This Saturday night at 8:00 PM (ET) CNN will air a special one-hour
documentary about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. The program,
entitled What the Pope Knew will be reported by Gary Tuchman.
I spoke to him about what he found. Here is part one (of three) of an edited transcript of that interview.
JWK: How did this documentary come to be?
We have done a lot of stories about what had happened in the Catholic
Church but what was notable — and what gave us the idea for this hour
— were two things.
One. Pope Benedict has done more than any
other pope to combat it. He’s the only pope that ever met with victims
and made public apologies. That’s very notable.
combined with fact that one of the victims in our hour is suing Pope
Benedict and the Vatican. That’s the first time that’s happened.
Those two things together we thought made this ripe for a comprehensive and fair hour looking at this very important topic.
JWK: What did you think you’d find and what did you actually find?
have found previously secret Church documents — that have been secret
for decades but were subpoenaed and we were able to get access to them
— and these previously secret documents unequivocally show that
Cardinal Ratzinger — today’s Pope Benedict — knew about sexual
molestations in the Church as early as the 1980’s when he was the head
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That bishops in the
United States, specifically bishops in Oakland, Milwaukie (and)
Springfield, Illinois were sending Cardinal Ratzinger desperate letters
— please remove this abusive priest from our diocese, please laicize
and defrock him.
In some cases these priests were already
convicted. They were already in jail. But they were still priests. But
the response, unfortunately, from Cardinal Ratzinger and the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was often a situation where
Ratzinger opposed or slowed down the defrocking of these priests —
including these convicted child molesters.
What’s notable about
that is that Cardinal Ratzinger was very involved in silencing,
censoring or firing dozens of priests who differed with the Vatican
about doctrine but, when it came to this, the philosophy was to delay,
ask for more time, more evidence.
We were very fortunate and
delighted that one of the Pope’s top aides did an interview with us in
the Vatican, (Vatican Prosecutor) Monsignor Charles Scicluna. And what
was interesting is he tells us even back then the local bishops could
have made decisions on their own — and should have decisions on their
own to get these priests away from kids. And it was known that they
could do that — but if they knew that why were they sending desperate
letters to Cardinal Ratzinger asking for it and doing it repeatedly?
Even the bishops didn’t know that! So, that’s what’s disturbing.
argument is things were different back then. But, you know what?
Children are children and they were being molested and nothing was
being done about their molesters. The police weren’t told, the public
wasn’t being told and the bishops in the United States were getting no
adequate response from Cardinal Ratzinger.
JWK: So some bishops were actually trying to deal with it and were told by the Vatican to cool it?
Right. We have the bishop in Oakland writing to Cardinal Ratzinger that
I have this priest who wants to be defrocked (and) is a convicted
molester. Please defrock him. And letters with Cardinal Ratzinger’s
signature came back — we need more information. We gotta remember the
good of the Universal Church.
Now, to some, that means he’s
concerned about the reputation of the Church. The Vatican today is
telling us that was just a stock phrase that was used, that more
investigation was needed. Either way, nothing was done.
to be very clear. We are not criticizing the institution of the
Catholic Church in this documentary. That’s not what this is about.
We’re criticizing molesters and why molesters weren’t stopped earlier
— like they are today.
JWK: You don’t have to condemn the entire Church to say that the bureaucracy got in the way.
I’ve done stories like this for many years and I constantly have had
good and great priests come up to me and say thank you. We can’t even
hug the children in our parish anymore because we’re afraid. And these
bad priests have done this to us. They’ve impugned this great religion
by their activity and actions. They made things bad for us.
dedicate this to the good priests and the hundreds of millions of
faithful Catholic lay people who deserve better than these pedophile
priests who, unfortunately, could have been stopped quicker.
TOMORROW: How the Vatican cooperated with the making of the documentary