A Dutch journalist based in Poland revealed evidence on Friday that Pope John Paul II was involved in covering up the abuse of minors while he was the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Krakow. The journalist, Ekke Overbeek, spent the last two years combing through archives in Poland, where he resides, and found several cases where the prominent Catholic Church figure knew about priests who abused children and helped them evade punishment, including transferring them to other parishes.
“I found concrete cases of priests who abused children in the Archdiocese of Krakow, where the future pope was archbishop. The future pope knew about it and nevertheless transferred those men. That led to new victims,” Overbeek said to Nieuwsuur. The journalist studied publicly available documents from the secret services about the future pope from during his time living and working in Poland. He wrote a book about his findings, Maxima Culpa, which will be published next year in Polish.
“The documents that have been collected directly about Wojtyla have almost all been destroyed, but he is mentioned very often in other documents that have survived. And if you put them all together, they are puzzle pieces that form the picture of how he handled child abuse by priests, and how that has been dealt with.”
Born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland in 1920, Pope John Paul II was canonized as a saint after his death in 2005. He began studying to become a priest in a hidden seminary during World War II, and was ordained as a priest in 1946. Within eight years, while working in and around Krakow, he earned his doctorate as a student and teacher of ethics.
He climbed the ranks of the Catholic Church to become an auxiliary bishop in Krakow in 1958. He was appointed archbishop in 1964 and became a cardinal a few years later. By the time he became pope in 1984, the Catholic population of the Krakow Archdiocese had grown from over 1.2 million to over 2.1 million.
It was believed that he only first learned about sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church after receiving a report from an American priest in 1985. But Overbeek found documents from decades earlier about a priest named Eugeniusz Surgent, who was accused of abusing children.