The Catholic Church is among the largest, oldest and most entrenched organizations in the world. As such, when the Church does anything quickly it is almost certainly newsworthy. That’s one reason why Catholics here and Pennsylvania and around the country have been talking about the canonization of Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005.
The process of canonizing a saint can be extraordinarily lengthy. And in the past, some individuals were not considered for sainthood until centuries after their death. It is unusual, then, that Pope John Paul II should have been canonized so quickly and decisively.
But not everyone agrees that he deserves to be recognized as a saint. Among the most vocal opponents are those who advocate for the victims of clergy sexual abuse, including groups like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. They argue that despite the former Pope’s reputation as a champion of human rights, he essentially ignored the child sex abuse scandal and, in doing so, allowed it to continue.
Commenting on the issue, a representative for SNAP said that “the canonization of Pope John Paul II is very traumatic for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church because they don’t see him as the unifying figure that many other Catholics do. They see him as someone who knew about sexual abuse, covered it up, promoted wrong doers and allowed more priests to molest kids.”
The priest sex abuse scandal and its aftermath continue to play out in courtrooms and therapists’ offices across the country, including here in Philadelphia. To those whose lives have been deeply affected by the crimes of supposedly holy men, it is probably hard to understand why preventing future abuse and compensating victims are not the Church’s top priorities.
Source: Southern California Public Radio, “Some victims of Catholic Church sex abuse oppose Pope John Paul II reaching sainthood,” Shirley Jahad, April 24, 2014