Time - April 28, 2011
Pope John Paul's Path to Sainthood: A Rush to Judgment?
By Stephan Faris
When hundreds of thousands of Catholics gather in Rome Sunday for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, not everyone will be celebrating. For the victims of sexual abuse by predatory priests, the ceremony — a major step towards sainthood — is too much too soon for a Pontiff they say failed to adequately confront the crimes committed by members of his church. "It's the rubbing of salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of victims," says David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The signal that his beatification basically sends to church employees across the globe is that no matter how many children are harmed because of your inaction, your clerical career won't suffer."
Nobody denies the accomplishments of the famously charismatic pope, who died in 2005: his confrontation of the Soviet Union, his travels in the name of evangelism, and his courage under the ravages of Parkinson's diseases. But when it came to confronting the rot within his own institution, says Clohessy, the late pope was all but absent: "In his more than 25 years as the world's most powerful religious figure, we can't think of a single predatory priest or complicit bishop who experienced any consequences whatsoever for committing or concealing heinous child sex crimes."
For much of John Paul's papacy, the church's sex abuse crisis bubbled mostly underground. But when it did break through the surface, the pope's response was most noticeable for its absence. Hans Hermann Groer, an Austrian cardinal accused of abusing more than 2,000 boys over several decades, was made to retire as bishop of Vienna when the scandal broke in 1995, but was never punished or forced to apologize. (Groer died in 2003.) The Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado continued to receive John Paul's support after allegations emerged in the late 1990s that he had abused seminarians. [see related articles below]
"Time and again, John Paul simply refused to take the hard decisive steps that a visionary leader would take," says Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, and two books on the sex abuse scandal. "The way he responded to the accusations against Father Maciel by basically ignoring them, acting as if they didn't even exist, is not only a sign of a terrible denial on his part, but also an unwillingness to confront the full impact of evil." Maciel remained unpunished until after the John Paul's death in 2005, when Benedict XVI ordered him to leave the ministry for "a life of penitence and prayer." Maciel died in 2008.
John Paul's admirers acknowledge that the pope could have done more, but they say that his failings during the sex abuse scandal fail to blot out his greater virtues. "Do I think he could have done better?" says Phil Lawler editor of CatholicCulture.org. "Yes. But the idea that all of it comes home to roost at the Vatican is an idea that I've never found persuasive. He was in a position where he had limited options and limited power. If you consider the man's whole life as a body, that's in the negative column, and there's so much in the positive column."
John Paul II's accelerated path to sainthood — beatification usually takes decades — means that the late pope is being honored even as his legacy regarding his handling of the sex abuse case continues to be examined. A report by the Irish government is expected next month on recent failures by the church to confront sexual abuse in the rural diocese of Cloyne. The bishop in charge during the period under examination previously served as a private secretary to three popes, including John Paul II.
The Polish pope's ascent toward canonization can be compared to another papal candidacy for sainthood. Pope Pius XII was also revered during his lifetime, but has since become a much more controversial figure for his public silence in the face of the Holocaust. More than 50 years after his death, he remains on the path towards sainthood, but his case the process faces increasing opposition and he has not yet been beatified. "I don't think that John Paul was ever taken to full account by the news media during the last decade of his life," says Berry. "Hagiography at this point is premature at best and at worst an insult to the many people who have been harmed. There's a good chance it could backfire."
'He didn't do enough to help victims of clerical sex abuse'
By John Cooney Religion Correspondent
A PROMINENT survivor of clerical child sexual abuse last night said many victims would not still be suffering if Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Sean Brady had done their jobs properly.
Dubliner Andrew Madden was responding to comments made in Rome at the beatification ceremony which defended the late Pontiff from criticisms that he did not deal quickly and adequately with paedophile priest scandals that came to light during his reign.
Entering the controversy, the Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said: "I don't know how much he knew about the abuse. Perhaps he should have done more. I don't know."
But Dr Brady, who last year resisted calls for his resignation over his role in pledging to secrecy young victims of paedophile monk Brendan Smyth, insisted that if Pope John Paul "felt that he should have done more, he would have done it".
Dr Brady added: "So I think we will just have to leave that to the mercy of God."
But Mr Madden, who was the first Irish victim to make public his abuse by the notorious former priest Ivan Payne, said he had spent the day thinking of the victims who suffered from the ''cover-ups'' of Pope John Paul and Dr Brady.
"It was a day when it came into my mind the welfare of all clerical sex abuse victims which need not have happened if John Paul and Cardinal Brady had done the right thing," he told the Irish Independent.
Meanwhile, last night at a special Mass in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral in celebration of Pope John Paul, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin prayed for renewal in the church.
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The Bay Citizen - San Francisco May 1, 2011
Amid Celebration, Abuse Victims March on SF Mass
By TREY BUNDY
As the Catholic church moved closer to declaring Pope John Paul II a saint, a handful of Bay Area residents who were sexually abused by priests gathered Sunday outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. They came to tell church members that there is still a crisis in the Catholic Church.
“Our message today is to remind people of the importance of protecting children in light of the speeded-up beatification of the pope,” said Tim Lennon, a victim of clergy abuse and the San Francisco leader of SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests. “The speeded-up sainthood of the pope, to us, is merely a publicity action to regain some of their good name that they’ve lost because of all the thousands -- maybe tens of thousands -- of victims of clergy abuse.”
After John Paul II died in 2005, his successor, Pope Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year wait before beginning the late pope’s canonization process. Sunday’s beatification marked a major step toward sainthood.
But critics of the church’s handling of the global sex-abuse crisis, which broke open during John Paul II’s tenure, say he was complicit in the long-suspected church practice of covering up instances of abuse and reassigning rather than punishing predatory priests.
“If nothing else, he failed in the absence of doing anything,” Lennon said.
The demonstration was part of a worldwide action over the weekend that took place in 60 cities in seven countries. It was a quiet gathering in San Francisco, not so much a protest as a solemn statement to church members in the midst of their celebration.
Lennon, some of his relatives and four other abuse survivors stood on the sidewalk near the church during Sunday’s 11 o’clock mass, handing out flyers asking parishioners to pledge that they will report suspected child abuse in the church or anywhere else they find it.
Halfway through Sunday’s mass, George Wesolek, communications director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, stepped outside and strolled across the empty sun-washed plaza that separates the cathedral from the sidewalk along Geary Blvd., and introduced himself to Lennon. Both commented on the lovely spring weather before Lennon traded a flyer for one of Wesolek’s business cards.
As he walked back across the empty plaza, Wesolek read over the pledge.
“We’re supportive of the concept, definitely,” he said, nodding his head and reading on. “It’s great. It’s most worthy that they’re doing this.
Lennon and more than a dozen Bay Area abuse survivors have been meeting with the Archdiocese of San Francisco in recent months to demand the church improve its policies around sex abuse of children. Local bishops have taken the group’s proposals under advisement but have yet to decide whether they will take any action.
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