I was amazed to read the Pope Francis’ supporters, Fr Spadaro and Cardinal Napier have been comparing the Pope’s silence on the Vigano accusations to Our Lord’s silence before Pilate. Cardinal Napier tweeted, and Fr Spadaro re-tweeted:
How similar the Master and his servant have been in their hour of trial! "But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Mark 14:61
Throughout the 'Trial by Media' the parallels have been close & repeated!
— Cardinal Napier (@CardinalNapier) September 5, 2018
There are so many problems with this that it is hard to know where to start.
First of all, when you or the person you support is under fire for something of which that person may be guilty it is not a good idea to play the victim….not even a little bit. But to compare the person under fire to Jesus at his trial? No. Just don’t go there. Playing the victim card doesn’t work anymore. It’s a worn out ploy. After the blizzard of snowflakes and faux victims we can see through that trick now.
Secondly, if the person in question is a privileged person don’t play the victim card at all. Would you pity Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton if they played the victim card? No. If a person is a powerful and privileged person and you play the victim card it is a big own goal. The pope is one of the most powerful people in the world. He’s right up there with the Queen of England as an international leader and he is therefore on the top of the heap. When the big guys play the victim card it is not only ridiculous, it is a gross insult to all the true victims in the world.
Third, once his supporters have played the Pope as a victim in all this, the result is disastrous for the pope and the papacy. Suddenly we see all his foot washing of prisoners, kissing of disabled people and embracing immigrants as the big show off fakery some of us thought it was all along. When the pope is in hot water and plays the victim he makes his showy advocacy of victims look like a cheap publicity stunt
Fourth, the pope may be the Vicar of Christ, but he’s not the successor of Jesus. He’s the successor of Peter. When Jesus was on trial, we should remember that there was another person who was also silent and did not stand up for his friend who was the Way , the Truth and the Life. It was Peter. I think maybe Fr Spadaro and Cardinal Napier need to get their Bibles down off the shelf, blow off the dust and read the story again.
Fifth, this needn’t be such a big deal that the Pope has to go all publicly sanctimonious, play the silent suffering savior and hope the storm blows over. If he wants to be like Jesus he should calm the storm. He could deny Vigano’s accusations and produce the paperwork on the whole McCarrick affair, prove Vigano wrong and take positive action to clean up the Vatican and command his bishops around the world to do the same in their dioceses. His silence only prolongs the whole sordid affair.
Sixth, while Vigano’s testimony may seem leaky. (Philip Lawler discusses the evidence here.) there is enough background evidence based in Pope Francis’ previous actions to make it credible. I outlined some reasons here. Instead of silence the Pope could easily appoint an external, independent investigator to present a report on the matter. His silence and seemingly passive stance isn’t helping anyone, and most of all it is not helping him. Instead it is moving him closer to the lame duck papacy I predicted here.
Seventh, the pope’s withdraw into silence is revealing him to be a hypocrite in a very important situation. He has presented himself as a listener, one who gets the smell of the sheep and who comes close to the wounded, the upset, the confused and bewildered–those who are alienated from their own church. Does he not realize that there are a huge number of his sheep in the United States and worldwide who are at the brink of despair over the sex abuse crisis and the bishops’ incompetence and sleazy behavior? These people need to be listened to. They also need to be comforted and led with a strong and compassionate hand. Casting them as the Pharisees and hiding behind a fake humility and the “silence of Jesus on trial” is just about the dumbest thing any spiritual leader could do, and his tin eared sycophants don’t seem to get it….at all.
Eighth, the silence is un necessary and destructive for him and his papacy. My own view about Pope Francis is more moderate than some. I don’t want him to resign. We don’t need three popes. I don’t think he’s a bad man and I’m dubious about some of the worst gossip about him. I do think he’s out of his depth and has surrounded himself with the worst possible advisors and supporters. But the silence is not necessary, and he’s a big enough man to do something positive. When he realized he had messed up badly in the case of the Chilean bishops’ cover up of sex abuse he back tracked, admitted his mistakes and tried to put things right. So its not like this sort of thing is impossible for him. He could do that in this case if Vigano’s accusations are on target.
Ninth, playing the Jesus victim here is simply over the top. Nobody is trying to crucify Pope Francis. Sure, there are some extremists who want him to resign, but most of us simply want him to be the firm, compassionate and intelligent leader we expect of a pope. We don’t want him to be a victim and we don’t want him dead, but we would like him to answer the accusations of Vigano with a strong, open and understanding answer. We’d like him to then take action. If he is guilty as charged, then to make amends and put things right. If he is not, then to ask independent investigators to make a report with full access to documents, explaining exactly what did happen.
Tenth, playing the victim actually plays into the hands of Henry Sire–the author of The Dictator Pope. Sire portrays Pope Francis as an opportunistic, cynical manipulative operator. He portrays the pope as a man who plays both sides of the house against each other. He portrays the pope as a Jesuitical Jesuit who manipulates the truth according to his own whims and tinkers with people and situations to get his own way. By putting on a long face and playing the victim, Pope Francis is, unfortunately, helping to make Sire’s devastating thesis seem plausible.