Polish Catholic university defends St. John Paul II against ‘slander’ in wake of McCarrick Report

Pope John Paul II at prayer in 1991. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano.

A Polish Catholic university rejected Saturday claims that St. John Paul II failed to combat clerical abuse.

The rector’s college of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin said 14 November that the assertions had no factual basis and lamented the “fallacious accusations, calumnies, and slander directed recently against our patron saint.”

In a statement, the rector and vice-chancellors of the university in eastern Poland said: “The subjective theses expressed by some circles are by no means substantiated by facts and objective findings — for example, presented in the report of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State on Theodore McCarrick.” 

The publication of the McCarrick Report 10 November unleashed an avalanche of criticism of John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick as archbishop of Washington in 2000 and made him a cardinal a year later. 

The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin — known by its Polish initials, KUL — said that critics of the Polish pope ignored the steps he had taken to combat abuse. 

The rector’s college statement, which began by recognising the pain and injustice suffered by abuse survivors, said that John Paul II led the global fight against clerical abuse, introducing the principle of “zero tolerance.”

It cited the pope’s 1993 letter to U.S. bishops, in which he recalled Jesus’ words that “for him who gives scandal it would be better to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

“As early as 1993, John Paul II was pointing out to U.S. bishops that, in the case of sexual crimes, canonical punishments, including expulsion from the priesthood, were necessary and fully justified,” the statement said.

The rector’s college also noted that in 2002 the Polish pope urged U.S. cardinals to promptly address the crime of abuse.  

“He also addressed similar words to the bishops of Ireland, speaking of the ‘devilish nature’ of these acts and the need to detect and punish the perpetrators,” it said.

The statement recalled that in 2001, John Paul II published the motu proprioSacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,” requiring clerical abuse cases worldwide to be reported to Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“In the face of these facts, we express our firm objection to the authors of false and biased publications that do not intend to promote the good of abuse victims and the unconditional protection of children and youth but to defame the good name of St. John Paul II and so undermine his authority,” the statement said.

The intervention by the rector’s college came a day after the president of the Polish bishops’ conference argued that John Paul II was deceived by McCarrick. 

In a 13 November statement, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki said: “Before McCarrick’s nomination to Washington, the pope did not receive from the American bishops full and complete information about his moral behavior, and McCarrick himself lied — in a letter of Aug. 6, 2000 — that he had no sexual relations with anyone.”

The archbishop of Poznań was referring to a section of the 461-page report which said that John Paul II asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States in 2000 to contact four New Jersey bishops about whether McCarrick had behaved improperly with young adults. 

The bishops confirmed that the then archbishop of Newark had shared a bed with young men, “but did not indicate with certainty that McCarrick had engaged in any sexual misconduct.”

The report concluded that three of the four bishops gave the Vatican “inaccurate and incomplete information.”

The Catholic University of Lublin was founded by the Polish bishops in 1918. It was shut down during the Nazi occupation and many of its professors and students were executed. 

In 1954, Karol Wojtyła, the future John Paul II, began to lecture on ethics at the university. He was appointed to the Chair of Ethics in the university’s Department of Christian Philosophy, forming a link to the institution that lasted until his election as pope in 1978. 

He visited KUL in June 1987, giving a speech in which he said that academic institutions were called to “build up a community of people free in the truth.”

Months after the pope’s death in 2005, KUL adopted its present name: the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.

Last month, KUL’s rector, Fr. Mirosław Kalinowski, urged academics across the world to sign an appeal committing themselves to promoting the teachings of St. John Paul II.

The statement by the rector’s college concluded: “St. John Paul II’s person, personalistic style of action and teaching are for us an example, a source of inspiration, and a marker in our daily struggle for the respect for the dignity and sacred inviolability of every human person.” 

“They indeed represent the highest imperative urging the protection of children and adolescents, that is the people most exposed to exploitation and various forms of manipulation.” 

Source: CNA