos of him can still be found on crystal dishes in Polish living rooms. Painted pictures hang next to other images of saints in the church, in many cities statues of the pope line public squares, and most of the most important and largest streets are named after him, including in Warsaw.

This recognition came not only because of his position as head of the church, but also for his support of the anti-communist opposition and many pilgrimages to his homeland at a time when Poland seemed cut off from the world for most of its residents.

Journalist is sure that Wojtyła knew about it

The issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has also been discussed in Poland before. The 2019 documentary “Tylko nie mów nikomu”, “Just don’t tell anyone”, reports on sexual abuse of children by priests. It has since been viewed 24 million times.

Now investigative journalist Gutowski is sure: “No one can say today that Karol Wojtyła, John Paul II, knew nothing about the cases of pedophilia in the Church. Karol Wojtyła, as archbishop of Kraków, transferred pedophile priests, fully aware that what they have done.”

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