Southern Religion

Pope Paul VI Knew Five Decades Ago

The correct and authoritative recommendation was made in an Aug. 27, 1963 letter to then-Pope Paul VI from the head of the New Mexico-based Servants of the Holy Paraclete, which was founded to treat priests dealing with challenges such as alcoholism, substance abuse and sexuality. The Rev. Gerald M.C. Fitzgerald recommended to the pope that pedophile priests be removed from the ministry.


Indeed, he later developed a plan for isolating such priests on an island, where they could live out their lives in some dignity without harming others.

Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiff attorney in Los Angeles, released the letter Wednesday. It was obtained by plaintiffs in Kentucky who are attempting to sue the Vatican for negligence in allegedly failing to alert police or the public about priests who molested children.

Even if Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is correct in arguing that the pope probably never saw the letter, it is clear that the letter gives written form to ideas that Pope Paul VI and Fitzgerald had discussed when they met. At the time Fitzgerald had two decades’ experience working with problem priests and warned against leaving sexually abusive priests in the ministry.

The letter to Pope Paul VI was not the only one Fitzgerald wrote to church officials. In 1957, Fitzgerald wrote to Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne of Santa Fe, his ecclesiastical sponsor and co-founder of the Paracletes:

“May I beg your Excellency to concur and approve of what I consider a very vital decision on our part – that we will not offer hospitality to men who have seduced or attempted to seduce little boys or girls. These men Your Excellency are devils and the wrath of God is upon them and if I were a bishops I would tremble when I failed to report them to Rome for involuntary laicization. … It is for this class of rattlesnake I have always wished the island retreat – but even an island is too good for these vipers of whom the Gentle master said – it were better they had not been born – this is an indirect way of saying damned, is it not? When I see the Holy Father I am going to speak of this class to his Holiness.”

DeMarco said, “It [the letter to Pope Paul VI] shows without a shadow of a doubt that … how pervasive the problem was was communicated to the pope. He was able to share with him their knowledge of how pervasive this problems was, how destructive this problem was.”

Whether plaintiffs in this case are successful in their effort to bring action directly against the Pope or not, the days of persuasive basic denial are over.

The letter tells us that the well-documented recommendations of the Roman Catholic Church’s expert on such matters were communicated directly to then-Pope Paul VI almost five decades ago

Had those recommendations been heeded, so much of the devastation brought to the lives of the young by serial clerical abusers would never have occurred at all. Victims known and unknown, counted and uncounted, would have had real childhoods and would have grown up whole.

April 1, 2010 - Posted by | Catholic, children | , ,

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