Polish personal secretary to Pope John Paul II accused of turning blind eye to sexual abuse

Matthew Day
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz - GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz - GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

A senior Polish cardinal who served as personal secretary to Pope John Paul II has been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse cases and accepting bribes.

The accusations made against Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, broadcast in a documentary by private television network TVN, come as another hammer blow to the reputation of the Catholic Church in Poland.

Last week the Vatican sanctioned Henryk Gulbinowicz, another Polish cardinal, and made him donate money to a fund for helping victims of sexual abuse, after it launched an investigation into what it called “allegations regarding the cardinal’s past”.

But the accusations levelled against Cardinal Dziwisz could be the most damaging given his position in the Church, and the close relationship he enjoyed with the Polish-born John Paull II that spanned decades.

The documentary “Don Stanislao: The other face of Cardinal Dziwisz” made a number of far-ranging accusations against the cleric.

It claims he failed to act on information that the Legion of Christ, a Mexican Catholic organisation, was involved in the sexual abuse of children. Despite the abuse allegations, the Legion’s founder, Marcial Maciel, was invited to the Vatican for formal ceremonies involving the Pope.

The documentary also claims that Cardinal Dziwisz was paid money by the Legion in order to let its donors into papal masses.

TVN also questioned the relationship between the cardinal and Theodore McCarrick, a disgraced former American cardinal, found guilty in a Vatican trial of “sins with minors and adults”. The documentary said Cardinal Dziwisz protected and promoted McCarrick despite the slew of sexual abuse allegations surrounding the American cleric.

In response the cardinal has denied wrongdoing and called for an “independent commission” to investigate the allegations.

"I am ready to fully cooperate with an independent committee that will investigate these matters," he declared in a statement. "I care about providing an explanation on these matters in a transparent manner. It is not about whitewashing or concealing any negligence, but about a reliable presentation of the facts."