The lawyer for nearly a dozen victims of pedophile priest Msgr. Bernard Prince is hoping to meet with the former private secretary for Pope John Paul II to learn what the Vatican knew about the now disgraced former priest and his sexual abuse of young boys.
Lawyer Rob Talach said yesterday he is seeking to interview the Archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, about what, if anything, he knew about Msgr. Prince, a former Vatican official and friend of Pope John Paul II who was convicted in January of 13 charges of indecent and sexual assault.
Cardinal Dziwisz, who allegedly went to school with Msgr. Prince and helped arrange personal meetings with the Pope for Msgr. Prince's friends, is conducting mass in St. Mary's Parish in Wilno today and will be in Canada until next Saturday. Cardinal Dziwisz was the private secretary to Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II, for 40 years.
Mr. Talach said the victims are hoping that Cardinal Dziwisz can "enlighten us on the reason for Msgr. Prince being sent to the Vatican."
Mr. Talach said the victims believe the Catholic Church knew about allegations of sexual abuse, and believe Msgr. Prince, who is serving a four-year prison sentence, was "shuffled" to the Vatican following a complaint in the late 1980s.
"We'd also like to know what the church or other officials may have known or suspected about Prince while he was serving there," said Mr. Talach, adding he has sent requests for a meeting with the cardinal to the diocese and the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa, which represents the Vatican in Canada.
"Our objective here is simply information gathering," said Mr. Talach, who represents 11 men who are seeking $2 million each in lawsuits against Msgr. Prince and the diocese.
However, Charles Gibson, the lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pembroke, questioned the request's relevance.
"I have no idea what relevant information (the cardinal) might have," said Mr. Gibson. "I don't see any relevance with what Bernard Prince did in Canada. There are no allegations of anything happening in Rome."
Mr. Gibson added that Cardinal Dziwisz is not attending St. Mary's Parish in Wilno at the invitation of the diocese and it has no control over his schedule.
Father Adam Filas, an organizer from the Polish Association of Clergy for Eastern Canada for Cardinal Dziwisz's visit, said they were unaware the victims' lawyer was seeking a meeting with the cardinal.
While they will address the request with Cardinal Dziwisz, Father Filas believes it will be unlikely he will have time for a meeting on such short notice. The cardinal, who speaks only a little English, may not feel comfortable being asked specific questions through a translator, he added.
"If he doesn't feel this is right, or this is necessary, he might not do it," said Father Filas. "He is the kind of man that if he doesn't feel at ease about something, (the answer) is usually 'no'."
While in Canada, Cardinal Dziwisz is expected to participate in the 150th anniversary of Polish heritage in Wilno as well as the Pope John Paul II parade and mass in Brampton before heading to Quebec City for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress. He leaves Canada next Saturday for the U.S.