Sunday, April 12, 2009
1963 was a year of contrasts. It was both light and dark. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and The Beatles released their first record, "Please Please Me." It was similarly a year if contrasts for Catholics. The big news that year was the passing of Pope John XXIII, the Pope of radical change who called the Second Vatican Council. Things were also radically changing on a quieter front in the Catholic Church. The Rev. Gerald M. C. Fitzgerald founder of the order, Servants of the Paraclete, a treatment center for priests and Brothers visited Rome in 1963 to warn Pope Paul VI of the immense problem of clergy sexual abuse. A forceful warning he had been trying to deliver since 1952. As the article in the New York Times reports a year earlier in 1962, Fitzgerald went to Rome and met with Vatican officials to discuss this issue. The same year a document entitled "Crimen Solicitationies," a confidential document from the Vatican was sent to every Bishop in the world instructing them how to cover up clergy sexual abuse. The document was signed with the seal of Pope John XXIII. Radical indeed. The coincidence of Fitzgerald's visit to Rome the same year this document is secretly released is hard to dismiss as nothing more. The church was warned. And they took action. Cover it up. By the time of the 1963 meeting, the wheels were already in motion. The bearer of truth and light, Rev. Gerald M. C. Fitzgerald, would meet with Pope Paul VI who would oversee the modern chapter of the darkness of clergy sexual abuse. It would be hard not to conclude that had the church listened to Fitzgerald and taken appropriate action, a substantial amount of victims since 1962 would have been spared.