A new report claims that the late Polish pope John Paul II knew about child abuse in Poland’s Catholic church years before becoming pontiff and helped cover it up.
Investigator Michal Gutowski, who compiled the report for private broadcaster TVN, alleges that Karol Wojtyla, as he then was, knew of cases of pedophile priests within the church while still a cardinal in Krakow.
Gutowski says Wojtyla transferred the priests to other dioceses, one as far away as Austria, to prevent any scandal from arising.
The investigator also claims that Wojtyla wrote a letter of recommendation for a priest accused of abuse to Vienna cardinal Franz Koenig, without mentioning the accusations.
Gutowski based his investigation on documents from the former Communist-era SB secret police, rare church documents, and interviews with victims of pedophile priests, their families, and former church diocese employees.
However, the Krakow diocese refused him access to its own documentary archives for the investigation.
One of Gutowski’s sources claimed on condition of anonymity that he personally informed Wojtyla about acts of paedophilia concerning one priest in 1973.
The source said Wojtyla asked that it not be reported anywhere and that he would deal with it. The then cardinal had requested the alleged affair be kept strictly under wraps.
Thomas Doyle, an American former Catholic priest, canon law scholar, and author of one of the first reports of Catholic clergy abuse in the United States, praised Gutowski’s investigation, calling it groundbreaking.
Doyle argued that it showed John Paul II knew about the problem even before he became pope.
The broadcast of the investigation in traditionally Catholic Poland comes soon after Polish-based Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek made similar accusations in his book, Maxima Culpa.
Over the past two years, amid several reports of abuse of minors in the Polish church, the Vatican has sanctioned several high-ranking church officials for having covered up pedophilia by members of the clergy.
Despite being credited with instrumental in bringing down communism in Central and Eastern Europe and surviving three assassination attempts, John Paul II has been previously criticized for failing to respond quickly enough to sex abuse scandals within the Church.
He has apologized for wrongdoings, including the church hierarchy’s role in burning at the stake, injustices committed against women, and the inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Nazi Holocaust in the Second World War. Upon his death in 2005, he was succeeded by Benedict XVI and later canonized as Pope Saint John Paul II.