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Vatican dismisses criticism of John Paul II over abuses

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, postulator of late Pope John Paul II, right, speaks during a press conference in Vatican City, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican on Tuesday brushed off accusations that late pope John Paul II was aware of and ignored allegations about sexual abuse carried by the Mexican founder of a powerful Catholic movement.

"There is no personal implication of the Holy Father in this affair," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told a news conference on Sunday's ceremony to confer sainthood on popes John Paul II and John XXIII.

The scandal over Marcial Maciel, who founded the Legion of Christ and was a serial predator, was one of thousands of cases of sexual abuse by clergymen that began to come to light under John Paul II's papacy.

Allegations about Maciel began surfacing in the 1980s but were consistently ignored by the Vatican hierarchy, which instead approved bylaws for the group that effectively banned internal criticism of Maciel and allowed a personality cult to flourish around him.

He was eventually found to have molested many seminarians and abused children he had fathered with different women despite his vows of chastity.

The story of the Legion, whose members are referred to as Legionaries, was seen as one of the major stumbling blocks in the sainthood cause for the Polish pope.

Campaigners accuse John Paul II more generally of putting the interests of the Catholic Church above all and turning a blind eye to child sex abuse allegations.

The pope condemned the abuses during a visit to the United States in 2002 but his successor Benedict XVI went much further by publicly apologising, defrocking priests and calling for a zero-tolerance policy.

 

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