Where does the Catholic Church go from here?

The Week

August 30, 2018

By Rachel Lu

Has Pope Francis been knowingly complicit in protecting sexual predators? That’s the question Catholics are debating this week, as the Church’s summer of scandal bleeds into what promises to be a very interesting fall.

The controversy exploded anew this weekend after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a retired Vatican nuncio to the United States, published a detailed letter claiming that Pope Francis had personally rehabilitated the disgraced Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, with full knowledge of his history of sexual predation. According to Viganò, Pope Benedict XVI had ordered the former cardinal to retire from public ministry. McCarrick lived some years in uneasy defiance of this command until Francis, having been apprised of the situation, went out of his way to release the former cardinal from the ineffectual sanctions and elevate him to a position of high visibility and influence.

If this account is true, it will spell the end of Francis’ soft-liberalization agenda for the Church. Neither he nor his protegees will have any remaining credibility. Whether or not the pope immediately resigns, such a development would signal a new chapter for Roman Catholicism.

The Catholic world is still grappling with the staggering implications of Viganò’s testimony, scrambling to determine whether the available evidence supports his claims. No significant holes have yet been punched in Viganò’s account, though it is replete with references to people, dates, and documents. Francis’ closest supporters have tried to present the retired diplomat as a disgruntled careerist lashing out against old enemies. It’s clear enough that the whole affair is saturated in Church politics, but unfortunately, the pope’s own credibility is presently quite thin.

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