Prelate exonerates John Paul of turning blind eye to abuse case

Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:53am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Catholic prelate who led the campaign to make the late Pope John Paul a saint exonerated the pontiff on Tuesday against accusations he turned a blind eye to one of the Church's biggest sexual abuse scandals.

Victims of sexual abuse quickly criticized the prelate's defense of John Paul, who died in 2005 and will be made a saint at a ceremony this weekend along with Pope John XXII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963.

While the late Polish pope is almost universally hailed for his role in helping bring about the fall of communism, his critics say he was slow to grasp the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis that emerged towards the end of his pontificate.

Specifically, critics have been pressing the Vatican over what the pope knew about sexual abuse by Father Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of a disgraced Catholic religious order, the Legionaries of Christ.

Maciel lived a doubled life for years as a pedophile, womanizer and drug addict while running the order he founded and being held up as an example of an outstanding religious leader. The order had many wealthy conservative benefactors who saw it as a bulwark against liberalism in the Church.

"There is no sign of a personal involvement of the Holy Father in his matter," Monsignor Slawomir Oder said when asked what the pope knew about Maciel's misdeeds.

Oder, a Pole who was "postulator" of the cause to make John Paul a saint, said documents studied during the sainthood investigation gave a "a response that was very clear" exonerating the pope from personal blame in the Maciel case.

For years, the worldwide order enjoyed the backing of the pope and the Vatican dismissed accusations by seminarians that Maciel had abused them sexually, some when they were as young as 12.   Continued...

Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. REUTERS/Tony Gentile