Minneapolis-based investigative journalist Joe Rigert today questions not only if there is too much haste involved in the canonisation of the late Pope John Paul II but if he ought be considered for canonisation at all given his dismal record in cleaning up the scandal of childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Mr Rigert has previously co-authored a commentary on Catholica with Richard Sipe calling for the resignation of Pope Benedict on similar grounds [LINK].
Should John Paul be made a saint?
The National Catholic Reporter, an independent American publication, recently carried articles questioning the fast-track effort to bestow sainthood on the late Pope John Paul II. ("Some question speed of John Paul II's beatification", Feb. 2, and "With beatification of John Paul II, what makes a 'fast-track' saint?" Feb. 1). But neither article directly addresses a more fundamental question: Should John Paul be made a saint?
No one disputes John Paul's personal holiness or his worldly outreach on behalf of the church. But the question is whether these attributes are enough to overcome his failure to deal adequately with the greatest scandal in the history of the modern church, namely the worldwide epidemic — including in Australia — of the priestly sexual abuse of children and young people. Should this be the legacy of a saint?
Consider the marks of his failures, of avoidance and inaction. Much has been written about how he protected for years the founder of the conservative Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, in the face of credible accusations that he sexually abused more than 20 seminarians and young priests, accusations now confirmed. Similarly telling, but not being discussed, was how he ignored, again for years, compelling evidence that Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer of Austria had molested other young men studying for the priesthood. Groer also shared the pope's conservative religious views and had been on a fast-track to be named archbishop. The pope praised him when he died. Beyond that, John Paul said little about the public exposure of widespread child sexual abuse in his beloved and religiously conservative Ireland. Even in America, after the sex abuse scandal had exploded, he downplayed the causes of the problem, blaming it on lack of family values and morality.
Over-all, the pope and the Vatican sought to handle the criminal abuse cases secretly by themselves, rather than require them to be reported to police, leaving the thousands of victims to suffer in silence. Taking their cue from the pope and the Vatican, American bishops have been no less secretive. A Philadelphia grand jury recently found that as many as 37 priests were allowed to remain in the active ministry despite credible accusations of sex abuse against them. The people were not told; now they know, and 21 abuser priests have since been suspended.
The National Catholic Reporter quoted critics calling for more time to examine John Paul's papacy and decide whether canonization is in order. Amen.
Joe Rigert, Minneapolis, USA (submitted to Catholica on 18Mar2011)
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