Pope Francis’ stonewalling on the international Catholic sex abuse crisis is simply astounding.
We look for leadership and a response from the pope and what we get is a stubborn refusal to listen, take advice and change course.
It would seem that the greater the criticism the more the man not only digs in his heels, but (if his recent homily rants are anything to go by) becomes increasingly self righteous about it.
For some time radical voices have been criticizing the pope while more moderate commentators have replied with balance and the benefit of the doubt. Not wanting to be disloyal and striving to keep a sense of unity and a steady hand they have rightly avoided histrionics, gossip and tabloid flamboyance.
Among the balanced voices, John Allen, the head honcho at Crux has a sterling reputation for even handed reporting on the Vatican. Always one to give the other side and to present a fair report, Allen has consistently been positive in his coverage of this papacy. He has not been sycophantic, but neither has he been especially critical.
It is all the more disturbing therefore, to find the even tempered Allen writing this post which is highly critical of Pope Francis.
Allen says, “Alongside Francis the Simple there is also Francis the Stubborn.”
He begins with the trouble in Chile:
This refusal to be told what to do, or to be painted into a corner, is also, undeniably, an aspect of Francis’s persona, and the last month or so has brought at least four classic illustrations.
To begin with, for the last month criminal prosecutors in Chile have been conducting raids on Church archives up and down the country, looking for evidence to support charges of cover-up of clerical sexual abuse by several leading prelates. They’ve also subpoenaed Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati, the Archbishop of Santiago, to testify.
In the abstract, one might imagine such activity would prompt Francis to accept more resignations from Chilean bishops, which were offered en masse at the conclusion of a summit with the pope in May. On that occasion Francis said he knew some bishops were guilty of cover-up, including the destruction of evidence, and many people assumed he’d have accepted far more than the five resignations he’s okayed in the four months since.
Instead, the pope is obviously taking his time, and not even the threat of criminal indictments against sitting bishops appears enough to rush him.
Allen then goes on to report on the Pope’s silence on the Vigano accusations about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Furthermore, after meeting with the leadership of the US Bishop’s Conference it would seem that their request for an apostolic visitation and a lay-involved panel was scotched by the pope. They came back empty handed and therefore the American bishops themselves have their hands tied. An investigation of a Cardinal can only be authorized by the pope. Consequently the entire hierarchy from Francis down appear to be colluding in one vast cover up.
Allen goes on to criticize the pope’s habit of stacking the jury with his chums.
On another front, during the 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops on the family, gatherings which eventually led to the document Amoris Laetitia and its controversial opening to communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, there was considerable criticism from more conservative participants that Francis had “stacked the deck” by naming only like-minded allies to key posts.
The feeling among critics was that Francis didn’t necessarily want an honest assessment of where bishops are truly at, but rather an endorsement of his desired result.
Some might have thought that, in response, the pope would feel obligated to ensure a wider cross-section of views for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on youth in October, or at least to avoid the impression of naming only loyalists.
Instead, the appointments released by the Vatican last Saturday read like a “Who’s Who” of prelates cut from the same cloth as the boss, such as Cardinals Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the German bishops’ conference; Blase Cupich of Chicago; Joseph Tobin of Newark, NJ; and Angelo De Donatis, Vicar of the Diocese of Rome.
The overall impression is that Francis trusts these figures, and he wasn’t going to be cowed into leaving them off the list just because someone might get their nose out of joint.
Meanwhile, Rod Dreher quotes an attorney who predicts what might happen as an increasing number of state attorney generals are launching investigations into Catholic Clergy sex abuse:
As an attorney, I can see at least one potential path that events could take if the Vatican continues to stonewall the abuse cases, including its role in covering up those cases, and it is not pretty. It runs something like this:
First, U.S. attorneys general open up multiple investigations on the child abuse cases based on the Pennsylvania model. The attorneys general in New York and Missouri have already started such investigations (with New York already issuing subpoenas), and the attorney general in New Jersey has set up a hotline. Attorneys general in five other states (Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Florida) have taken initial steps to begin an investigation or are publicly contemplating such an investigation.
Second, at some point, one or more of those investigations will determine that they need or want information from the Vatican to pursue their investigations. They will reach that conclusion when it becomes apparent to them either that the Vatican instructed one or more U.S. bishops not to publicly disclose certain information about recalcitrant priests or that the Vatican took other steps to cover up the scandal. After several fruitless efforts to get the Vatican to co-operate with their investigation(s), they could issue subpoenas to the Vatican to produce documents and/or witnesses.
Those investigators will know that the subpoenas are not legally enforceable — under international law, the Vatican is a separate country and can assert sovereign immunity to block legal process from another country. But the investigators will proceed to issue the subpoenas in order to increase public, political, and legal pressure on the Vatican to co-operate.
Third, the Vatican will assert sovereign immunity to block the subpoenas. There will be an immediate public uproar against the Church for continuing to block the investigations.
The damage done to the Church from this scenario — and I think there is a reasonable possibility that it could actually happen — would be immense and lasting. Read Rod’s post here.
The ostrich like denial of the crisis and the stunning incompetence of the pope and the hierarchy to do anything about this raging inferno is astounding.
Meanwhile, two priests are caught in broad daylight in a car in Florida engaged in oral sex. Another priest who fled to Morocco is being hauled back to face charges for sexual abuse of little boys. Read the story here. If you want to read more bad news check out this story by George Neumayr on Monsignor Rossi– the priest who runs the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. You may not like Neumayr’s relentless pursuit of Cardinal Wuerl, but the man has checked his facts:
So in Rossi’s rise we see another case of gay predators promoting and protecting each other. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, one of the premier enablers of the Gay Mafia, naturally approved of McCarrick’s choice and has emboldened Rossi in his appalling directorship of the Basilica. Rossi, I learned recently, keeps a gay love nest in Fort Lauderdale, according to a source close to the bishops. “He shares a posh condo on the beach in Fort Lauderdale with a priest from Scranton,” this source said. Sure enough, that checks out if you type Walter Rossi’s name into Fort Lauderdale’s property records.
Listed as living at 3750 Galt Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale, Florida are “Walter R. Rossi” and “Andrew Hvozdovic.” Google the latter’s name and an Andrew Hvozdovic pops up as a pastor at a Catholic parish in the diocese of Scranton.
The mailing address for the owners is: “2305 Queens Chapel Rd Hyattsville MD 20782.” That address corresponds to the mansion, close to Wuerl’s chancery, where Rossi lives when he is working at the Basilica. I’m told Rossi lives at the mansion with other senior staffers from the Basilica.
Read Neumayr’s report and then ask whether Monsignor Rossi the kind of “good gay priest” Fr James Martin SJ keeps telling us about…
All of this is most disturbing, and the fact that the Pope still hasn’t corrected his goofy statement, “Who am I to judge?” does not make him into a silent suffering martyr. Instead he comes across as not only colluding in, but leading a huge cover up.
He may have good reason to do so. German journalists are beginning to turn up the pope’s own treatment of sex abuse victims during his time in Argentina, and what they are finding ain’t pretty. Go here to learn about the infamous Grassi case and here on his history of dealing with sex abuse cases in Argentina. These cases raise big questions but when they are added to his “mercy” for “Don Mercedes”, his appointment of Battista Ricca, his rehabilitation of Cardinals Danneels, McCarrick and Mahony (read about it here) the evidence against him is harder and harder to dismiss.
Finally, the much hyped Synod of Youth now appears to be no more than a propaganda exercise for team Francis. Archbishop Chaput lays out a devastating critique of the Instrumentum Laboris–the synod’s main teaching document. The gist of his critique is that the document is simply a hodge podge of social justice mumbo jumbo with precious little about the Catholic faith in it at all.
As Olly would say to Stanley, “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve got us into.”
Come to think of it, has anyone else noticed the similarity of the aged Stan Laurel to Pope Francis?
Perhaps they are related.