The “explosive” allegations based on Polish archive documents “cast doubt” on the late pontiff’s sainthood
A Dutch journalist based in Poland has claimed to have found archival documents that incriminate Pope John Paul II in shielding priests allegedly involved in the sexual abuse of children during his tenure as archbishop.
The late Pope, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, headed the Archdiocese of Krakow between 1964 and 1978. During that time, he knew of several priests in his diocese, who stood accused of molesting minors, and helped cover up their alleged crimes, according to Ekke Overbeek.
An upcoming book written by Overbeek is set to detail the evidence and conclusions from his three-year investigation. Last week, the author gave an overview of his discoveries to the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur.
According to the journalist, many of the documents directly detailing the service of Archbishop and later Cardinal Wojtyla in Krakow were destroyed, but he managed to find enough papers mentioning him tangentially to piece together a case against him.
One of the accused sex offenders, he said, was a priest named Eugeniusz Surgent. According to information gleaned from a roommate, Surgent had asked for forgiveness from Wojtyla, vowing that “it would never happen again.” He broke that promise, Overbeek said.
In November, the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita printed an investigation into Surgent, who was sentenced to three years in prison for abusing six boys in the 1970s. The priest, who died in 2008, allegedly proceeded to molest more victims in the 1980s and his sex abuse conviction never barred him from holding his priesthood.
Tom Doyle, an ordained Catholic priest who has dedicated his life to exposing the abuse of minors by members of the clergy, called the evidence collected by Overbeek “explosive.”
“It’s thorough and it’s true. It overturns the Pope’s former image,” he told the Dutch media. “He wasn’t part of the solution, he was part of the problem. He did nothing.”
Pope John Paul II died in 2005. Pope Francis canonized his predecessor in 2014 in a move that some people, including Overbeek, argue was too hasty.
Supporters of the late Pope claimed that he was not aware of the abuse of children under his watch until the mid-1980s, and even then believed the problem to be specific to American clergy, the journalist said. The new discoveries “cast doubt on his sainthood.”