Thomas Aquinas College is dedicating its new $15 million athletic center to St. Pope John Paul II. He was hardly a saint and Aquinas, a Catholic college, can’t deny it. JPII stood by in silence for years as Cardinal Bernard Law, the eventually disgraced head of the Boston Archdiocese, protected countless Catholic priests who sexually abused children. These heinous acts shamed innocent boys into lives of alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, PTSD, and suicide. The film Spotlight told their tragic story. Now I find myself speaking on behalf of these victims who couldn’t speak for themselves.
For 11 months I tried to convince the college that this would be a mistake. Who would want to attend or support a Catholic college that celebrated a Pope who, by his actions, condoned the rape and sexual abuse of hundreds of Catholic boys? I sent articles from the Boston Globe, New York Times, National Catholic Reporter, etc. I suggested they read Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power during the Papacy of John Paul II. It took college president Michael McLean 10 months to reply to me: “Naming the building in honor of St. John Paul II has been fully vetted with our faculty, board, and benefactors….Engraved on the building will be JPII’s quote “Give thanks to God for the gift of sport, in which the human person exercises his body, intellect, and will … as so many gifts of his Creator.”
I replied: “His one-time quote won’t mean much to the thousands of American youth whose lives were forever ruined by clergy.” These despicable crimes are still being perpetrated by Catholic priests around the world. It must stop, not be celebrated by Thomas Aquinas College in this way.
Recently, I proposed they consider honoring Welles Crowther, a young Catholic man and athlete, made famous in the film Man in Red Bandana. Watch it and you will understand why he would be a wonderful choice, relatable to students. Addressing the college’s primarily male administration’s stubborn reluctance to change their mind, I suggest “Sometimes we win. Sometimes we learn.” Man up gentlemen.