Vatican Told of Abuse in 1963
US priest wrote Pope Paul VI urging defrocking of 'problem priests'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2010 7:38 AM CDT
Updated Apr 2, 2010 8:07 AM CDT
A handshake from John F Kennedy wasn't the only thing Pope Paul VI got in 1963.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – A letter sent to Pope Paul VI in 1963 surfaced yesterday, and its contents suggest that the Vatican was aware of the sexual abuse problems happening in the US Catholic Church nearly five decades ago. Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald wrote the letter, which was made public by lawyers representing alleged abuse victims in LA, to elaborate on the "problem of the problem priest"—and apparently did so at the request of the pope, whom Fitzgerald had earlier met with in Rome to talk about cases of abuse.

The best way to deal with "problem priests" is to defrock them, rather than to send them to another diocese, which was the practice at the time, wrote Fitzgerald. "Where there is indication of incorrigibility, because of the tremendous scandal given, I would most earnestly recommend total laicisation. I say 'total' because the non-Catholic world definitely blames the discipline of celibacy for the perversion of these men." Officials for the Catholic archdiocese in LA say they doubt the pope ever saw the letter, notes the Independent.