John Paul biographer, aide try to defend sex abuse record amid evidence he didn't grasp scale

Pope John Paul II's biographer and longtime spokesman are trying to defend his record on sex abuse against evidence that he grasped the scale of the scandal only late in his papacy.

They argue that John Paul's decision in 2002 — 14 years after his election as pontiff — to summon U.S. cardinals to Rome shows he acted decisively once he learned about the problem.

Yet U.S. bishops had petitioned the Holy See for faster ways to defrock pedophile priests since the late 1980s. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — later Pope Benedict XVI — asked the Vatican legal office for similar permissions to accelerate the process in 1988.

Spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said John Paul found it difficult to accept that priests might abuse children because of the "purity of his thought."