The recent canonization of Pope John Paul II was an insult to the countless people who have been sexually abused by Catholic priests. During his papacy, from 1978-2005, this newly anointed “saint” remained silent as these predators targeted children in parishes around the world.
It is difficult to understand how Pope Francis could have approved of John Paul II’s elevation, never mind officiated at the ceremony. Many Catholics and observers think of Francis as a reformer who is working to modernize the Catholic Church, but there has been nothing revolutionary about his approach to the sex-abuse crisis. In fact, beyond offering lukewarm apologies for the harm that criminal priests have caused, Francis has done very little.
The pope said at a recent gathering at the Vatican: “I must take responsibility and ask forgiveness for the damage they have caused through sexual abuse of children. The church is aware of this damage. It is their own personal and moral damage, but they are men of the church.” His statements of regret are nice, but one would think that a so-called “revolutionary” like Francis would actually seek justice for victims. It is telling that Francis has not promised that the Vatican will promptly deliver criminal priests to the authorities.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis proclaimed John Paul II a saint on Sunday. The late pope met the criteria after he allegedly performed two miracles: healing a French nun who was stricken with Parkinson’s disease and a Costa Rican woman who suffered a brain aneurysm. Both women insist that John Paul II heard their prayers. Unfortunately, while he was alive, John Paul II failed to hear the prayers of the many victims of his friend and confidant, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. It is impossible to believe that the church’s policy of protecting and covering up for abusive priests like Maciel was unknown to John Paul II.
For instance, the Associated Press reported on April 21 that archive documents from the Vatican “show how a succession of papacies — including that of John XXIII, also to be canonized Sunday — simply turned a blind eye to credible reports that Maciel was a con artist, drug addict, pedophile and religious fraud.”
In addition, Alberto Athie, an author and a former Catholic priest in Mexico, told me in a recent interview for Univision that he had denounced Maciel to officials at the Holy See as early as 1999, though they did nothing about it because Maciel (who died in 2008) was close to John Paul II. In February, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report that condemned the past actions of the church and urged Vatican officials to remove all abusers from parishes and report them to the authorities.
It’s clear that John Paul II sided with abusers over victims. I cannot comprehend how the faithful can look up to a man who, through inaction, allowed the lives of so many children to be destroyed. Yes, he was a beloved, charismatic leader who extended the reach of the Catholic Church and contributed to communism’s demise. But his shameful failure to speak up and protect children is appalling.
While I want to believe that Francis is a leader who can remedy the church’s terrible legacy of abuse, he is ignoring this problem. I suspect that his tepidness on this subject will haunt him in future. Pope Francis will not be able to remain silent like John Paul II did.
Many Catholics believe that popes are infallible, but John Paul II was wrong when he protected criminals, and Pope Francis was wrong to beatify him. Among those thousands of victims, there are probably a few who think of John Paul II as the patron saint of predators.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s new television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of nine best-selling books, most recently, “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”