A lengthy, unpleasant and challenging post follows. But I think it needs to be said.
The Catholic church is suffering crisis, perhaps its greatest since the reformation, with righteous anger directed at the hierarchy regarding (yet more) revelations of predatory abuse following fresh investigation in America. The crisis goes to the top this time after a highly reputable Archbishop then blew the whistle on an alleged active gay lobby within the Vatican. The most serious allegation being that Pope Francis rehabilitated Cardinal McCarrick, despite knowledge that he was a predatory homosexual and part of the lobby, and only disciplined him (softly) once it became apparent his deviancy led him to interfere with children as well.
Earlier this year a book was released called the Dictator Pope; it was a profoundly difficult read because, if only ten per cent is true, it also points to evil at work within the Vatican. The central claim being that a homosexual lobby operates at the highest levels of the church and is embroiled in multiple scandals sexual and financial. The book alleges this lobby, under a self imposed guise of a “Mafia”, even manipulated the last conclave to ensure the Papacy would protect them. It chimes with what Vigano is now claiming.
I would love to disregard such accusations as conspiracy…I sincerely hope it transpires that they are false. But with so much smoke warnings of a fire cannot simply be dismissed with integrity. ‘Move along, nothing to see’ doesn’t hold up to scrutiny within the present climate. Not with 1000 fresh victims in less than a handful of dioceses, according to the latest report, and over 100 clergy guilty of deviant behaviour. Not with bishops colluding in abuse and others covering. So, with or without help from on high, we must get to the truth no matter the cost. The cancer in the body of Christ needs ripping out. If a lobby exists it must be held to account. But does it exist? If so who are they? And who protects them? Without greater transparency and accountability from the Vatican it is hard for us to know anything for certain.
What follows represents my personal fears and nagging questions in the face of these allegations. Some fears may be unfounded and fuelled only by speculation and rumour, please God that is true. But ponder the crisis we must for every fresh revelation suggests that “something seems rotten in the State of Denmark (the Vatican)” to (mis) quote Hamlet. And we who love the church must be ready to respond.
The Pope seems to keep rotten company
Even if the book is shown to be conspiratorial rumour the Holy Father does seem to choose questionable friends within his inner circle. At his election he chose to appear on the balcony with Daneels, who like McCarrick was rehabilitated by the present regime despite being mired in scandal. Then there is Paglia, who removed every orthodox member of the JPII commission for life and family and replaced them with those friendly to the LGBT cause, also mired in scandal. Or ponder the man Pope Francis appointed to clean up corruption within the Vatican Cardinal Maradiaga, who, it turns out, has scandals of his own. Cardinal Cocopalmeria is another close advisor again linked to newspaper scandal. And then there is Ricca, given much responsibility by Francis despite having been embroiled in numerous scandals. I could continue linking. But you get the picture. Meanwhile those faithful to Church teaching have been alienated and frustrated. Could it be because a gay lobby is pulling the strings in the Vatican? The number of scandals like those above certainly makes one pause for thought before denying it out of hand.
Other questions then surface. Why is the Holy Father surrounded by men whose sanctity seems questionable? Why are so many of his inner circle implicated in homosexual scandal in particular? Why are those who push the homosexual cause, like Fr James Martin, elevated instead of disciplined for preaching a message contrary to the Gospel? There are only three possibilities. 1. Pope Francis is part of the lobby. 2. Pope Francis has reasons for protecting the lobby. 3. Pope Francis is a poor judge of character. None of which is good news for the Church.
What cannot be denied, except by the dishonest or delusional, is that a deviant form of homosexual lifestyle lies at the heart of the abuse crisis. It is different outside of the church but within it 80% of victims were post pubescent males. Let that sink in. This article makes the point . One begins to see why Francis must answer his accusers. Did he knowingly rehabilitate McCarrick or not? Is he part of the problem or its cure? Evasion of that central question will get us nowhere but only add to the problem.
And what a problem! Not least because the majority of homosexual clergy are not abusers but the vast majority of abusers were homosexual. Not least because, within the present culture, homosexuality has become a golden calf never to be criticised or questioned! Nevertheless we must investigate and know the truth. Is Pope Francis committed to ensuring priests adhere to vows of chastity? And is he committed to rooting out the unhealthy subculture at the heart of most abuse cases? Because, make no mistake, numerous heads will need to roll if this problem is to be sorted and not just brushed under the carpet. Strong leadership is needed.
Lessons have not been learnt
It is here further concerns arise. For despite much episcopal hand-wringing and countless apologies, the response of hierarchy, to date, suggests a tendency for institutional protection over transparency persists. The following three responses, each wrongheaded in the face of abuse, having been too much in evidence since the ‘Vigano crisis’ broke:
APPEALS TO SILENCE
When asked about Vigano’s accusation Pope Francis stated he would “not say a word”. This silence in the face of credible accusation is wrong headed even if the intention may be holy. What I think should have been said instead is ‘I plan to look into this very seriously upon my return to Rome.” For silence is the pernicious cloak under which every abuser operates urging victims to keep ‘our little secret?’ Silence is what got the bishops into this mess in the first place as they attempted to sweep grot under the carpet and move abusers on. It will not do. And claims by unquestioning supporters of the current papacy, that silence is somehow saintly and Christ like, have therefore angered me. Never is silence the correct response where sexual abuse is concerned. Never!
The Holy Father got into hot water earlier this year for attacking the victims of abuse in Chile, instead of listening to what they had to say to him. To his credit he later made a grovelling apology. So it is bizarre and deeply concerning that attacking and investigating the reporter of the abuse (Vigano)- instead of investigating the abuse itself- was the first knee-jerk response of team Francis. So much so Cardinal Vigano has gone into hiding for his life whilst none of his claims have been answered.
Now any member of child protection services will tell you this practice of demonising the whistle blower is the last thing that should happen when somebody finds the courage to come forward. And even if Cardinal Vigano were a bad man, as it happens he is deeply respected by many, it would not mean his account was false.
It strikes me the investigation has been all in the wrong places. Instead of going after Vigano the decent thing to have done would have been to hand over files and launch a public and impartial investigation. And given that McCarrick has now been exposed as something of a Jimmy Saville for the church – shouldn’t the men he personally chose for high office, like Cupich and Tobin, be thoroughly scrutinised also? But instead they seem protected. Cardinal Wuerl, mentioned multiple times as enabling the abuse in the recent report, still in office despite loud calls for his resignation. Despite the fact that, being over the age of 75, the Pope could have pulled the plug on him weeks ago. One senses a circling of wagons not a healthy response to revelations of ingrained and systematic abuse.
POLITICISING AND EVASION
Since the scandal broke those seeking to protect the Pope from his critics have attempted to politicise the debate. They insist this is merely a calculated ‘right wing attack’ designed to bring down the papacy. It does not wash. Not with the sheer number of victims in so many different countries and across all theological spectrums. Undoubtedly those unhappy with the current regime will shout loudest but I assure you it is not a love of tradition or theological nuance that is angering most people in the pews. This is a matter of simple decency and it is not good enough to deflect our attention via politics on this one.
Nor should we be told the Pope has more important things to concern himself with. That is simply not true. Nor do distractions about Vigano and the Pope’s historic meeting with divorcees help matters in the slightest. None of that is salient to the point in hand. Only one question matters..did Pope Francis knowingly rehabilitate a known sexual predator or not? Or put another way- is he capable of sorting this crisis out or not? Can he and his close circle of advisors be trusted or not?
I don’t regret becoming Catholic. Ours remains the true church (compromised though it may be by wicked men) nor is the faith itself brought into question by abusers blatantly not living by it. But I am despairing of the present situation and praying the hierarchy would clean up the mess and stop defending the institution at all cost. Dare I suggest the credibility of the church and her moral authority over the next generations depends upon it?
Dear Holy Father and bishops- please listen to those who are questioning, not out of a displaced sense of loyalty, but out of love and concern for the church. Please hold sinners to account and give us holy men for the future.
And we who have little by way of power must pray and keep up the pressure. We must demand answers for the sake of our children and credibility. It is time to be counted as an extraordinary gauntlet is laid at the feet of the Vatican; tell us- who are the sheeps and who are goats? And how do you plan to sort out this mess?
We have had enough of words without action. We cannot continue as before. I continue to pray for Pope Francis daily and continue to respect the office he holds.