Pope was warned in '63 of abusive priests

A story is circulating this week out of Los Angeles noting that Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paraclete, an order with a mission to serve troubled priests, warned Pope Paul VI in a 1963 letter of the dangers of keeping in ministry priests who had sexually abused children.

For a fuller treatment of Fitzgerald's awareness of the danger of priest sex abusers and his persistent efforts to warn the hierarchy see NCR's report of a year ago. Fitzgerald's letter was actually a follow up to a personal visit with Paul VI during which he warned the pope of the danger posed by such priests to children and to the church.

In fact, Fitzgerald had begun warning bishops, using very strong language to characterize abusive priests, from the 1950s and for years after. He even put down a $5,000 downpayment on a Caribbean Island, convinced that because of the recidivism rate he witnessed among abusers, complete isolation was the only solution. His bishop wouldn't go for the idea and Fitzgerald was eventually eased out of power in the order. But he had some keen observations and seemed to understand a basic fact: molesting children could not be tolerated. Read the story from last March.

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