The Honor Blog
Today is: Apr 10, 2020
Post From: Sep 5, 2018
The Catholic Scandal Revisited
Well, the only reliable reader of this blog gave me some feedback about last week's post. She indicated that it seemed a little stiff, formal, stilted. She is right, of course - I was making a conscious effort to weigh things carefully. I have more to say, though, which gives me a chance to offer a little more of a personal take.
First, I need to update some of the facts from my last effort. Unfortunately, I was less than fully informed about what is being revealed about the behavior in the church. I will not try to describe the extent of the cancer here - honestly, I cannot even point you to a good external source, because I do not believe the real extent of the problem has been documented. There is knowledge of it - several reputable publications discuss ranges of reports and estimates of percentages of priests and discuss the difference between pedophilia and pederasty . . . the cancer is dauntingly widespread.
Instead, I want to focus on a relatively narrow portion of the scandal, on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is the flash point for the current disruption. Even that problem is too extensive to describe in this column - McCarrick is accused of sexual abuse by dozens of men who were children or young men at the time of his offenses. Here is a starting point for learning more, if you wish to do so.
In the wake of the public revelation of these crimes, a former Vatican official - the former ambassador of the Vatican to the United States - named Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, has published a document detailing the manner in which McCarrick's offenses were enabled and covered up.
Again (unfortunately) the extent of those allegations are too much for this column. They are described in some detail in the National Catholic Register. Vigano's testament is included at the bottom of that page. Here, however, I want to focus on the most important allegation. In his testament, Cardinal Vigano indicates that Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick in the late 2000s, that he himself had notified Pope Francis of McCarrick's crimes and of the sanctions in 2013, and that Pope Francis had lifted those sanctions in order to allow McCarrick to resume near-normal activities, even to the point of being included in a trusted advisory role for the pope.
Naturally, there is some possibility that Archbishop Vigano's testimony is incorrect. Indeed, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago believes that to be the case, blaming the current crisis on a small group of "insurgents" who have not liked Pope Francis from the beginning, and even implying that the reason for their opposition is racism. (This sentiment is expressed in the last video, the sixth, on this page.)
Even acknowledging that possibility, however, Archbishop Vigano has made a powerful statement. He held a high position, certainly was in a position to do and say the things he claims to have done and said, and does not have any apparent reason to dissemble. In short, he appears to be a very credible source, and his accusations deserve to be taken seriously. Furthermore, a number of church officials have come forward to affirm his statements. The most important of these is Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume, a former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature, who has stated that Vigano has spoken the truth.
Vigano's allegations are incredibly serious in their own right, and when considered in light of the devastating scandals of the early 2000s, they really demand a serious response. Blaming shadowy conspiracy theories will not suffice. However, when asked directly about what sort of response the Church can expect from the pope, Cardinal Cupich has responded that the pope has "a bigger agenda", including the environment and immigration. In fact, Cupich referred to this scandal as "a rabbit hole".
In fairness, it should be noted that Cupich has claimed that his remarks are misrepresented in the summary linked above (Harmon 2018, full reference below). The second video (the first with Cupich in it) of the raw CBS interview contains the quotes included in the report, so you can make your own assessment. Frankly, mine is that the summary is fair. Cardinal Cupich clearly is saying that Vigano's allegations do not deserve a response, that they pale in importance compared to the pope's bigger agenda.
That response is not just wrong, it is appalling. The mission of the Catholic Church is to guide and protect the souls of Catholics. Ignoring that mission means the Church has no purpose, no moral authority. Whatever you think of environmental causes, it is unconscionable for a Catholic - any Catholic, but most especially a church leader - to put them ahead of the guidance of souls.
Now, it would be wrong to assess Pope Francis based on remarks made by one of his cardinals. So it is important to look for the pope's actual response. Unfortunately, Pope Francis has said that he will not say a word. Within days of offering his refusal to address the allegations, Pope Francis issued a statement calling everyone to take action on the plastic in the ocean. Then, during his Labor Day sermon, Pope Francis insisted that the proper response to those who seek to create division is silence.
It is difficult to come to any conclusion other than that Pope Francis is in agreement with what Cardinal Cupich has said - they seem to consider this scandal to be beneath their attention. The message that sends is that they consider the wellbeing and the souls of the faithful to be less important than their political agenda. At the risk of overusing the word, that is appalling - I cannot think of any way to reconcile that with Catholic teaching.
Perhaps more information will come out, and I will learn about some way which is not apparent to me now. But . . . that would require that Pope Francis offer a response.
Ahern, Mary Ann.
Raw Interview: Cardinal Cupich Responds to Questions About Cardinal McCarrick and Bombshell Vigano Memo.
NBC Chicago, Aug 28 2018.
Pope: 'I will not say a single word' on Vigano's allegations of cover-up.
Catholic News Agency (online), Aug 26 2018.
Former nunciature official: 'Vigano said the truth'.
Catholic News Agency (online), Aug 26 2018.
Cardinal Cupich: “The Pope has a bigger agenda”.
Catholic World Report (online), Aug 28 2018.
Ex-Nuncio Accuses Pope Francis of Failing to Act on McCarrick’s Abuse.
National Catholic Register (online), Aug 25 2018.
Sisak, Michael R.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick punished over abuse finding.
Fox News (online), Jun 20 2018.