The beatification, set for May 1st, of Pope John Paul II is especially painful for survivors of clergy sex abuse. The following open letter to Pope Benedict illustrates the depth of the anguish. It was written by Robert Wilford, an Alachua, Florida commissioner, and a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. It appeared in The North Florida Herald.
"Here stand I. I can do no other. So help me God!"
These courageous words proclaimed at the Diet of Worms in 1521 are attributed to Martin Luther when he was directed by this church's legislative body to deny or defend his teachings or suffer the consequences of excommunication as a heretic from the Roman Catholic Church.
I, too, must take Martin Luther's stance and challenge your inexplicable actions in seeking to have Pope John Paul II canonized as one of the church's saints.
John Paul's dastardly behavior, in not addressing the clergy sexual abuse issue confronting his church while he was the leader of the world's Catholics, disqualifies him from this exalted position.
Herefore, it is blasphemy to the Nth degree on your part as the current leader of Catholicism to propose canonization for this unworthy pope.
Saints do not shirk their responsibility in doing what is right no matter the consequences.
John Paul FAILED MISERABLY in performing up to the level of a saint by protecting sexual predators while ignoring the needs of victims of the heinous crimes committed by priests.
A saint should have courage to say: "We, the popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests of the Roman Catholic Church have been grievously and sinfully wrong since the very beginning of the church's history in protecting predator priests at the expense of the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
"Humbly, in the sight of God, we openly admit our culpability and, in professing our shame, ask for forgiveness from our Creator and all humanity for the unspeakable sins we have committed throughout our history as a church against victimized children and their families."
John Paul FAILED MISERABLY for not cleansing his church from its centuries of sin committed against humankind!
As a survivor of four years of clergy sexual abuse in the early 1960s and author of a book, not yet published, entitled, "Wear a Collar, Rape a Child: Surviving Centuries of Sin Committed by Mother Church Demanding There Be No Sainthood for Pope John Paul II," I conclude that Pope John Paul had at least three opportunities during his tenure to do what was ethically, morally, and pastorally right in addressing the clergy sexual abuse crisis confronting the Roman Catholic Church.
The first opportunity for John Paul to cleanse his church presented itself in America in the mid 1980s with the revelation of a clergy sexual abuse crisis in Louisiana. There is no doubt in my mind that John Paul should have seized this opportunity to speak to the world's Catholics and tell them that the Vatican would be forever proactive in ridding the church of pedophiliac (victims normally under the age of 12) and ephebophiliac (victims normally between the ages of 12 and 17) priests through laicization, and that the children are indeed precious in the sight of Jesus.
John Paul was SHAMEFULLY silent! He FAILED MISERABLY in not seizing the day for justice for victims of clergy sexual abuse and for Catholicism itself!
A second opportunity presented itself in the 1990s highlighted primarily by the Massachusetts clergy sexual abuse scandal of deceit and cover-up under the unconscionable leadership of Cardinal Law of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Instead of taking the ethical, moral and pastoral high ground in exercising the Vatican's God-given responsibility to protect the church's children from being sodomized by priests, John Paul was despicable in his actions by condoning the criminal acts that were committed by Cardinal Law of which I am sure the pope knew had been ongoing for at least a decade.
He unthinkably continued to put the needs of Cardinal Law, the church's bishops, and even sexually abusive priests, above those of victims of clergy sexual abuse.
John Paul stayed SHAMEFULLY silent! He FAILED MISERABLY in not seizing the day for justice for victims of clergy sexual abuse and for Catholicism itself!
Armed with a third opportunity in 2002 to heal his church, John Paul instead refused to admit that the magnitude of the clergy sexual abuse dilemma confronting Catholicism was invoking a worldwide crisis, and it was not just an American phenomenon.
Thousands of reports of clergy sexual abuse and billions of dollars in settlements had been made, and John Paul still failed to lead his church out of chaos.
John Paul remained SHAMEFULLY silent! He FAILED MISERABLY in not seizing the day for justice for victims of clergy sexual abuse and for Catholicism itself!
In 1993, I reported the priest who sexually abused me to the Diocese of Birmingham, the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, several American bishops, America's cardinals, and to Pope John Paul II himself.
During a 2-year battle in attempting to have this ephebophile removed from the priesthood, I was ignored by the leaders of my church, and this priest remained in ministry at the Chancery in Birmingham.
Then, in 2002, only after I challenged this abusive priest's ministry once again and, after my story was printed in The Decatur Daily (Alabama) and several other victims of this priest came forward as a result of my revelation, he was finally forced into retirement in June 2002.
This wayward priest died in 2010.
I urge you to reconsider your proposal in having Pope John Paul II canonized as one of the church's saints. You are doing an unspeakable disservice to Catholicism in proposing John Paul receive status as a saint.
Will you have the ethical, moral, and pastoral courage to do what is right? I pray that you will.
Robert W. Wilford