Illustration photo – Visit of Pope John Paul II. in the Czech Republic – Ecumenical meeting with the participation of the President of the Republic. From left: Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Hradec Králové Karel Otčenášek and Miloslav Vlk during mass.
Warsaw – Pope John Paul II. in the days when he was the archbishop of Krakow, he knew that several priests under him were abusing children, and he tried to cover up their actions. This information was provided in a report broadcast on Monday evening by the Polish news television TVN24. It talks about three priests whom Karol Wojtyla, later Saint John Paul II, moved between parishes in the 1970s, sent to a monastery or to Austria after they were accused of abusing children.
The author of the report, Marcin Gutowski, was based on documents collected by the communist secret security, which tried to discredit the influential Catholic Church in Poland and had informants in its ranks. The documents are stored in the Institute of National Remembrance. Gutowski also spoke to abuse victims and the man who told Wojtył in the 1970s about priest Eugeniusz Surgent abusing children. Wojtyla allegedly begged him not to report it anywhere. Another time, Wojtyla wrote in a letter to former Vienna archbishop Franz König that he recommended priest Boleslaw Saduš to his care. However, he did not mention that Saduś abused minor boys, although according to experts in church law he should have done so. A Polish priest became a parish priest in Austria. Wojtyla was in contact with him even after he became Pope in 1978. Sadus was also registered by the secret police as a secret collaborator.
Surgent and another priest, Józef Lorenc, were given shorter prison terms by the Polish courts for abusing children.
In the report, Marcin Gutowski concluded that there was no doubt that Wojtyla knew that some priests in his archdiocese were guilty of child abuse and tried to cover it up. The Dominican monk Pawel Gužyński said on TVN24 today that the findings will lead to “dissolving the image of John Paul II that we have had of him so far”. He added that some people may not be ready to deal with new realities.
John Paul II. for a long time he has been considered a great moral authority in Poland, in the times of communism he meant a huge spiritual support for Poles. He was canonized in 2014.
The AP agency writes that the TVN24 report aroused passionate reactions in Poland. According to some, it is an attempt by left-wing forces to destroy the memory of John Paul II, others demand that the Catholic Church publish the truth. Poland's conservative Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki posted a picture of the Pope greeting crowds of believers in his Twitter header and added the Pope's well-known motto “Don't be afraid” to it. Radoslaw Brzózka, head of the political cabinet of the Minister of Education, wrote on Twitter that “John Paul II is being attacked by those who want cultural suicide for the Poles”. The editor-in-chief of the liberal portal gazeta.pl, Rafal Madajczak, thinks that “it is time to rewrite the biography of John Paul II.” Jesuit priest Krzysztof Mondel reminded that when talking about child abuse, the most important thing is not Wojtyla, but the victims who need the truth like air. Representatives of the Polish Catholic Church responsible for the protection of children and youth said that further research into archival sources is needed for a fair assessment of Karol Wojtyla's behavior. They added that the church is ready to accept, listen and provide support to all people who were harmed by clergy years ago and are still dealing with the consequences of their suffering.