Is the Pope a Catholic?

National Review

August 29, 2018

By John Sullivan

Francis himself is accused of participating in the cover-up of abuse by priests.

No one can have much to add to NRO’s coverage of the crisis in the Catholic Church. Michael Brendan Dougherty, Kathryn Lopez, and other colleagues have covered all the shocking events fully and with a kind of angry or hurt conscientiousness: the nature and extent of the sexual abuse; the quiet shuttling of pedophile priests from one parish to another; the legalistic bullying and manipulation of victims and their families; the placing of the Church’s political and financial interests above justice and charity; the fact that bishops showed greater concern, even tenderness, towards clerical abusers than towards those they abused; and the repeated assurances that these abuses were being corrected when in fact they were being concealed and smoothed over. These revelations have been deeply disturbing, and anyone predicting them a few years ago would have been dismissed — as indeed some critics of the bishops were dismissed — as dealing in fantasies of sexual perversion and blasphemy.

Despite the sensational nature of the revelations, however, we all had the eerie sense that there might be worse to come. And it came last weekend in the form of the statement by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States, on the Vatican’s handling of sexual misconduct by priests that implicated Pope Francis and other senior churchmen in the concealment of such abuses. Archbishop Viganò’s allegations are, for the moment, allegations. But they are extremely serious ones — either a malicious character assassination of the pope and other senior churchmen or a deeply shocking revelation of corruption and wickedness at the highest levels of Catholicism. They are also sufficiently detailed as to be open to either refutation or confirmation by the bishops and Vatican officials accused or exonerated in them. Unusually for criticisms of the Church, especially such grave ones, they have received some support from leading clerics in America, Rome, and elsewhere.

The pope himself was “ambushed” by questions from the media as he returned from his visit to Ireland. His response, leaving it to the journalists to judge the archbishop’s charges for themselves, was ambiguous. He may have felt that the charges were self-evidently false and malicious and that it was beneath his dignity to respond to them. But he cannot leave it there. There is no way that the Church can avoid dealing with them promptly, openly, and candidly.

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