Pope John Paul II Failure
Title: Records show that John Paul II could have intervened in abuse crisis – but didn’t
Sitting on a bookshelf in my office is a red leather-bound copy of the Code of Canon Law. This isn’t just any copy of the church’s rulebook. It was signed by Pope John Paul II for me at the request of my former boss, the late Cardinal Pio Laghi. It is dated 6-6-1983 in the late pope’s own hand. I was definitely a fan in those days.On Sunday after John Paul is promoted to sainthood, it will become a second-class relic. I will not venerate it, nor will I join the cheering crowds.
The past 30 years have led me to the opinion that his sainthood is a profound insult to the countless victims of sexual assault by Catholic clergy the world over. It is an insult to the decent, well-intentioned men and women who were persecuted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during his reign, and it is an insult to the memory of Pope John XXIII, who has the misfortune being a canonization classmate.
This soon-to-be relic is a symbol of the shame and the failure of the book’s content, the collection of church rules, and of the pope who autographed it. People more eloquent than I have publicly stated the many reasons why this is so. I won’t repeat their words here. However, I believe it is important to clarify some of the bizarre statements John Paul’s two main cheerleaders have been making.
George Weigel claimed there was an information gap between the United States and the Holy See in 2002. This is nonsense. There was no gap then, and there was no gap in 1984, when the abuse issue boiled to the surface of public awareness. I was working at the Vatican embassy in 1984 and have firsthand experience of the transmission of information to the Vatican.
The papal nuncio, Laghi, then an archbishop, received a letter in the summer of 1984 from the vicar general of Lafayette, La., telling him that a couple whose little boy had been violated by Gilbert Gauthe was suing Gauthe, the bishop, the diocese, the archbishop of New Orleans, the papal nuncio and the pope. Soon after, the nuncio received the official complaint. From then on, there was a constant flow of information from Lafayette to the nuncio and from another diocese that popped onto center stage for the same reason — Providence, R.I.
I was the conduit for most of the information and prepared daily memos for Archbishop Laghi. The usual procedure would have been to prepare a report for the Holy See, but that didn’t happen at this stage. Laghi was on the phone to various officials in the Vatican, including the Secretariat of State, which is as good as going directly to the pope. In our conversations about the problem, and there were many, he frequently made statements such as, “I have talked to my superiors in Rome” or “My superiors in Rome” have said such and so.
In late February, I suggested to the archbishop that we ask the Holy Father to appoint a U.S. bishop to go to the Lafayette diocese as a special investigator to both see firsthand what was going on and to try to put some order into what was a rapidly growing chaotic mess. I suggested the late Bishop A.J. Quinn of Cleveland. Although my intentions were good, he was a mistake. Before long, it became obvious that he was part of the problem and not part of the solution.