VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Polish priest who has spearheaded the case to make Pope John Paul II a saint said Tuesday that no documentation exists linking the pontiff personally to the scandal of the Legion of Christ religious order.
John Paul and his closest advisers had held up the Legion and its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, as a model for the faithful, even though the Vatican for decades had documentation with credible allegations that Maciel was a pedophile and drug addict with a questionable spiritual life.
Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator for John Paul's sainthood case, told reporters that based on documentation available for the saint-making investigation, "There is no sign of personal involvement of the Holy Father in this case."
Oder didn't mention John Paul's closest advisers, who were among Maciel's staunchest supporters. These cardinals still were praising Maciel's work years after the Vatican in 2006 ordered him to observe a lifetime of penance and prayer for having sexually abused seminarians.
No documentation has emerged suggesting that John Paul himself knew Maciel was a pedophile and fraud. But the Maciel case was an issue of concern for two Vatican offices, the Congregation for Religious and later the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which in 1998 received a legal complaint from a half-dozen former Legion priests alleging he had sexually abused them.
The case languished until Maciel was sentenced in 2006, a year after John Paul died.
Many of Maciel's victims accuse John Paul's inner circle of having intervened to block the case from moving forward and, more recently, of having prevented a full investigation into how Maciel's fraud was able to go on for so long.
Asked Tuesday about John Paul's overall record on sexual abuse, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that sainthood isn't a judgment on a papacy or even an evaluation of someone's perfection in life.
"The important thing is that the intentions were upright and that there was respect," Lombardi said. "This does not mean that he or she was perfect."
The Legion scandal is the most egregious case of how the Catholic hierarchy for decades turned a blind eye to victims of sexual abuse and instead sought to protect the institution. Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion in 2010 and set it on a path of reform. Pope Francis now is considering whether to approve the Legion's new constitutions.
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