Has Pope Francis Been Soft on Priest Child Sex Abusers?
By Jerry Slevin
March 19, 2013
How did reportedly 90 out of 115 Cardinals find a Cardinal like Pope Francis to clean up the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church? Is he a mountain mover? After all, many, if not most, of these Cardinals actively condoned or passively acquiesced for decades in the Vatican’s worldwide cover-up of predatory priests.
It does not appear, however, that Pope Francis had earlier distinguised himself either as a senior Latin American bishop by condemning Fr. Maciel’s blatant abuses over many years, nor as a Jesuit has he seemingly to date clearly spoken out on the well reported extensive abuse of Native American children by some Jesuits.
The Washington Post has now reported that Pope Francis’ record in Buenos Aires on dealing with priests who abused children disappointingly does not appear much different than many of his episcopal brethren who have been widely criticized. Please see, “Pope Francis Was Often Quiet On Argentine Sex Abuse Cases as Archbishop”, accessible at:
Pope Francis now has a unique, perhaps last, chance to try to redeem his record, and that of so many other Cardinals and Bishops worldwide. Catholics hope and pray he will, but Catholics need to be realistic and not assume Pope Francis will act, unless the Catholic hierarchy continues to be pressed hard by political leaders and government prosecutors to do so.
Pope Francis will soon meet with the ex-Pope, but not with President Obama who is skipping the papal installation. Is Francis even willing to have the ex-Pope as his next door neighbor at the Vatican and to continue to rely jointly on his closest aide, Georg Ganswein? Is Francis planning to continue the ex-Pope’s anti-contraception insurance crusade to undercut President Obama’s health insurance plan that mainly helps the poor?
As to ex-Pope Ratzinger, it is difficult to see how Francis would be helped by having the ex-Pope living so close. If the ex-Pope stayed at Castel Gondolfo, he would have the same legal immunity claim under the Lateran Treaty and comfortable quarters. Francis could call him or even see him at any time, without the image of the old boss hanging around. For similar reasons, continuing with Georg as a daily assistant to both of them raises related issues.
The obvious split reportedly at the recent Conclave among Vatican and other Italian Cardinals about Ratzinger’s evident preferred candidate, Cardinal Scola, suggests strongly that Ratzinger’s continued presence at the Vatican would be more negative than positive. The secret Vatican dossier reportedly on sexual and financial scandals similarly will likely suggest that Ratzinger’s daily presence would only be a reminder of a saga Francis will be trying hard to get behind him promptly. Two Popes are one too many!
The reported large margin of votes that Francis received at the recent papal election Conclave, compared to Ratzinger’s presumably favored candidate, make clear that Francis does not need Ratzinger holding his hand to establish Francis’ legitimacy and authority.
If anything, the Conclave vote makes clear Pope Francis must distance himself from ex-Pope Ratzinger and his personnel, policies and approach. This includes not only Francis’ selecting soon a new Secretary of State and heads of the important departments on selecting bishops and on the doctrine of the faith, but also the Vatican’s judiciary heads, as well as the Vatican’s outside legal and financial advisors, who have clearly not appeared overall to have given very efficacious advice to date.
Francis must be his “own man” and show that swiftly and publicly. He also needs to appoint some key female advisors at his earliest opportunity. He must walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
On a theological basis, Francis in his first Angelus talk, intentionally cited favorably the well regarded theological work of ecumenist, Cardinal Kasper, who had clashed with Ratzinger over, among other matters, ecumenical openness to other Christian faiths and on making sacraments accessible to divorced and remarried Catholics. Kasper also during the Conclave told the media that the Church leadership structure needs to become more horizontal, i.e., less hierarchical. He had earlier worked closely for years with Ratzinger’s rival and former colleague, Hans Kung, all of which Jesuit Francis, who studied theology in Germany, has to have been fully aware of. Georg and Ratzinger will very likely get Francis’ signal here. Kung, incidentally, has expressed his positive and surprised reaction to Francis’ election as new Pope.
As to President Obama, his only substantive public comment on the papal conclave so far has apparently been that that he expected that the new Pope, as a Christian, would accept that we are all God’s children. In his recent unscripted and gratuitous remarks upon his parting from reporters, Pope Francis, while acknowledging that some of the reporters may not be believers and after blessing them in the circumstances silently and sensitively, he expressly acknowledged that all were God’s children. Coincidence? Perhaps, but unlikely.
Francis is on record as a Cardinal as being opposed to contraception and gay marriage. But he also learned some lessons the hard way in Argentina where his political efforts on these subjects failed badly. Pope Francis can, of course, choose to extend the futile political struggles on these subjects in the USA, but he will likely lose. He also could, in the case of contraception insurance, risk undercutting President Obama’s effort to help millions of the poor get affordable health care access.
The Republican plutocrats in the USA that Ratzinger had partnered with include many of the elite financial interests and unfettered free market advocates that Francis fought in Argentina as enemies of the poor. Will Pope Francis blindly follow Ratzinger and his neo-con plutocrat allies here or will Pope Francis accept that, even in the USA, he would likely be more effective in his goal of advancing personal spiritual and moral conversion if he avoided directly engaging in futile politics?
Pope Francis is, of course, free in the USA to advocate against contraception and gay marriage if he thinks he must despite the overwhelming scientific and theological case that refutes his positions, without demanding legislation that would force all to accept his misguided views. A majority in the USA have already rejected these political positions. Time will tell.
Interestingly, some in the media who are hammering Pope Francis hardest on his “Dirty War” record from three decades ago are usually also advocates for President Obama. Are they worried about Pope Francis’ potential clout with Latino/Latina voters in the USA Congressional elections next year? Again, time will tell.
In his first Sunday Angelus remarks as Pope, Francis, as priest, reminded Vatican visitors that Jesus showed God’s great mercy and capacity to forgive. But he also reminded his listeners that Jesus mandated, as an essential part of the forgiveness process, that believers must sin no more, or at least try not to.
In many ways, this captures the essence of the problem Pope Francis now faces. He needs to get Catholics to forgive the Catholic hierarchy, while at the same time he needs to get the Catholic hierarchy to try to sin no more. Because defenseless children are still at risk of predatory priests protected by complicit hierarchs and many Catholics also needlessly suffer because of the Church hierarchy’s unChristian moral positions, fine words and humble gestures from the new Pope will not be enough. The ex-Pope was hard to beat on fine words.
Pope Francis needs now to take concrete and clear actions that are desperately needed, including making the Church leaders organizationally accountable as they were in the Church that Jesus’ first followers left behind.
Given the Catholic Church’s current top-down and unaccountable structure, Pope Francis’ rearranging of some Vatican departments and personnel and shaming of some hierarchs, while positive and welcome steps, will surely not be enough to minimize future hierarchical sins. The Vatican’s often shameful history, as well as the current secret dossier of Vatican misdeeds, make clear that fundamental reforms will be necessary pronto.
The likelihood of other governments’ regulatory and prosecutorial intervention in Vatican affairs in the near term indicates that Pope Francis has a limited time to begin a credible reform process, which is why he must now convene a general council to reform the Church’s outdated structure and its current pastoral approach on key moral issues.
While Pope Francis’ moral views are well known, some of them have not been “received” by many, in some cases like the ban on contraception most, sincere and informed Catholics. He should have the humility to consult honestly with a broad spectrum of Catholics, including junior clerics, other religious men and women and a broad spectrum of the laity, male and female, married and single. It is not enough to ride the subways with them. They must be listened to openly and honestly. The Apostles were not educated men, yet Jesus consulted and discussed matters with them. Popes, who are not divine as Joseph Ratzinger just reminded us, should do no less.
To meet these challenges, Francis of Assisi is likely not the best model. Personal conversion to Jesus Christ is certainly an essential part of any solution, but at the present time it is not alone sufficient to respond to the Church’s pressing problems.
Francis of Assisi preached to help raise funds for the illiterate poor in a patriarchical society amidst a corrupt and monarchical medieval papacy that answered occasionally to a few European kings. Francis was not a 13th Century papal reformer. He left the heavy reform lifting to the 16th Century Luther. Pope Francis preaches to a literate poor in an egalitarian society amidst a corrupt medieval papacy that is steadily being compelled, increasingly by women, to answer worldwide to the modern rule of law. Most indications to date are that Pope Francis, elected secretly by celibate and aging patriarchs, will not likely be a papal reformer either.
Inevitably, women will be the ones who both save the literate, and legally equal, poor and reform the patriarchical papacy. Pope Francis’ incessant message to couples has been mainly to forgo contraception and have unplanned children. He promises he will then baptise these unplanned children and try to help support them through charities overseen by purportedly celibate males. This failed approach just won’t cut it today. Women have been there, done that and have moved on!
Pope Francis’ predecessor, ex-Pope Joseph Ratzinger, sought desperately to evade the rule of law as he frantically pushed to downsize Catholicism to a financially self-sufficient cult of exhalted hierarchs that would continue to be supported by diehard traditionalists, opportunistic plutocrats and accumulated wealth. Without accountability, he even attempted to continue to suppress women and to endanger children as acceptable collateral damage.
The 2005 description of Pope Francis linked in Jamie Manson’s article accessible below, and his early papal actions to date, suggest that Pope Francis will likely just be a smoother and savvier Latin version of the academic Germanic Ratzinger, without the red slippers. His earlier record of preserving the traditionalist Jesuit order from a rogue military suggests he could have some success, for awhile at least, in delaying government prosecutors from storming the Vatican archives’ walls. However, his recent encounter with Cardinal Law and his permitting the South African Cardinal to offer his apologia for pedophiles both suggest he may fail even at that.
Even if Pope Francis now takes action against Cardinals Law, Brady, Mahony, Rigali and O’Brien and Bishop Finn, for example, he will merely be doing what 100 out of 100 leaders of any other multinational organization would have done long ago. It is too little too late. The widespread personnel failures show clearly that the unaccountable hierarchical structure is a major problem, not just specific hierarchs. To fix that permanently, as he needs to, Pope Francis now must, as indicated above, convene a general council to be held soon away from Rome, perhaps in Buenos Aires.
Unfortunately for the new Pope, some strong women can be expected directly or indirectly to continue to resist and eventually defeat Pope Francis and the Vatican’s unwavering misogynistic and homophobic agenda, as they did with ex-Pope Ratzinger and the identical agenda. Women, and their partners, will increasingly continue to press for equal respect, child protection, family planning access and, even in some cases, for changes in the papacy, even as the Cardinals and their new “kinder and gentler” papal leader futilely seek to preserve their patriarchical papacy and preserve their male dominant morality.
These women, almost all lawyers, to date have apparently included directly or indirectly, among others, Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the U. S. First Lady, Michelle Obama (through her husband certainly), U.S. House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, Anne Burke, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, the Center For Constitutional Rights senior litigators, Pamela Spees and Katherine Gallagher, and priest abuse survivors’ key lawyer and former clerk to the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Marci Hamilton. They have stood up for women and children boldly and steadfastly until now, and they will continue to do so. They know their way around and will not be fooled by “Franciscan fluff”, even from a Jesuit.
Pope Francis has more media charm than Ratzinger and the good public relations’ sense to live frugally. Reportedly, in 1948 under Pope Pius XII, he told his “young love” that it was either her or the priesthood. So much for married priests! 1948 was also the year of the adoption at Eleanor Roosevelt’s urging of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that covered worldwide women and children, as well as men.
Pope Francis was formed in a traditional patriarchical Italian immigrant, pre-Vatican II, spirituality, where women “knew their place” and the Blessed Virgin Mary was Queen, if not King at times. Times have changed, Pope Francis.
Unfortunately, in his inaugural address at his papal installation, Pope Francis, with his over-emphasis on St. Joseph’s role as protector, indicates he still sees modern families mainly through a patriarchical lens. What a shame. The Catholic hierarchy has failed in critical areas to protect families and will soon be made to account for these failures. Catholics will no longer be fooled by legends about St. Joseph, St. Peter, or even St. Francis, for that matter!
Pope Francis is rigidly against contraception and gay marriage. He claims to be non-political, but fought fiercely and futilely on these two hotly contested political issues. He appears to have been content that over 2/3rds of Argentinians had been baptised Catholics but less than 10% attend Mass weekly. This appears to be Ratzinger’s small cult with a Latin flair.
This is the man who will reform the Catholic Church? The Cardinals who elected Pope Francis, of course, had been selected either by ex-Pope Ratzinger, or by John Paul II with Cardinals Ratzinger’s and/or Sodano’s significant input. The Cardinals have for years promoted and protected an unaccountable organization run primarily for their personal benefit, it appears. Some, perhaps even many, of them are now likely facing an imminent legal seige for alleged crimes of child endangerment and/or financial misdeeds, including possibly even Joseph Ratzinger. Meanwhile, Vatican Cardinals are trying hard to keep secret a dossier reportedly of Vatican officials’ financial and sexual misconduct. Cardinals apparently want Pope Francis to protect them from government prosecutors as he protected traditionalist Jesuits from the Argentinian military. As I said above as an international lawyer, it is too little too late to head off the prosecutors.
Given this history, have the Cardinals just secretly elected, as “hyped”, a real “Francis of Assisi” type as Pope? Will that likely lead to reform of a troubled Church? Will Cardinals and Bishops now be called to account for their misdeeds? Or was he elected mainly because the Ratzinger/Scola bloc offset the Sodano/Sherer bloc among a split Italian Cardinal vote and Francis seemed to be an acceptable interim compromise with a conservative Italian perspective that had not been tainted by the secret Vatican scandal dossier, who might also provide cover for a few more years while the media obsesses over his many obvious positive personal attributes? Some in the mindless media have already interviewed Pope Francis’ childhood sweetheart, which perhaps may be intended to distance him from some of the reported gay sex stories involving others in the hierarchy.
The media apparently may have an opportunity to direct questions to Pope Francis and hopefully will ask him some of the questions suggested below. Unlike Ratzinger’s practice, Pope Francis may at least directly brief Fr. Lombardi, a fellow Jesuit and Vatican press officer.
A good example of a helpful media analysis is the informative report by Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter of the new Pope’s ties to Comunione e Liberazione, a powerful group, but less well known than the Jesuits, with ties to Cardinal Scola and to the ex-Pope, accessible at:
Pope Francis’ election was especially surprising coming after Ratzinger last November failed to prevent President Obama’s re-election, with American neo-conservative plutocrat funding and support, featuring Vatican Bank director and Knights of Columbus head, Carl Anderson. Anderson had earlier served as an aide to neo-con Senator Jesse Helms and then to President Ronald Reagan. Ratzinger’s anti-contraception and anti-gay marriage crusade appears to have contributed to Mitt Romney’s losing significantly more women voters than he gained from traditionalist Catholic voters as a result of the crusade. This vote loss, when added to the major Obama edge among Latino voters, was too much for Romney to overcome.
The USA is a major source of funds and political influence for a cash strapped Vatican that is also on a political losing streak. Neither the U.S. Bishops nor their neo-con Republican allies, however, have given up on exploiting the contraception/gay marriage wedge issues nor on capturing the largely Catholic Latino voter base. Over 2/3rds of U.S. Republican voters still oppose legalizing gay marriage. Cardinal Mahony’s recently disclosed failures, especially to protect Latino immigrants’ children from priest rapists, has further alienated Latinos.
Will Pope Francis help the right wing plutocratic U.S. Republicans win Congressional races next year by getting more Latino and anti-gay marriage voters? Pope Francis had dismal results with his anti-contraception and anti-gay marriage political crusades in Argentina and Ratzinger and Cardinal Dolan failed in their crusade to defeat President Obama’s re-election. Indeed, President Obama may be hoping that the Pope does play some U.S. politics soon, as Obama also assesses his legal response to the pervasive priest child sex abuse scandal and to continued funding of Catholic organizations in the USA..
Interestingly, Washington D.C. Cardinal Wuerl, a long time Ratzinger ally, is being described by the Italian media as the “papal kingmaker” for rallying U.S. Cardinals to vote for Pope Francis. Last year Wuerl gave right wing U.S. plutocrats from the Papal Foundation a tour of the Vatican Bank to show what a “solid institution” it was! Will Pope Francis be lulled into following Ratzinger’s failed crusade to help plutocrats increase income disparity worldwide? Let’s hope not!
As occasionally occurs in analyzing the Vatican, the “realist” political theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli, and John Paul II’s adulatory “neo con” biographer, George Weigel, can offer clues as to what is really going on at the Vatican.
Francis of Assisi was approved by the most powerful Pope of the Middle Ages, Innocent III, at a time of widespread Church hierarchical corruption. Machiavelli, in his “Discourse on Livy”, credited Francis and St. Dominic, with saving the Catholic Church with their extraordinary example, while parodoxically also enabling its corrupt hierarchy to continue their evil ways by providing cover. According to Machiavelli, the examples of Franciscans and Dominicans encouraged Catholics to tolerate and obey a sinful leadership, leaving the leadership’s judgment up to God. Of course, that suited the corrupt papacy fine.
George Weigel recently indicated, in a TV interview, that he met with Pope Francis several months ago and that Francis is in the same mold of “dynamic orthodoxy” as was John Paul II. Pope Francis’ strong opposition to gay marriage and contraception surely suggest Weigel may be right.
According to the Vatican’s website, in 2006 at a large Vatican Council For the Family conference in Spain, Pope Francis, as a Cardinal, offered the “Reflections” on a presentation, “The Family: Beyond Ideology”, with the two presenters, Cardinal Bernard Law and Carl Anderson. Less than 24 hours after being elected Pope, Francis met with Law at Law’s church. If planned, bad judgement on Francis’ part. If unplanned, then poor planning, given Law’s shameful status in the priest child abuse scandal.
Whatever success Francis of Assisi had for Innocent III, in the Internet age, Pope Francis will be unable to pivot from the priest child sex abuse scandal by visiting some slums or even talking to birds. If that is the Cardinals’ plan, they need to go back to the drawing board.
Much of the Vatican’s key ongoing funding comes from the USA and Germany, directly in contributions and indirectly in governmental subsidies. Key financial officials, including the new head of the Vatican Bank from the plutocratic German Knights of Malta and a current top director, the “neo-con” plutocratic head of the U.S. Knights of Columbus, are also often from Germany or the USA.
The importance of the USA and Germany to the Vatican’s finances has just been noted by CNBC in its report on the Catholic Church’s finances accessible by clicking on at:
Similarly, German political and legal clout in Europe and the USA’s clout everywhere are something the Vatican needs to manage, or at least to avoid provoking unnecessarily. Can the Vatican salvage these subsidies and contributions and hold off national investigations in the USA and Germany merely by electing a new Pope? Not likely, since it appears that the Vatican will also need to undergo major reforms, which likely requires holding a Church council in the near future. It is now or never for Pope Francis to convene a general council before the “Franciscan fluff” is blown away.
To date, President Obama has mostly avoided directly commenting on the priest sex abuse scandal, but his administration has just been sharply criticized for its failure to protect children from priest predators by a well regarded UN Commission on child protection. He is increasingly being pressed to step up soon and the current media frenzy only increases the pressure.
Significantly, President Obama’s comments on the Shadow Pope, Joseph Ratzinger’s February 11 resignation were quite muted and brief. Obama also has apparently delayed appointing a new U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. He is not attending Pope Francis’ installation. Why?
Chancellor Merkel through her Justice Minister has recently weighed in negatively on the German Bishops’ recent dumping of a well regarded and independent professor, who had been investigating on behalf of the German Bishops priest sex abuse, including in the Shadow Pope, Joseph Ratzinger’s former Munich diocese.
President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have managed mostly to duck the priest abuse scandal so far, but two developments will likely change that quickly. The first is the unprecedented and sustained worldwide media attention the priest child abuse scandal is continuing to receive as a result of the papal election. Now that the reporting of the scandal has become widely accepted, it will likely continue as more of the scandal is revealed. The other development is the estimated $100 million investigation now underway into priest sexual abuse of children in Australia. Australian priests follow the same Vatican rules and procedures, and deal with the same Vatican officials, as do priests in the USA and Germany. What is revealed in Australia will have worldwide consequences over the next year at least.
Given the foregoing, it is highly unlikely that either President Obama or Chancellor Merkel will merely accept for long only an election of a new Pope for life without more. Major reforms that require convening a Church council will likely be necessary at a minimum to deter these leaders from acting soon to cut Catholic Church subsidies and to initiate national investigations into priest child sexual abuse in the near term.
Importantly, Pope Francis is also at risk at any time of three different public relations time bombs ticking under the media’s massive attention. The first is “Old Pope” time bomb, the problems relating to the secret dossier, the butler, Vatileaks and the Vatican Bank. The second is the “New Pope” time bomb, the unknown problems of Pope Francis not having been thorougly vetted, as he will be now by a focused media. The Dirty War stories are likely just the beginning. The third is the “Bad Cardinals Bomb”, as an awakened media and activated abuse survivor network keep making more unsavory revelations.
For an explanation of why this likely has been the “Final Conclave”, please read my analysis written before Joseph Ratzinger resigned, as I had expected for some time he would. It is entitled, “Will New Pope Become Vatican’s Last?”, and is accessible by clicking on the the title at the top of this column or clicking on at: http://wp.me/P2YEZ3-cT
Of course, Cardinal Sodano had a half century earlier seen Cardinal Ottaviani, his predecessor as Vatican clique leader, play this game very successfully at the Second Vatican Council where his opponent was a brave anti-Nazi veteran, Cardinal Frings, and his smart and ambitious aide, Joseph Ratzinger. At Vatican II, almost all Cardinals and Bishops wanted power sharing with the Vatican, a married priest option and more family planning choices for couples, while they frequently criticized the Vatican clique, the Curia. The Curia patiently marked time and craftily then undid or undercut the Council’s reform initiatives by controlling the Popes, in some cases beginning even before the Vatican II prelates returned home. Thereafter, the ambitious Ratzinger switched from the losing side and developed “Vatican II amnesia”, as he climbed ruthlessly and rapidly up the hierarchical ladder. He has also played this game before. Are the Vatican Cardinals planning to continue playing this game, while Catholics focus unduly on the new Francis “of Assisi”?
The worldwide suffering of unplanned and priest-abused children, AIDS victims and their families and couples denied accessible family planning continues unabated, with no relief in sight. Similarly, the required resolution of Vatican’s ongoing financial and sexual scandals and the overdue shaming of some Cardinals for their homophobic, anti-Islamic and/or anti-Semitic slurs is overdue. Will Pope Francis address these problems or will they have to await the inevitable arrival of foreign governmental regulators and prosecutors, who are already late.
Reporters should ask Pope Francis, at least indirectly through Fr. Lombardi, the below questions. Even though his views so far may be known on some of the issues, he may have changed his positions since he is now Pope and unaccountable to anyone at present. The new Pope, who was elected in secrecy, has so far indicated that he will not answer reporters’ questions directly. Typically, some reporters think this was charming! Are some of St. Francis’ simple qualities, like candor, already being suppressed by the Vatican clique? Or is Pope Francis just “managing” the media tightly, as he reportedly did in Argentina?
(1) Is the Pope planning to call for a new general council? If yes, when and where? If no, why not?
(2) Concerning the secret dossier on Vatican scandals: Has the Pope read the dossier? If no, why not? If yes, will he make the dossier available to public? If no, why not?
(3) Concerning protecting children from priest sexual abuse: Will the Pope promptly (a) require all abuse claims to be reported immediately to the police, even when local law does not require such reporting, and (b) require all Bishops (I) to disclose promptly and publicly all suspected predator priests, (II) to make sure terminated priests are publically tracked, and (III) to have full annual independent audits of all Bishops’ child protection programs that are then made publicly available? If not, why not? Will the Pope remove Bishops who violate child protection oversight rules with the same prompt action as was followed in removing Cardinal O’Brien recently? If not, why not? Will the Pope request President Obama to investigate through a national commission, like the one Cardinal Pell has already endorsed in Australia, child sexual abuse in all religious organizations in the USA? If not, why not?
(4) Concerning women and family planning: Will the Pope rescind the general ban on contraception and does he endorse Cardinal Meisner’s recent approval of the use of the “morning after pill”? If no, why not?
(5) Concerning the priesthood: Will the Pope approve married and woman priests, especially in light of the priest shortage and the unacceptable present incidence of predatory priests selected from the diminishing pool of new priests? If not, why not?
(6) Concerning the hierarchical leadership structure: Will the Pope promptly change canon law to implement real collegiality provisions on all major Church matters, including Curial and Bishops’ selections, and also make Bishops’ selections and appointments subject to the oversight of a fair sample of popularly selected representatives of the local laity in each proposed bishop’s diocese? If not, why not?
(7) Concerning homosexuality: Will the Pope promptly reject the present condemnations of homosexuality and gay marriage, especially in light of clear scientific findings, and especially after the hypocritical revelations concerning Cardinal O’Brien and so many others before him, including Cardinal Groer and Fr. Maciel, with the acquiesence in the last two cases of at least two Popes?
(8)Concerning a limited term: Will the Pope agree up front to serve only for a limited term, say five years, subject to re-election? If not, why not?
(9) Concerning the Vatican Bank: Will the Pope close the Vatican Bank and use only commercial banks for all Vatican business instead, as called for by Famiglia Cristiana, the widely read Catholic weekly distibuted freely at Italian parishes? If not, why not?
Over 2,000 Cardinals and Bishops a half century ago decided overwhelmingly at the Second Vatican Council that the Catholic Church’s governance structure desperately needed reform, in particular, power sharing mechanisms. Their will was thwarted by an entrenched Vatican Curia, or papal court, that controlled subsequent Popes and sought to protect their turf against worldwide bishops. This undercutting of the Council’s original decision, which ex-Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, had strongly endorsed in 1965, that was intended to address the desperation of 1965 has directly led to the governance crisis of 2013 that hangs on a seemingly mythical “infallible thread”. . What can and must the Pope now do?
Fortunately, two brief and pertinent resources are readily available to assist the Pope in his current deliberations. The first is a “blueprint” recently prepared by dozens of the world’s leading Catholic scholars and accessible by clicking on at:
The second resource is a 2008 column by an informed and dedicated fellow Jesuit, UCBerkeley political scientist and author of the definitive works on current Vatican and episcopal governance, Thomas Reese. Fr. Reese offers some very pertinent proposals to reform Church governance that are accessible by clicking on here:
World order, especially in Africa, the Middle East and even Europe, cannot afford to let petty Vatican princes’ medieval pursuit of power, money and sex, jeopardize world peace, not to mention their perpetuation of evils perpetrated on children, women and others by the Vatican clique’s power driven theology.
European monarchs in 1870 let Italian nationalists invade Rome. Now, major powers, especially the USA and Germany, must let world prosecutors impose the rule of law on the Vatican, if Pope Francis fails now to implement promptly a major reform process that makes the Catholic hierarchy accountable, as it was in the Church that Jesus and his early followers left behind.
The ex-Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, appears to have left Pope Francis with a very serious dilemma. The Vatican’s financial misdeeds had recently led Italian banking regulators to seize millions of dollars of Vatican cash, reportedly due to Mafia related money laundering. The regulators on January 1 closed down the Vatican’s credit card facility, reportedly related to financial irregularities. A major multinational bank recently refused to do business with the Vatican in Milan. The head of the Vatican Bank was recently abruptly fired. A senior Vatican financial cleric was just shipped to South America.
Amidst European monarchical wars and rivalries for centuries, the Vatican has been able to postphone modernizing the papacy as Luther, Calvin and others fairly called for, given the clear conflicts between papal practices and Gospel mandates. The other European monarchs have been effectively gone for a century, the papal monarchy’s bubble has just burst and the mystical smoke is quickly dissipating.
As Vatican Cardinals may encourage Pope Francis to retreat behind Vatican walls, Protestants, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama, appear increasingly likely to be Luther’s and Calvin’s potential successors in helping to complete the reform of medieval Catholicism. On the first day of the Conclave, President Obama indicated that he expected the Vatican to accept the Gospel mandate that we are all children of God, presumably including within that term children sexually abused by priests.
It now seems inevitable, despite Pope Francis’ election, that the real repair of the Catholic Church will have to await governmental interventions and prosecutions, likely and most significantly from Germany and the USA. World order cannot wait much longer for the 19th Century Catholic Church to enter the 21st Century. Too much is at stake to permit petty Vatican princes to continue to misbehave so harmfully.
Ironically, the effects of two World Wars have put the fate of Catholicism, headquartered in a weakened Italy, mainly in the hands of two Protestants, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Barack Obama of the USA. Germany and the USA are principal sources of Vatican funding and sources of several local, and likely imminently national, governmental investigations of priest sexual abuse of children and the related hierarchical cover-ups.
Providentially, Joseph Ratzinger has already made investigators and prosecutors tasks much easier by inadvisedly having his senior Opus Dei Cardinal oversee the compilation a 300 page dossier of current Vatican “Cardinal Sins” that inevitably will soon be in the hands of prosecutors, supplemented likely by the mistreated butler’s equally revealing and damning testimony.
The ex-Pope and the Vatican Cardinals have so far already made clear that they have little fear of investigators from the International Criminal Court, the UN Committee, Ireland, the UK, Belgium, Chile, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and other less powerful nations. It is time for Merkel and Obama to stop passing the investigation buck and step-up to protect innocent children in their countries. It is almost inevitable politically they will soon have to follow Australia’s Prime Minister Gillard’s bold investigation initiative. Merkel and Obama would be better off speaking up now.
Time to end the mystical nonsense and to protect and respect children, women, AIDS victims, gay persons and the many other groups that have suffered much, needlessly, as a result of a self-serving Vatican clique’s lust for power and wealth, with a little sex on the side. We have heard more than enough already.
The papal geo-political strategy following World War I of trading “papal blessings” with politicians in exchange for papal influence and church subsidies received a mortal wound with President Barack Obama’s strong re-election victory over the ex-Pope’s flawed anti-contraceptive and anti-gay marriage strategy. The ex-Pope’s strategy has now breathed its last with the recent election trouncing of the ex-Pope’s preferred candidate, Italy’s Prime Minister Monti, by an ex-Clown Prince! It really was a good time for the ex-Pope to leave the Vatican, and hopefully he will not return. He can pray and meditate better at Castel Gandolfo, and still claim sovereign immunity there as well under the Lateran Treaty.
Now secular leaders must act immediately to apply the rule of law to both Popes and the Cardinals. Enough with the winks and nods and special dispensations seeking political support. The International Criminal Court prosecutor must stop procrastinating and national leaders, like President Obama and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, must step-up and follow the admirable lead of Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny. Subpoena the secret report and the Pope’s butler and put an end to the incessant rape of children by priests and the miaappropriation of Catholics’ contributions!
To many of the one billion plus Catholics, Pope Francis’ election is mainly hopeful Good News. The “First” may soon be returned to the “Last”, children may soon be safer, women may be more respected, family planning may now be available to save more children from misery, Catholic scholars may again be able to think freely and aloud, and gay persons may now be freed of oppression from too many conflicted and closeted gay hierarchs. Divinely, the Gospels wisely show us Jesus and his early followers rejected evil empires and hypocritical hierarchs; while valuing authenticity and children. Welcome back, Gospels. We missed you when you were gone!
Increasing numbers of Cardinals seem to be facing serious criminal prosecution risks that likely could increase rapidly unless the Vatican is reformed promptly and broadly. Last year, Philly’s Cardinal Bevilacqua avoided almost imminent prosecution by dying first and his top aide is in prison. Prosecutors and jurors will likely no longer give Cardinals the benefit of the doubt and the media is aggressively reporting Cardinals’ sins more often. Pope Francis must confront these risks honestly and openly or the risk of imprisonment will almost surely only increase for Cardinals worldwide. The new Pope must require that abuse survivors are treated justly and that children are protected effectively. He must assure that hierarchical wrongdoers are exposed, removed and punished transparently and promptly. He must end the financial scandals; not just ship a key financial player to South America. He should consider closing down the Vatican Bank. These pressing imperatives require real reforms now, especially to minimize prosecution risks for some Cardinals.
The earlier shrewd effort of Pope Pius XII, as papal diplomat and then Pope, to maintain the charade of a Vatican nation-state as a purported world power for the tiny remnant of a former petty Italian papal kingdom, the Papal States, is finally over. Pope John Paul II was able temporarily to prop up and extend this papal geo-political overreach, because President Ronald Reagan apparently thought he needed the Polish Pope to bring down the Soviets, That brief political alliance ended with a thud with President Obama’s re-election. The Vatican must now focus on spiritual matters and forget politics and anti-contraceptive and anti-gay marriage crusades. Papal political clout is now clearly just an historical anomaly.
Pope Francis will surely be bogged down for years in ongoing worldwide governmental investigations, civil litigation and criminal prosecutions of the Church’s hierarchy that are now beginning to mushroom.
Hopefully, Pope Francis will read my overall brief proposal to Pope Benedict XVI in my Washington Post column in 2010, accessible here:
Pope Francis must then appoint promptly a special commission to identify and recommend within nine months needed structural and pastoral changes, with specific changes preliminarily listed now for the commission’s consideration.
Then, Pope Francis must implement the needed changes so identified at a worldwide council held away from Rome within six months of receipt of the special committee’s recommendations as described in my Washington Post article.
As an experienced international lawyer, I am constantly surprised at how naive and/or ill advised so many Cardinals seem to be about their own personal prosecution risks. Now is the time to begin seriously to fix the Church, which will also surely reduce the risk of prosecution for many Cardinals. The Vatican clique seems to live in a legal fantasyland, perhaps hoping to forestall prosecutors for their few remaining years like Cardinal Bevilacqua did. Fine, but any Cardinals who plan to be around awhile need to wake up!
Just think about what’s coming in terms of governmental investigations in Australia, the USA (LA, Philly, Milwaukee, Washington DC, et al.) , Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, and other European nations, and eventually nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa as well. Criminal lawyers will certainly be busy.The U.S. Cardinals can expect to spend most of the next decade in courts, civil, criminal and/or bankruptcy, assuming any of them return to the USA after the conclave and forgo seeking “Cardinal Law” Vatican immunity protection now.
Unless Pope Francis takes real steps now in the next couple of weeks, it will be business as usual for the Vatican Cardinals clique once the other Cardinals leave Rome, as happened tragically after Vatican II and as Cardinal Martini recently warned in his final testament.
The original model for the current imperial papacy was created coercively by Constantine and his successors beginning in the Fourth Century. It was tightened in the Eleventh Century and served a purpose for millenium in a European monarchical world that ended with World War I. It no longer is needed and is so tainted with corruption and secrecy that it needs to go the way of other monarchies, as Cardinal Martini with his recent “200 year updating” final advice surely contemplated.
This will necessitate changing the Vatican administration into one that serves, as Jesus contemplated, rather than one that is served. No wonder the Vatican clique picked Cardinal Ratzinger over Cardinals Martini and Pope Francis in 2005. The Church cannot wait any longer to adjust to its new freedom from external political and military pressure. This is an opportunity for a New Evangelization, not the last chance for the Vatican clique to tighten their grip.
A Bishop of Rome could still be maintained to preside over the current spiritual tourist Disneyworld with Vatican museums, parades, custumes, Swiss Guards, etc. A networked worldwide church linked by modern communication that returns to the accountable oversight of local leaders, male and female, popularly selected is long overdue. It is also the structure Jesus and his early followers intentionally left behind and one that would curtail most of the Church’s current shortcomings.
Pertinently, among some of the relevant guidelines generally ascribed to Jesus are that he was opposed to a self-important, excessively scrupulous and overly indulgent religious hierarchy and that he thought children should be protected from harm. These points have neither been consistently understood nor respected in the Vatican for decades, even for centuries. The “Good News”, or the Gospels, have often been disregarded by the Catholic hierarchy where a Renaissance culture of opulence and celibate incomprehension of children still predominate today.
Where in the Gospels did Jesus say predatory priests are to be protected before innocent children, like the Vatican has done for decades, if not centuries? Where did Jesus instruct his followers to wear expensive outfits paid for by donations? Where did Jesus tell his followers to launder money like Cardinals reportedly do through the Vatican Bank?
It is time to restore Catholic leadership to the consensual approach that Jesus and early Catholics followed for over three centuries until Roman Emperors converted the Catholic Bishops, including the Pope, into an imperial bureaucracy dominated by a Vatican clique that dictated ruthlessly for 1,700 years, and still dictates, top-down to Catholics seemingly to fill the clique’s coffers.
Catholics will not likely in their lifetimes have a better opportunity than with Pope Francis’ election to reform the Church, and at the same time to protect children as Jesus commanded. It is time to restore the consensual church management structure that the overwhelming vote of Vatican II Cardinals and Bishops contemplated would be adopted a half century ago before a minority of Cardinals like Ottaviani, Wotyla, Ratzinger, Sodano, Bertone, Levada, Rigali, Mahony, Law, Burke, Bevilacqua, Brady, Pell, O’Brien, et al., subverted its implementation.
Pope John XXIII issued in 1962 the main secrecy order on priest child sex abuse. But he also realized that accountabilty had to be restored to save the Church. He took the first step by trying to get the Vatican Cardinals to share power with the worldwide bishops. He died soon therafter and the Vatican Cardinals’ clique rejected power sharing craftily. Since then, they have installed compliant Popes who like the papal prestige and are happy to do the clique’s bidding.
But the democratic rule of law has run out of patience with clerical child abusers and Popes no longer have any effective political power, as the re-election of President Obama and papal political setbacks in the Philippines, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and elsewhere just proved.
The International Sheriff appears to be on his way to Rome and the ex-Pope cannot hide for long with Georgeous Georg in a refurbished convent. Some of his own Cardinals, or his butler, may likely help nail him, it appears. Why didn’t the butler trust Georg? We may soon find out.
The reason for some optimism is that the Vatican clique’s apparent raw power grab at the Conclave will now just accelerate the sinking of the Vatican Titanic that much sooner, unless Pope Francis moves expeditiously to adopt meaningful reforms. Even overly trusting Catholics will see through the hierarchical charade.
Various prosecutors and survivors lawyers can now be expected to be able to reach Ratzinger, who may have lost his legal immunity. Once the rule of international law starts pulling hard directly on papal threads, the Vatican hierarchy can expect to be quickly uncovered and forced to initiate reforms, perhaps after some senior officials face prosecution, which is likely not too far off.
For example, longtime Vatican Cardinal Rigali is still at risk of prosecution in Philadelphia where his predecessor, Cardinal Bevilacqua, last year apparently escaped a likely imminent criminal indictment for child endangerment by dying first! Their hapless senior aide, Monsignor Lynn, took the fall, so far, and is in prison.
Catholics are not and should not be waiting on Pope Francis. He was elected in secret and has apparently given no indication yet he will address the Church’s scandals effectively. Australian and Irish Catholics have already gotten their governments to act.Now many from different faiths and no faith all across the USA, and even worldwide, including some of those harmed by the abuse of the deaf victims in Milwaukee, have already signed my petition calling on President Obama to step up. They have indicated they have had enough with the domination of local prosecutors and legislators by the Catholic hierarchy and its well paid apologists and lawyers. The UN Committee on Children’s severe criticism of President Obama’s Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress, echoed by SNAP, just reinforces the need for the national investigation commission that the petition requests.
More signatures, including yours, will help accelerate the establishment of the U.S. national investigation commission, especially important now when the Vatican may be at a turning point.
We all have a moral obligation to protect children and signing a petition is a simple, yet potentially effective, way towards meeting that obligation. Please take a minute and sign it at: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-obama-investigate-child-sexual-abuse-by-priests-rabbis-religious-leaders
Please, as well, ask those you respect and who value children to sign it also. If you are active in a U.S. advocacy group, ask your leadership to support the petition. Similarly reticent progressive Catholic voices seem reluctant to press for the positive prospects of President Obama establishing a U.S. national investigation commission. With the UN Committee’s and SNAP’S lead, they need now to take a stand.
What are they all waiting for? Blogging, writing, debating and prayer, however admirable and well intentioned, have to date barely influenced the Vatican clique and their subservient U.S. Bishops on reforms and will likely do little more in the future, certainly in the near term as more children are raped by priests, while overly trusting Catholics continue to contribute enabling complicit bishops to protect priest pedophiles and predators perpetually.
It is a sad commentary on the docility and timidity of so-called progressive U. S. Catholics that a UN Committee in Geneva has to take the lead in calling for national action on a nationwide and pervasive outrage against innocent and defenseless children in the USA !
I have separately proposed that President Obama consider appointing First Lady, Michelle Obama, to chair the new Obama commission. She is well respected as a Harvard lawyer and devoted mother. She would be an ideal choice with her established credibility if she were willing to accept the appointment.
If the First Lady would oversee this, President Obama would still be able to focus on his many other priorities, including resisting the Vatican’s and its plutocratic Republican contributors’ unrelenting and opportunistic efforts to derail Obamacare over contraception insurance and immigration reform over gay marriage.
If there tragically were not over 200 million “unplanned” children living miserably in countries where Vatican lobbying effectively denied their parents access to affordable contraception, a dispute among elderly celibates over permissible forms of contraception would make good political satire! But sadly, the Vatican’s anti-contraceptive efforts, apparently mainly to please the Vatican’s plutocratic Republican donors by keeping family planning wedge issues in political play, will very likely only fail again, while these efforts continue nevertheless to burden families and children.
Please click on to the black text at the top of this column for my analysis of related topics.
Finally, I hope some of you will consider linking this statement to your comments at appropriate websites and/or circulating it to others via social media.