A new investigation claims that the late Polish Pope John Paul II knew about child molestation in Poland’s Catholic church years before becoming pontiff and helped cover it up.
The late Pope was aware of examples of paedophile priests within the church while still a cardinal in Krakow, according to Michal Gutowski, the investigator behind the story for private broadcaster TVN.
The priests were transferred to other dioceses, including one in Austria, to avoid a scandal, according to the investigator.
According to Gutowski, Wojtyla, who was Pope for 27 years from 1978 until his death in 2005, submitted a letter of reference for a priest accused of sexual assault to Vienna cardinal Franz Koenig without addressing the allegations.
Gutowski claims that during his inquiry, he spoke with victims of paedophile priests, their families, and former church diocese personnel.
He references documents obtained from the old Communist-era SB secret police and rare church records.
Gutowski, on the other hand, said that the Krakow diocese had refused him access to its documentary archives for his study.
In the past, the Polish church has refused to turn over records to the judiciary or a public commission of inquiry probing accusations of clergy abuse of minors.
On the condition of secrecy, one of Gutowski’s informants stated that he personally informed Wojtyla about incidents of paedophilia involving one priest in 1973.
‘Wojtyla first wanted to make sure it wasn’t a bluff,’ the source said. ‘He asked it not be reported anywhere – he said he would deal with it.’
According to Gutowski, the then-cardinal explicitly ordered that the purported affair be kept strictly private.
Gutowski’s study was pioneering, according to Thomas Doyle, an American former Catholic priest, canon law specialist, and author of one of the first disclosures of Catholic clerical abuse in the United States.
It demonstrated that John Paul II was aware of the problem before becoming Pope, he contended.
The investigation’s broadcast in predominantly Catholic Poland comes shortly after a similar charge was made by a Polish-based Dutch journalist, Ekke Overbeek.
For the last two years, and in the midst of multiple revelations of child abuse in the Polish church, the Vatican has sanctioned several high-ranking church officials for covering up priest paedophilia.
John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century, and the longest-serving pope in modern history after Pius IX in the 1800s, at the time of his election.
Many groups that had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church over the ages received official apologies from the subsequent Pope. He apologized for wrongdoings such as the church hierarchy’s role in stake burnings, injustices against women, and the inaction and quiet of many Catholics during the German Holocaust during World War II.