Catholics around the world are celebrating the sainthood of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. The historic canonization this weekend has stirred controversy for some victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Pope John Paul II is widely credited with helping melt down the Iron Curtain, traveling the world and supporting oppressed people. Officials with the L.A. Archdiocese said he is particularly popular in Los Angeles, where 75 percent of parishioners are Latino. They say Pope John Paul II visited Mexico more than any other country besides Poland, his homeland.
Now Pope John Paul II is reaching sainthood in record time. But some say he should not be named a saint because of the church sex abuse scandal.
The pontiff “turned a blind eye to the problems that were happening in Los Angeles,” said Joelle Casteix, Western Regional Director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“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,” Casteix said. “They see him as someone who knew about sexual abuse, covered it up, promoted wrong doers and allowed more priests to molest kids.”
The sex abuse scandal has cost the L.A. Archdiocese hundreds of millions of dollars in legal settlements alone.
Casteix acknowledges that Pope John Paul II may have said many things against the oppression of communism. But she says he failed to speak up for abused children.
“A true saint would stand up and say what you are doing is wrong. And say I will make it publicly known. And I don’t care if it's bad public relations. And I don’t care if people are upset," Casteix said. "Because we must reward the good and punish the wrong and protect the vulnerable.”
The L.A. Archdiocese acknowledges the stain of the scandal.
“Obviously this sex abuse is a sad mark on the church. And we all feel terrible for the victims,” said Father Edward Benioff, Director of New Evangelization at the LA Archdiocese.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away all the good actions of Pope John Paul II.
“Preaching for the poor, for the immigrant, for the unborn and anyone marginalized or isolated,” Benioff said.
He calls the sex abuse scandal a complex issue. He says it's not clear the Pope knew what was happening, and the whole body of Pope John Paul II's tenure as head of the Catholic Church tells a different story.
“If someone looks at his life authentically, they would see he was a champion of human rights," Benioff said. "And in no way would he ever want to cover up or allow children or anybody to be abused or violated. Because that was just against everything he stood for.”
And he said despite the controversy, Pope John Paul II remains popular among many faithful.
“Even at his funeral, the crowd in Vatican City were yelling out ‘Sainthood Now!’” Benioff said. “So this is no surprise to us Catholics that John Paul II is being canonized because even in his own life, he was recognized as very saintly.”