Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I aim to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: St. Nicholas.
📜 Today’s readings: Is 40:1-11 ▪ Ps 96:1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 13 ▪ Mt 18:12-14.
🗞 Starting seven
6: Dawn Beutner profiles the saintly Danish scientist Niels Stensen.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
New law published on the legal entities of Vatican City State.
🧐 Look closer
Defending John Paul II Poland’s bishops issued a declaration on Nov. 14 defending St. John Paul II’s record on abuse. The 1,600-word statement linked criticism of his handling of abuse cases with efforts to undermine the legacy of the Polish pope who led the Church from 1978 to 2005.
“The root cause of the communications media assault on St. John Paul II and his pontificate is the attitude of media towards his teaching expressed, for example, in encyclicals such as Redemptor hominis or Veritatis splendor, as well as in his theology of the body, which does not correspond to contemporary ideologies promoting hedonism, relativism, and moral nihilism,” the bishops argued.
They offered a detailed rebuttal of claims that John Paul II — who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2014 — was indifferent to clerical abuse, concluding that he “adopted decisive measures against cases of sexual abuse of children and minors by certain clergy and introduced Church-wide norms of accountability for such crimes.”
This is not the first time that the bishops have defended their celebrated countryman’s record. In the wake of the McCarrick Report, bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki published an extensive statement insisting that former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick “cynically deceived” a pope whose “highest priority” was safeguarding.
Why now? The bishops’ recent statement followed the publication of a book criticizing the Polish pope’s handling of abuse cases: “Bielmo: What John Paul II Knew,” by the journalist Marcin Gutowski.
The book, based on material collected by Gutowski for a series on the television channel TVN24, provoked both criticism and praise among Polish Catholics, with some describing it as an attack on John Paul II and others as an act of truth-seeking.
Fr. Adam Żak, the Polish bishops’ coordinator for the protection of children and youth, said he didn’t see the book contributing to a serious discussion in Poland about John Paul II’s decision-making.
“I am sorry, but I do not see any discussion,” he told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI. “Discussion would be possible if there was a willingness to understand the person of John Paul with his conditioning and mistakes, but also with his achievements and greatness.”
What’s next Not long after the Polish bishops’ latest intervention, the Dutch journalist Ekke Overbeek claimed he had discovered evidence that the future pope — then known as Archbishop Karol Wojtyła — covered up abuse while leading the Archdiocese of Kraków from 1964 to 1978.
“I found concrete cases of priests who abused children in the Archdiocese of Kraków, where the future pope was archbishop. The future pope knew about it and nevertheless transferred those men. That led to new victims,” asserted Overbeek, who has spent two years examining Polish archives and will publish a book about his findings, entitled “Maxima Culpa,” next year.
Meanwhile, Polish media reported that the Vatican was examining the handling of abuse cases in the Kraków archdiocese in the 1960s and 70s.
The Rzeczpospolita newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying: “It was known that sooner or later there would be questions about the earlier period of Wojtyła’s life. And they are already emerging. Hence, this is the reason for the inquiry and historical research. The Vatican wants to be ready to answer, because the issues are delicate and sensitive.”
The debate about John Paul II’s knowledge of and response to abuse cases is guaranteed to continue into 2023 — and likely far beyond — with special intensity in his homeland.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a free speech case involving an graphic designer who objects to same-sex weddings.
🇮🇩 Indonesia’s parliament has passed a law criminalizing sex outside marriage.
📅 Coming soon
Dec. 7 Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington turns 75.
Dec. 14 Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Peter Collins of East Anglia.
Dec. 16 Anniversary of Naples’ preservation from the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, associated with the liquefaction of St. Januarius’ blood.
Dec. 17 Pope Francis’ 86th birthday.
Dec. 18 FIFA World Cup in Qatar ends.
Dec. 25 Pope gives Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at noon.
Dec. 26 St. Stephen; Papal Angelus.
Dec. 29 Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga turns 80.
Dec. 30 Feast of the Holy Family.
Dec. 31 Pope presides at Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Have a happy feast of St. Nicholas.
Do you know someone who would appreciate reading this newsletter? Invite your friends to sign up here.