We learned something important in the past week: Pope Francis has no intention of coming clean.
Like the short tale of Hans Christian Andersen, in the past week since Archbishop Vigano’s letter was made public, Pope Francis supporters and the media have attempted to sell the Catholic faithful a pair of “New clothes”: they’ve tried to sell us on the idea that Pope Francis is innocent of the charges leveled against him because a) Vigano’s motivations and character are malevolent, and b) only people who already hate Pope Francis could believe him to be guilty of any crime.
And just like the The Emperor’s New Clothes, it should be obvious even to a small child that the pope’s defense is a naked one.
Consider: millions of Catholic faithful around the world are genuinely, deeply concerned that the pope (the pope!) may have knowingly rehabilitated and brought into his inner circle a man he knew to be guilty of sexually abusing young men less than half his age and how did the pope respond?
“I will not say a word about this.”
One week later, and he has still not said a word. His inner circle of dozens of cardinals have also not said a word, refusing to pick up the phone or speak to the press.
Instead the pope tells us the emergency of this hour is “plastics in the oceans.”
People are losing their faith over the pope’s refusal to speak or act.
It’s hard to imagine a more extreme act of pastoral negligence, but in these dark times, I don’t want to further tempt fate.
Those accused of these evil deeds, when they do speak, utter incoherence. Cardinal Cupich’s gaff that pursuing this scandal would be to “go down a rabbit hole” was quickly outdone by his desperate attempt to change the narrative by having every single one of his priests talk about it in their homilies. (What’s the pastoral topic closest to Cupich’s heart this Sunday? Cupich’s public image, of course!)
Now, if you can, try watching this eight minute ramble of Cardinal Wuerl.
It’s almost impossible to get through it. These are the ramblings of a guilty man. The incessant use of the word “we”. The inability to use the personal pronoun “I”. The sheer hypocrisy and outright blasphemy of invoking the words “Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free”, twice.
These men must not fear hell.
There is some ironic tragedy that Pope Francis’ own inscrutable decisions have prevented him from putting Wuerl out of his misery. Any decent pope would have immediately relieved Wuerl of his duties the day the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was released.
Now, instead, we are witnesses to a spectacle of a near-spiritually-dead cardinal archbishop skulk from one overtly-orchestrated, PR-managed, extra-security on-site, “pastoral” function to the next. An eerie performance not at all unlike the Cadaver Synod of 897.
Last week I thought the Church was entering its worse crisis since the protestant reformation. Now I think it’s even worse than that. The protestant reformation was an external revolt at the excesses and extravagance (and yes, sinfulness) of the church; in this moment we are witnessing an internal crisis of the very highest levels of the church turning it into their personal organized crime syndicate.
Benjamin Wiker describes the crisis in bold strokes:
The very men most authoritatively charged with the evangelization of all the nations are full-steam ahead bringing about the devangelization of the nations. In doing so, these priests, bishops, and cardinals at the very heart of the Catholic Church are acting as willing agents of repaganization, undoing 2,000 years of Church History.
To be even more pointed, these priests, bishops, and cardinals are the chief agents of devangelization, de-Christianization, repaganization. There is nothing, nothing, that undermines the moral and theological authority of the magisterium more quickly and thoroughly than the devilish marriage of scandal and hypocrisy. It destroys the ability to evangelize.
And note that I say both moral and theological. Why should anyone now take anything the magisterium has to say seriously, whether it’s the Church’s teachings about pedophilia and homosexuality, or its teachings on the Most Holy Trinity?
Is that massive, massive enough of a crisis for you, Cardinal Wuerl? Could you imagine it being any more massive?
If any of these men beginning with Wuerl, cared more about the Church than they did about themselves, they would all resign.
Where am I going with all this?
This week we learned the Roman Curia, its cardinals and pope, will not self-convict. They won’t even self-investigate. The rot is that deep. The cancer that progressed. Sandro Magister sheds a light on the gravity of the evil I think we are dealing with here, a slimy mix of greed, sex and deception. Battista Ricca’s prominent place in the pope’s household says it all.
This leaves few options.
Individual conferences of bishops will react depending on the scale of corruption they harbor. The central and Latin American church is still about 30 years behind the US Church in terms of outing its abusers, and it is not headed in the right direction. Europe is mostly moribund. Australia is faring a bit better, and this in no small part to accepting the external audit of the government (with the notable exception of preserving the seal of confession, which is correct). Africa is orthodox but in the current moment its best universal utility is as a hope for the future.
No, the only episcopacy that has a chance of righting the Barque of Peter now is the United States. And probably –and I stress this– they won’t do so willingly. That is because even though some bishops are trying to act forthrightly, as a body, the USCCB is hamstrung by conferences and committees.
So, it’s going to be painful.
I have come to the difficult conclusion, along with Hugh Hewitt and others, that a government-led investigation into the Catholic hierarchy is probably the only means at our disposal to be an example for the universal church for how to uproot this network of corruption inside our church and yes, to get priests and bishops to begin speaking out and turning each other in, following the trail back to the loggia of Rome. 49 more state attorney generals and the Attorney General using every means at their disposal to discover which bishops and cardinals have endangered children by moving predator priests, have orchestrated cover ups to protect abusive priests and bishops and cardinals and have individually and collectively preyed upon young men and seminarians. Open up the files. Follow the paper trail. Deposition. Subpoena. Jail.
If the guilty men flee to the Vatican and pull up the drawbridge pleading international diplomatic immunity, “sanctuary”, then they will in effect also be relying on the secular authorities –not the truth or their spiritual authority– to save their skin.
Now, I hope before that happens, the pressure of the threat that this is about to happen is enough to awaken the pope and cardinals from their silence, and if not them, the American bishops.
The US bishops know enough to force Rome’s hand. But they are moving too slowly. Too bureaucratically. The laity are fed up and need to see concrete actions taken now, not open-ended statements that patiently and pointlessly await a papal audience. The American bishops cannot wait for Pope Francis to make the first move.
Let’s not forget, the Old and New Testament are full of examples of pagan authorities sweeping away Israel when it failed to be faithful to God. The Catholic Church has been decimated in geographical areas for undeserved reasons, even in our own time. It could happen here, too. American bishops and priests who persist in this cover up give the secular authorities around us a real justification for investigating our sordid house.
Better to clean our own house before God allows someone else to do the job.
Time is of the essence. Act!