August 28, 2018
By Tara Isabella Burton
The internal politics informing the church’s reaction to the clerical sex abuse crisis.
Reeling from new claims of unfettered sexual abuse at the hands of priests and cover-ups by high-ranking officials, the Catholic Church is facing one of its most serious and divisive crises of the 21st century.
Last weekend, a former Vatican official, ex-papal nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò, published an incendiary open letter calling for Francis to resign for willfully turning a blind eye to ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s decades of sexual abuse and harassment against junior seminarians under his authority. (McCarrick has also been accused of abusing two minors; Viganò does not make any mention of those cases and does not imply Francis knew about them.)
Viganò claims that Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had imposed sanctions against McCarrick, mandating that he carry out the remainder of his life in prayer and seclusion, only for Francis to lift the ban upon ascending to the papacy in 2013. During Francis’s papacy, McCarrick served as a trusted Vatican adviser and influential voice on both internal church appointments and global affairs.
Viganò’s letter contains serious charges. Fundamentally, it alleges that Francis was knowingly negligent in dealing with known abuse by a major Catholic figure. But reading between the lines, it’s also possible to see in Viganò’s letter a wider political concern: the accusation that Pope Francis’s liberal ideology and lax attitude toward homosexuality fostered a culture of sexual abuse, propped up by a gay lobby operating at the highest echelons of the Vatican.
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