It’s not just former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The record of Pope John Paul II on clergy sex abuse is also coming under scrutiny in Poland and France.

– John Paul II’s role in the McCarrick scandal

This November 10 the Vatican published its monumental ‘McCarrick Report’, a 450-page exposé detailing how the former Archbishop of Washington rose through the Church’s ranks while at the same time abusing minors, seminarians and young priests.

Among other things, the Vatican’s report concludes that John Paul II “personally made the decision to appoint McCarrick” to the archdiocese of Washington in 2000, going against the warnings he had received that it would be “imprudent” to promote McCarrick from Newark due to accusations he had engaged in pedophilia and sexual activity with priests and had also shared a bed with seminarians.

“Though there is no direct evidence, it appears likely from the information obtained that John Paul II’s past experience in Poland regarding the use of spurious allegations against bishops to degrade the standing of the Church played a role in his willingness to believe McCarrick’s denials” of the abuse claims against him at the time, the Vatican affirms.

But the late Polish pope’s questionable moves with regard to McCarrick aren’t the only question marks now being raised over his record on abuse.

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has asked the Vatican to “clarify” the role in abuse cover-ups of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served as John Paul II’s private secretary from 1966 to 2005 and also ministered as Archbishop of Krakow from 2005 until his retirement in 2016.

– Cardinal Dziwisz accused of covering up child abuse in Legion of Christ, receiving money from controversial order

Dziwisz appears in the ‘McCarrick Report’ as being instrumental in John Paul’s decision to finally appoint McCarrick to Washington despite the serious accusations against him.

But in a new documentary that aired on Polish TV November 9, Dziwisz was also accused of the cover-up of child abuse in the Legion of Christ and of also receiving “large sums of money” from that order.

“Following the report broadcast by TVN24 yesterday… where [Dziwisz] was accused of negligence in the investigation of sexual abuse by representatives of the clergy, I hope that the relevant Vatican commission will clarify all the doubts raised”, Polish Bishops’ head Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki said in a statement after the documentary premiere.

– Former nuncio in Paris first appointed by John Paul II goes on trial in Paris

In France, in the meantime, another John Paul II prótége has gone on trial for alleged sexual aggressions.

Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the former nuncio in Paris, is accused of five counts of the sex assault of adult men which could bring him fines and up to five years imprisonment.

His trial began yesterday in a Paris courtroom despite the fact that is still in Rome, with his doctors alleging that it is “completely unreasonable” for the 75-year-old prelate to travel to the French capital during the second wave of the coronavirus.

At John Paul II’s pleasure, Ventura served as nuncio to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Niger (1995-1999), to Chile (1999-2001) and to Canada (2001-2009).

It is in that last country where assault accusations against him first began to emerge, even if they did not hit the headlines until his posting in Paris (2009-2019).

In February 2019, a Canadian man accused Ventura of touching his buttocks at least twice during a 2008 banquet. The man’s claims are similar to the allegations against the former Vatican diplomat in Paris, where he is also accused of groping and inappropriate touching.

In contrast to the previous Vatican inaction against Ventura, Pope Francis waived the former nuncio’s diplomatic immunity in July 2019, paving the way for him to be tried in France.

Next on Novena:

Church faces reckoning on clergy sex abuse in Poland, France with punishment of cardinal, publication of new report

More on the Vatican ‘McCarrick Report’:

11/11: General Audience: Pope rues “sad” ‘McCarrick Report’, renews Church’s commitment to eradicate “evil” of clergy sex abuse

Vatican releases report on ex-cardinal McCarrick, says John Paul hired him, Benedict fired but did not try him and Francis trusted in predecessors

More on the spotlight on Cardinal Dziwisz:

Cardinal Dziwisz asked to explain why he failed to act on 2012 complaint from priest in 2012 about abusive colleague

More on the accusations against Archbishop Luigi Ventura


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.