Should the Pope be held accountable for transgressions committed by Catholic priests or bishops? – What are the reasons to do so? In this article I’ll explain why John Paul’s most courageous gestures were on the political front, and discuss Francis’s response to Vigano’s letter accusing him of ignoring the abuse of children by McCarrick.
Why the pope should be held responsible for transgressions committed by Catholic priests and bishops
The recent papal apology to victims of Catholic residential schools is raising eyebrows. While Pope Francis has said that he is committed to a culture of forgiveness, it has been criticized by Catholic representatives in Canada. In Canada, a pastor published an article criticizing a priest for defending the Catholic Church during a sermon. Yet, the issue of forgiveness has been a perennial concern for Catholics.
The abuse crisis is deeply troubling and has led to a series of scandals and investigations. The Catholic Church failed to respond properly to the abuse cases, resulting in much more suffering for the victims. This will ultimately lead to accountability for the Church and the pope. In his recent address in Philadelphia, the pope asked for forgiveness from victims and senior church figures.
This new moto proprio does not erase past abuses, but does set an expectation that the Church must respond quickly to allegations. It also requires Church leaders to notify victims of their investigations. It is an important step in healing the Church’s damaged reputation among its followers. The pope’s new policy is a step in the right direction, but there are still many questions to be answered.
The first scandal that hit the Catholic Church was child sex abuse. It was uncovered by a grand jury, and the grand jury identified 301 perpetrator priests. While these incidents are tragic, they are merely a symptom of moral degeneration in the entire Church. The problem is much deeper than that, and pedophilia in particular is only one of the root causes.
It is the failure of the church’s hierarchy to address the abuses of priests and bishops that is at the root of the scandals. Many clergy have resigned in the wake of recent allegations of sexual misconduct. One former cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick, was ordered to live a life of seclusion, while another confessed to sexually molesting altar boys. Both men were removed from the priesthood in February 2019.
John Paul’s boldest gestures were on the political front
Pope John Paul II became the youngest pope in modern history when he was elected in 1978. He was fifty-eight years old at the time. However, his final decline had been long expected. The Vatican presented his final days in media-age terms and medical terms. It was hard to miss the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. But if his life was a model of faith, what was his boldest move on the political front?
Ratzinger’s preface emphasized the importance of religion as the foundation of civil society, despite the fact that many people did not believe in God. He saw unbelief as a shadow of the human yearning for God, now an outgrowth of noxious social forces. Ratzinger portrayed the past 40 years as an abysmal time of despair, and John Paul’s boldest gestures were on the political front.
The pope’s boldest actions on the political front were to challenge Communism, which was present in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and to confront the injustices of capitalism. While this was the most politically daring move of his pontificate, the apology is perhaps the most theologically daring. It represents a cleansing of the church’s conscience and will mark his legacy deeply.
Ratzinger and Wojtyla had very different personalities. While Ratzinger was more attracted to ideas than to people, he was a divisive figure in public life. The two men had similar backgrounds, but their boldest actions were on the political front. Ratzinger and Benedict both saw themselves as co-workers of the truth. The pope saw the importance of the political arena in the Church’s future, and he wanted to be a part of it.
Among the most famous of the pope’s many gestures were his trips to the Holy Land. In October 1981, he visited Fatima, Portugal, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917. He believed that Our Lady of Fatima would protect him. A camera was lowered to show him clutching a crucifix. This act was widely watched and praised.
Despite the widespread abuse of children by priests and bishops, Pope Francis’s response has been largely disappointing. The prelates are largely exempt from sanctions unless they are negligent. While the Vatican has launched a special tribunal to prosecute negligent bishops, he has been reluctant to use that authority. Instead, he has failed to act on credible reports that bishops knowingly covered up or did not report abuse. The Vatican’s stance is further weakened by the fact that the Pope has not ruled out a possible papal tribunal to punish negligent bishops. The scandal began in the late 1980s and is still raging, affecting the Catholic Church in every corner of the world.
The pope’s homily focuses on the Church’s sins against human beings, and does not mention the Crusades, Inquisition, or other historical events. He spoke clearly from a rolling platform in the basilica, reading his homily in a clear, resonant voice. In addition, his hands are palsied, which is indicative of a Parkinson’s disease-related condition. Some Catholics believe it will take time for the homily to have its full effect.
Although the church is unable to implement universal protocols for abuse, it is making progress on the issue. The new Pope has been widely acclaimed for his willingness to put pastoral appeal over pomp and status. Efforts to deal with abuse will ultimately determine his pontificate. If he doesn’t address it, his followers will resent him even more. So far, however, his response has been largely supportive.
Pope Francis’ response to the recent scandals of Catholic bishops and priests has come at a critical time for the Catholic Church. Abortion, for instance, is still considered a grave sin in the Catholic Church, and so he has allowed abortion to be forgivable for priests. The Pope’s actions on abortion do not change the graveness of the sin.
The pope’s remarks came as a result of a meeting with six survivors of child sexual abuse. The pope met with survivors and promised to help them heal. His comments come as a welcome change to the longstanding policy of the church to avoid dealing with the issue. The Pope’s response to the problems surrounding the abuse of children by priests and bishops in the past will be a welcome step toward healing and reconciliation.
Vigano’s letter accusing Francis of ignoring McCarrick’s abuse
The accusations against the pope have sparked a firestorm among conservative Catholics, who suspect that Vigano had insider access to information about McCarrick’s abuse. Archbishop Vigano has a checkered history of sex abuse in the church. He was an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and used his position as pope’s representative to suppress an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the former St. Paul-Minneapolis archbishop.
In 2015, Vigano brought a dossier detailing the cleric’s inappropriate behavior to Pope Francis, and in a letter to senior Vatican officials, she accused the pope of ignoring the accusations. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI imposed canonical sanctions against McCarrick, and Francis has blatantly ignored those sanctions. In addition to Vigano’s letter, the Vatican is investigating whether Francis acted on Vigano’s request for an investigation of the abuse allegations against McCarrick.
A report by Catholic News Agency reported on corroborating evidence for Vigano’s claims. During a press conference conducted in the air, Francis was asked about Vigano’s allegations. Vigano was associated with traditionalist Catholics who had been critical of Pope Francis, and his letter was published in the National Catholic Register and LifeSiteNews.
Pope Francis’ response to the allegations was brief and non-committal. But Vigano’s letter does indicate that he is not trying to make the situation worse. The Vatican has urged the conservative Catholic hierarchy to read the letter carefully and consider whether the pope should step down. If Francis is indeed considering this, then he is a pious man.
Cardinal Wuerl, McCarrick’s predecessor in the Washington archdiocese, has said Vigano has “lied” and retaliated against him. Vigano claims that the former archbishop acted like a “kingmaker” under Francis and lied about the abuse allegations against him. Likewise, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor in Washington, has allegedly retaliated against him and his former colleagues. Vigano’s letter accuses both Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of ignoring McCarrick.
The Vatican’s response has so far been largely silenced, with Vatican watchers pointing to Vigano’s “testimony” of the Pope’s failure to step down. Vigano did not allege that Pope Francis knew about the abuse allegations against McCarrick. In fact, he only alleges that Francis was “stuck in a situation of vulnerability.”