ROME – Polish Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz has issued a letter thanking Pope Francis for recent comments defending the late Saint John Paul II’s holiness and his handling of the case of Mexican abuser priest Marcial Maciel.
Dziwisz, who himself faces pressure over his role in accomodating ex-cardinal and ex-priest Theodore McCarrick’s rise through ecclesial ranks, in a May 29 letter thanked Francis for “putting an end to attempts to defame the Polish Pope, saying that no one can doubt the holiness of John Paul II.”
His comments follow those made by Francis himself during a lengthy interview with Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, a longtime Vatican correspondent for Mexico’s Televisa.
During the interview, Francis praised the efforts of both John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI in the investigation into allegations against Maciel, the infamous founder of the Legionaries of Christ who in 2006 was removed from ministry after being found guilty by the Vatican of leading a double life, including sexually abusing minors.
“In that, Ratzinger was brave. And John Paul II,” Francis said, saying that regarding John Paul, certain attitudes must be understood, “because he came from a closed world, the iron curtain, communism was still in force there…and there was a defensive mentality, or that he knew a thousand things from that world.”
“We have to understand well, no one can doubt the sanctity and goodwill of this man. He was great, a great man,” Francis said.
John Paul II, who was canonized by Francis in 2014, has come under fire in recent months for his record in not only being an ardent supporter of Maciel until accusations came out, but also for his role in promoting McCarrick.
If was John Paul II, for example, who gave McCarrick all three of his episcopal assignments in the United States – Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981; Newark in 1986; and Washington, D.C. in 2000 – as well as making him a cardinal in 2001.
In his letter, Dziwisz said there has been a “repetition in the media of false information that misleads many people” regarding John Paul and outlined efforts the Polish pontiff made in terms of child protection.
Dziwisz, served as Karol Wojtyła’s personal secretary for 12 years in Krakow before accompanying him to the Vatican for the 27 years of his pontificate, has also has featured in questions into how McCarrick continued to rise to power as rumors of alleged sexual misconduct swirled in hushed voices throughout the Church.
There’s long been speculation that key aids of John Paul II, including Dziwisz, who valued the support McCarrick delivered to the Solidarity movement in Poland, had a hand in McCarrick’s ecclesial career. The theory is that those architects of John Paul’s papacy chose to ignore question marks about McCarrick since he was useful to them in other areas.
Some Vatican-watchers have suggested the Vatican’s slow progress on investigating the McCarrick situation is due to the fact that the outcome could stain the legacy of John Paul and key aids such as Dziwisz and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, John Paul’s Secretary of State, both of whom were in power as McCarrick made his way up the ladder.
Follow Elise Harris on Twitter: @eharris_it
Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.