In his 2015 The Francis Miracle, John Allen, as part of his attempt to make Pope Francis appear to be cracking down on clerical abuse of minors, makes some interesting observations on how both John Paul II and Benedict XVI responded to the sex abuse crisis that contradict the neocon defense of John Paul II’s handling of the crisis.
The Catholic neocon argument largely goes as follows: John Paul II, the greatest pontiff since Pope St. Gregory the Great, was a shrewd observer of world politics and a brilliant philosopher and theologian. He was specially given to the Church by the Holy Spirit to inaugurate a New Spring of Evangelization in the Church and final rid it of its reactionary past.
However, at the same time, this great saint was completely oblivious to the sex abuse crisis that was ravaging the Church, which he inherited from previous generations (but, in no way, were Popes John XXIII or Paul VI responsible for this degeneracy). John Paul II only learned of a major crisis with the rest of the world in 2002 and thus, with the help of George Weigel, was able to set the matter straight.
In The Francis Miracle, John Allen tells a different story. Allen notes that as early as 1993, John Paul was apologizing for the abuse crisis. What is more, as other writers such as Randy Engel have noted, John Paul II’s Vatican seemed largely indifferent to the pleas of abuse victims until world wide media coverage forced him to react more aggressively.
Allen also reveals the story of Maltese monsignor Charles Scicluna who relays that Joseph Ratzinger had a “conversion experience” in 2001 after reading the files of every priest accused of abuse in the world.
However, while the first story seems true, the second seems rather suspicious. How could the head of the CDF not know that there was a large scale abuse crisis when stories were pouring in long before 2002?
Furthermore, why didn’t John Paul II do something to stop the crisis?