Priest Wrote to Vatican in 1962 About Priest Sex Abuse

Almost a year to the day, I blogged about Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, a priest of the Servants of the Paraclete who had personally written to Pope Paul VI about the priest abuse problem. Now, we have another letter dating back to April 11, 1962. This time, Fitzgerald is writing to the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), at the
Congregation’s request “for information and suggestions regarding the tremendous problem presented by the priest who through lack of priestly self-discipline has become a problem to Mother Church.”
The letter is significant in two ways. First, Fitzgerald’s letter was solicited from the Vatican in order to figure out the scope of the problem. In other words, top Vatican officials knew about the priest abuse problem and wanted Fitzgerald’s assessment. Secondly, Fitzgerald’s analysis of the problem and subsequent recommendations went unheeded. Instead of applying the priest’s experience in dealing with abusive priests, the Vatican issued a document ordering all the world’s bishops to handle the problem under the “pontifical secret”. Fitzgerald foresaw the problems that would come if bishops transferred these abusive priests rather than removing them from the priesthood. Unfortunately, his advice was largely ignored and he was castigated as an alarmist and a problem (much like Tom Doyle has been treated since 1985).
In spite of the church’s protestations, they can’t continue to say they didn’t know about the problem and the devastating effects it would have on the church and the lives of these children. Half a century later, the church is reaping what it had sown. This is too bad for the church, and, more importantly, tragic for the survivors of this sexual abuse.