John Paul II: Unaccountable to the abused

The clergy sex abuse scandal is one defining element of John Paul II’s papacy. What one part of JPII’s legacy is most significant to you?

Sadly, the most significant but disappointing legacy of Pope John Paul II was his decision to play down the clergy sex abuse of minors.

He initially “blamed American culture” and didn’t treat it as a big deal. But particularly bad is that he thought to “rescue” Boston’s Cardinal Law from hostile critics by letting Law skulk over to Vatican City. By doing so, John Paul II rewarded or at least shrugged off Law’s disgusting pattern of transferring sexually abusive priests to other parishes, where of course they simply corralled more children and adolescent boys to engage in sexually deviant practices, ruining hundreds of lives. Pope John Paul II gave him a famous church in Rome to head and allowed him to continue serving as an active cardinal with important, newsworthy, media-covered roles at the Vatican.

Meanwhile, brave, persistent laity kept investigating the disgusting widespread crimes, and former victims dared to come forward, often suing the Archdiocese of Boston for multi-millions of dollars. Thus about 100 churches in the diocese were closed, nothing harsh happened to most priests, the only ones feeling punished were the thousands of laity who lost churches that they of course had paid for being built.

Despite Pope John Paul’s popular initiatives with youth and the public in general, his apparent pristine sanctity and intelligence has been called into obvious question by many who tracked down the history of ignored abuses by the Vatican and bishops around the world, leaving a sour taste in millions of people’s mouths, who have learned to distrust the hierarchy and its ways of dealing with such serious issues.

—Janette Cranshaw, a reader from Belmont, Massachusetts


Please accept my apologies but I do not believe John Paul II should be beatified. There is no reason for this fast track of beatification. His lack of responsibly handling the issues of of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ, is profoundly wrong. His lack of responsibly handling the issue of pedophiles among the clergy and his dictatorial position as pope does not permit me to favor his being beatified.

—David Stang, brother to Sister Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in Brazil


As someone who works with abused Christian women—many of whom have been abused by religious leaders—it is with confusion that I received the news of Pope John Paul II’s impending beatification. During his long tenure as pope, Karol Wojtyla ignored report after report of children and youth who were abused by Catholic religious leaders. He even helped promote Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, within the church while allegations of sexual abuse against Marcial rolled in over two decades.

Knowing this about his past, should Pope John Paul II be beatified as part of the process toward sainthood? Normally there is a waiting period after someone’s death so that their legacy may be reviewed and the passage of time can lend its wisdom to such a question. With the Vatican side-stepping its own rules about a waiting period, time won’t tell, but abuse survivors will continue to tell their stories and raise questions about whether the late-pope should be eligible for such an honor. 

—Nicole Sotelo, Director of Communications at Call To Action and Coordinator of

Read more about Pope John Paul II at

What one part of JPII’s legacy is most significant to you? Email a short response to Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.