MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: But in recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that the late pope - or at least members of his inner circle - obstructed an investigation into Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican founder of the Legionaires of Christ, who had both molested young boys and fathered several children with different women.
MARCO POLITI: It is clear now that during the '80s or '90s, there were important cases, for instance, the abuse case of the founder of the Legionaires of Christ, which were shelved in the Vatican, which were hushed up.
POGGIOLI: Veteran Vatican watcher Marco Politi says John Paul's longtime associate, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict, wanted to investigate Maciel.
POLITI: Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, was pushing in order to open a proceeding against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, but there were stronger forces within the Vatican who stopped him.
POGGIOLI: The widely read Vatican expert Sandro Magister says the Catholic Church is paying the price for its past sins.
SANDRO MAGISTER: (Through Translator) For a certain period, from the '60s to the '90s, in the U.S. as well as in Europe, there was a climate of sexual permissiveness, in which the gravity of sex abuse of minors was underestimated. And when priests were involved, even bishops looked the other way. It's not fair to pin the blame on John Paul II.
POGGIOLI: Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent of the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, says that within the priesthood, there is a certain mistrust of the secular world. And the Polish pope, who grew up under totalitarian regimes, Mickens says, often saw the church besieged by the outside world.
ROBERT MICKENS: Those who wear the Roman collar, those who are part of all this, believe that they're maligned unfairly. And so perhaps, yes. John Paul II may have felt that this was again this onslaught of the Nazis or the communists, but now secularists, secularism, to discredit the church. If you look at what some people have been saying in the Vatican, that kind of paranoia has not gone away at all.
POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.
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