Irish Show Voting Is Only Way To Make Pope Accountable: USA, Germany, Italy & Others Will Soon Follow

By Jerry Slevin
Christian Catholicism
May 31, 2015

Pope Francis, clearly a well disguised absolute autocrat and temporary monarch in my view, has predictably avoided commenting on his unprecedented defeat, over his self serving marriage policy, that Irish Catholic voters overwhelming handed him recently. Nor has the pope commented on the pointed remarks of his own papal commissioner for child protection, Peter Saunders, who reportedly says Cardinal George Pell is a “dangerous individual” and “almost sociopathic“.  Learn here more about the investigation that Pell fears, and why he fears it, at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.

.It is also clear by now, to me at least, that the masterful media manipulating pope will reform the Vatican’s top down autocratic structure and harmful sexual policies ONLY IF COMPELLED by outside governments to do so. The Irish voters by a substantial majority have shown all democratically elected leaders in Ireland for sure, but also in the USA, Germany, Italy, the UK, Australia, the Philippines, Austria, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, Poland, and many other nations, that these leaders must rein in the unaccountable Vatican and curb its harmful and self interested policies that it seeks to impose on all citizens, not just Catholics. The Vatican must be shown that the Middle Ages are over!

The honest Irish have shown that the media friendly pope may be a popular image and refreshing change for many, but his views on sexual morality carry little weight in the voting booth, even in the modern papacy’s most Catholic country, Ireland. Voters worldwide now can be expected to follow the bold lead of a large majority of Irish voters, whose monumental action and effective example would have made my Donegal born and bred Irish Catholic parents cheer!

Even Catholic students in Australia are now weighing in against the abuses. This follows recent student protests apparently of the hypocrisy of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan by Jesuit college, Le Moyne’s graduating students and of the hypocrisy of Newark’s Archbishop John Myers  by New Jersey’s Catholic Seton Hall University students. Francis will soon be visiting the New York/Newark areas and can now expect some protests there.

Peter Saunders, a parent and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by two priests, spoke about the pope’s shameful top financial aide, Cardinal Pell, in a remarkable interview here on Australia’s  60 Minutes.

In the 60 Minutes segment, two video excerpts show Pell seemingly denying in an informal interview a significant fact about a young abuse victim who committed suicide. In the second video, apparently under legal constraint before a parliamentary investigation commission, with  likely serious legal consequences for false statements, Pell apparently “remembered” the significant fact and reversed himself considerably.

Pell’s seemingly long history of denials include his acknowledgement in 2013 that he had “probably” been shown a photograph of the slashed wrists of the young abuse victim, after he previously said he had never seen it, it appears. The victim’s parents  reportedly showed Pell the photo of their daughter Emma, who was abused by Fr. Kevin O’Donnell. Their parents other daughter, Katie, was also a victim of the priest. Emma went on to take her own life in 2008.

In a 2002 interview with 60 Minutes reporter, Richard Carleton, Pell evidently denied he had ever seen the picture, before seemingly changing his position two years ago. In his recent defensive and confused response, Pell stated, “Probably, but let’s put this in context. Now we know that was an attempted suicide, you’ve got to understand, this was a…. the production of this photo was something sudden, I didn’t have a chance for a considered response.”

Right! Probably. Why would anyone expect Pell to remember a picture of the slashed writs of a priest child abuse victim shown to him by upset parents? If the pope wants to maintain even a prayer of credibility on curtailing priest child abuse and on holding Church leaders accountable, Pell needs to go pronto!

Will the real Pell stand up before the Royal Commission? Indeed, is there a real Pell?

Again predictably, Pell reportedly declined to be interviewed for the latest 60 Minutes segment, even though 60 Minutes had interviewed him before, apparently when that suited Pell’s purposes. Instead, Pell issued a typical seemingly threatening  “legalese” statement, noting “… While [Commission] members [like Saunders] are of course entitled to their views and opinions, the recently approved Statutes of the [ pope’s priest child abuse] Commission make it clear that the Commission’s role does not include commenting on individual cases, nor does the Commission have the capacity to investigate individual cases.”

Nice try, George Pell, but the UK’s Saunders retained his non-clerical free speech rights and Irish voters retained their free voting rights. Saunders is not subject to the Vatican’s shameful code of “Omerta”, the protective secrecy that puts the protection of clerics ahead of protecting defenseless children. Bishop Scicluna found Omerta to be the pervasive and dominant Vatican code of silence.

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal’s Vatican journalist recently stressed reportedly that Catholic teaching on marriage after the Irish vote “is not going to be changed on paper in any way,” he said. On paper, or any other way, it appears. The remarks from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, that the Irish Yes vote is a “defeat for humanity” and, in another top Cardinal, Raymond Burke’s view, over a million Irish Catholics are even “worse than the pagans for legalising gay marriage”, indicate Vatican business as usual. A classic “good cop/bad cop” papal ploy — let the subordinates be the bad guys! Pope Francis should skip these evasive reactions  and face directly the crisis before him. He will only do so, in my experienced view as an international lawyer, if the pope is compelled to act by outside government forces. Nothing else has proved effective and Catholics need to forgo their delusions that Pope Francis is really a reforming pope.

Shocked Cardinals two years ago elected Pope Francis evidently to save their necks, by containing the financial and sex scandals that exploded under ex-Pope Benedict and by regaining powerful political protectors, especially a Vatican friendly US president preferably named Bush, and even adding as supporters Russian and Chinese leaders. For almost 2,000 years, most popes’ top priority has been securing protection from powerful men from Constantine, Justinian and Charlemagne to Mussolini, Hitler, Reagan and the two Bush US Presidents.

Francis has media managed well and expensively and changed the subject for awhile, with mixed messages, vague promises, staged trips and photo ops, but the “mystical curtain” is being lifted, especially by brave abuse survivors and persistent reformers who refuse to quit.

Francis appealingly called on Catholics to “create a mess” but, instead, by his slick approach, he has paradoxically created his own expanding mess, which may be his last as pope! Many lifetime indoctrinated Catholics may behave as “dumb sheep” at times; I did, but few of them in the Internet Age remain as “blind sheep”.

Until now, the Vatican has mostly avoided various national prosecutors. The pope and his high priced consultants and lawyers have also so far buried the financial scandals in over hyped committees that he still controls unaccountably, most significantly with no public audits of the Vatican’s own wealth even on the horizon.

Now at least four principled and impatient lay members of the pope’s “go slow” sex abuse commission, that was intended apparently by the Vatican mainly to diffuse the sex abuse scandal at least until after next year’s crucial USA presidential elections, are publicly balking at their inconsequential, even illusory, roles.

Papal apologists are predictably trying to isolate them as “lone actors”, yet even a cursory review of worldwide Catholics’ opinions indicate these prophetic members speak for hundreds of millions of outraged Catholics who care about protecting children.

Hopefully, these bold members will continue speaking out publicly from their commission pulpit to press the pope either to fix the commission or to fire them publicly to make clear the pope’s dissembling delay strategy.

The sex abuse commission fix would include at a minimum more and public meetings and the prompt review of unaccountable bishops like Chile’s Bishop Barros and Cardinal Pell. The fix needs also to include the addition of internationally respected abuse scandal expert, Fr. Thomas Doyle, to the commission as some members and many Catholics earlier urged strongly. See TOM DOYLE On Bishops’ Continuing Cruelty to Abuse Survivors .

Enough with the pope’s “cherry picked” safe selections as commission members, many of whom are sitting by like papal puppets while the pope protects his old acquaintance Barros and Pell! The pope is unlikely to fire these honest and outspoken commissioners and risk undermining his well crafted but misleading facade, especially with his important visits to the USA and the UN quickly approaching.

Francis found time to meet with fundamentalist USA anti-contraception and anti-gay marriage crusaders to help his USA bishops please their low tax billionaire donors in the 2014 USA congressional elections. Will he now make time to meet with his own commission members in other than a photo op? He better find time to meet with them or be prepared to face the major fallout if fails to address honestly the major sex abuse crisis he faces.

The fallout will likely spread to the USA by the time Francis visits there in a few months, as discussed below. At least two of the abuse commission members, Marie Collins and Peter Saunders,  to their credit had pressed hard to meet with the absolute monarch, Francis, about his appointment of a Chilean bishop Barros recently, a major Francis blunder, as well as about the sex abuse commission’s future role as an effective group, as reported recently here in the National Catholic Reporter.

These prophetic Catholics refuse to be used as mere showpiece pawns, as the Vatican seeks to bury the child abuse scandal once again with a “classic delay tactic” advisory commission that superficially paints over the scandal with staged, secretive and scripted meetings semi-annually run by disgraced Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer, Fr. Robert Oliver.

Meanwhile, self interested and unaccountable Cardinals are publicly bickering brutally over changing the “money matter” of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, the only real reform issue now being addressed even remotely seriously, as the Vatican tries to appear interested in making reform changes.

The world’s top Jesuit expert on Vatican management structures and practices, Fr. Thomas Reese, with a UC Berkeley Ph.D. in political science, has even criticized Francis’ superficial and ineffectual changes on Cardinals’ and curial matters. Indeed, it is fair to say that Jesuit expert Reese ripped Pope Francis’ structural reform efforts .

The 78 year old Francis’ papacy has reached the tipping point as increasingly, Cardinals battle, Catholics revolt and prosecutors advance. Francis’ only potentially effective option now, if he really wants to avoid complete chaos, would be to convene pronto an open ecumenical council, yet he is probably too much “one of the boys” to call a council. Too bad. Unless he does, he will fail big time, sooner rather than later.

Only an open and full council, with women as full participants, has a prayer of succeeding before foreign governments press the Vatican to reform involuntarily. It is only a matter of a short time before outside forces reject directly and emphatically

(1) the pope’s self interested baby breeding ideology in an already overpopulated world incessantly at war over limited energy and water resources,

(2) the pope’s dangerous call for another Western military invasion of the Middle East that appears to benefit the pope’s Big Oil allies and a beleaguered Vatican, but few others, and

(3) the pope’s unacceptable and insufficient approaches to protecting children from priest predators and to respecting in a truly Christian manner women and gay and divorced persons.

Francis’ personal limitations are becoming increasingly evident, while his uninspiring (at best) earlier record becomes better known. The strong willed ex-bouncer Latino Pope Francis seems to have underestimated brave Celtic priest abuse survivor, Marie Collins, and her UK outspoken colleague, Peter Saunders.

A charter member of the pope’s almost illusory abuse commission,

(1) Collins at times complained to the AP’s Nicole Winfield about the commission’s inexcusable long delays,

(2) she boldly, in effect, threatened to quit if bishops were not held at last accountable for protecting priest predators, and

(3) she recently challenged the pope publicly on his selection of the tainted Bishop Barros in Chile.

Peter Saunders has bravely and wisely pressed for real abuse survivors’ roles both on the pope’s illusory commission, as well as on the new UK commission. He knows that only survivors’ prophetic oversight can assure that the “Establishment” will not bury the abuse scandal once again in more ineffective showpiece commissions.

Chilean survivors accuse Barros, whom Pope Francis appointed in January, of covering up abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The survivors say that as a priest, Barros not only worked to cover up Karadima’s crimes, but witnessed some of them as they happened. In 2011, the Vatican found Karadima, a once-renowned spiritual leader and key Chilean church figure, guilty of sexually abusing minors. Francis, with longstanding close ties to Chile, likely knows Karadima and Barros well.

Saunders reportedly directly said recently that Barros “should not be in charge of a diocese where he will be responsible for young people. It’s an outrage. … I personally think that that man should be removed as a bishop because he has a very, very dubious history — corroborated by more than one person, … “.

“This is a well-known scenario of intimidation and abuse that went on for a long time,” Saunders reportedly continued. “And that man is still in a position of power, and it shouldn’t be the case.”

Saunders and Collins are two of 17 members of the Vatican abuse commission, which met for the first time in its entirety in Rome in February, almost two years into Francis’ papacy.

“The pope cannot say one thing and then do another,” Saunders reportedly said recently. None of us can.” “If he says bishops must be accountable and will be held to account, if there is zero tolerance of anybody within the ranks of the church who is abusing, then they are out — then he has to stick to that,” he reportedly continued.

“I need an explanation as to why these things are not happening. Otherwise, I cannot see any point of me being on the commission,” Saunders reportedly added. “I’m pretty sure that others may feel the same.”

Saunders also reportedly said on 4/10/15 that he had he wrote a letter for Francis about his remarks in February that seemed to justify slapping children. We should be encouraging parents to love their children, not to hit them, because violence only ever begets violence,” Saunders reportedly said. “It teaches a child that if you don’t get your way, you hit.”

The over-hyped “who am I to judge” Pope Francis likes to pick subordinates who seem to love to rush to judge others, such as for causing a purported “defeat for humanity” and for acting even “worse than the pagans for legalising gay marriage.” A classic “good cop/bad cop” ploy — let the subordinates be the bad guys! Pope Francis should skip these contrived distractions and face directly the crisis before him.

Pope Francis now faces new “messes” even before his too touted US trip begins, as Cardinal Raymond Burke, in effect, damns over legalizing civilly same sex marriages many of the USA’s and world’s political and judicial leaders that favor civil same sex marriage, including by implication apparently some US Supreme Court  justices, as well as President Barack Obama and many members of the US Congress.  The pope should have an interesting visit to Washington DC with Burke in tow, perhaps wearing his $30,000+ special cardinal’s costume.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the top Vatican official working on Philadelphia’s September World Meeting of Families and the pope, and who also serves as head of the pope’s Family Council, is reportedly under serious criminal investigation as a key figure for fraud and other crimes. Italian prosecutors after a two year investigation allege that Paglia, as an instigator, and others, including clerics,  in 2012 used funds illegally obtained from Paglia’s heavily indebted diocese to buy a former religious property/castle for one-third of its value with the intention of selling it for an almost $5 million quick profit.

Vatican hierarchs seeking to profit, directly or indirectly, from unused Church property transactions, including of nuns’ properties, is not new. For example, intrepid investigative reporter, Jason Berry, in a critical look at how the Catholic Church handles property, has reportedly written that Cardinal Angelo Sodano watched on as an American real estate company, that prominently employed his nephew, trumpeted its ties to the Vatican, implying that it had inside knowledge on closed church properties coming on the market. Its president, Raffaello Follieri, pleaded guilty to US federal charges of cheating investors in 2008. Berry says the FBI found that before his fall, Follieri paid two Vatican employees $800,000 for their assistance. No Vatican employee was charged by civil authorities, nor were any disciplined by the church.

And of course, the recently ended Vatican witchhunt of American sisters triggered many complaints from US sisters of the Vatican’s near obsession with the sisters’ assets, mostly real estate.

One wonders how the pope picks his men for key assignments. Paglia, Cardinal George Pell, Monsignor Battista Ricca, et al., all had poor records when Pope Francis gave them important tasks. Ricca has been Francis’ ‘eyes and ears’ at the Vatican Bank despite reports he had a string of notorious homosexual affairs.  Paglia’s alleged fraud involvement was known for at least two years and Pell’s alleged cover-ups of priest child abusers and cruel treatment of an abuse survivor were publicly reported for many years.

Pell faces even more criticism, now from Peter Saunders, the man hand-picked by the Pope to be a member of the pope’s commission to protect children and to help others abused by members of Catholic Church, saying he needs to go. “I think it’s critical that George Pell is moved aside, that he is sent back to Australia, and that the Pope takes the strongest action against him,”  Saunders said speaking to 60 Minute’s Tara Brown in Rome.

Saunders added, ““He [Pell] is making a mockery of the papal commission, of the Pope himself, but most of all of the victims and the survivors. More importantly, anybody who is a serious obstacle to the work of the commission and to the work of the Pope in trying to clean up the church’s act over this matter needs to be taken aside very quickly and removed from any kind of position of influence.”

Is the pope indifferent, incompetent or just arrogant in his key appointments? It is difficult with all the secrecy and spin to know for sure.

Meanwhile, Burke, apparently the highest ranking Church official working on Pope Francis plan to try to elect a “Vatican friendlier” Republican US president next year, has now condemned over 1,000,000 Irish Catholics as being  worse than the pagans for legalising gay marriage. Ironically, the Irish saved the Catholic Church in the “Dark Ages” from “pagans” whose rulers’ moral blindness and obscene fineries seem much closer to Burke’s than to most Irish Catholics.

The pope and Burke appear to be following mostly the same-sex marriage crusade election strategy the Vatican followed with Burke as a key actor in 2004 to re-elect George W. Bush, thereby prolonging the Iraq War and nearly bankrupting the USA. This is mainly a continuation of the alliance of the Vatican and US Republican’s “right wing, low tax, less regulation and least safety net” (but more wars) strategy since 1980 that got the US Republican party “Catholicized”. Francis has reportedly indicated that Burke is pleased with his new well funded Knights of Malta role. The pope’s and Burke’s friendly chat at the Vatican’s televised Christmas party appears to confirm this.

This anti-gay marriage strategy includes having the pope and top US Catholic hierarchs taking tough and public stances against same sex marriages, while fundamentalist US evangelicals do the detailed political campaigning, etc. It worked in 2004.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput predictably released the following statement (in italics): “I was saddened to learn of the recent news regarding Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and will pray for him. At the same time, I assure everyone that matters facing him do not impact our plans for September. We continue to work without interruption and joyfully anticipate welcoming our Holy Father and the world to Philadelphia later this year.”


Indeed, Chaput seems to be planning an “anti-gay marriage festival” for the pope’s visit. He is not going to be distracted by some episcopal corruption or even by his convicted Monsignor Lynn’s family’s recent statement to the effect that the cover-up crimes were committed by Philadelphia’s Cardinals. The family of convicted child endangerer, Monsignor Lynn, now say, in pertinent part, reportedly that Lynn’s criminal trial was about  ” … charging an underling with the crimes of his former superiors who could not or would not be prosecuted.”  (emphasis mine) 

Lynn must have confirmed this with his family, no? How else could they otherwise have known of the “crimes of his former superiors”, principally former Philadelphia Cardinals Justin Rigali and Anthony Bevilacqua. For years Lynn has avoided pointing the fingers at his bosses. At his sentencing, the trial judge told him, in effect, that he should have stood up to the cardinals.

The Irish referendum on same sex marriage puts a great deal of pressure on Pope Francis. A respected and leading expert on Catholic Church reform for almost a half century, Tom Fox of the National Catholic Reporter, asks perceptively and directly: Can the Catholic hierarchy finally admit it has Catholic sexual teachings wrong? Admittedly, he notes, it’s a tall order, pointing out that if Pope Francis and his hierarchy just withhold judgment without addressing and amending past teaching errors, it will not be enough. Nowhere near enough.

Fox also points out the gift Pope Francis and the Catholic hierarchy have been handed by the Irish with their overwhelming vote to legalize same sex marriages. Coming just months before the Synod on the Family set for next October in Rome, the vote by this Catholic nation is nothing less than a church plebiscite – a vote of the Catholic sensus fidelium for all to see that official Catholic teaching on human sexuality is wrong, hurtful, and even, at times, immoral.

In Catholic theology, the Holy Spirit guides the Catholic populace, not just the pope. By an almost two to one margin, over a million Irish voters, mostly Catholic, rejected a key position of the pope’s on marriage. The pope in his absurd Family Synods avoids rejection of papal positions by inviting only celibate male bishops to fully participate in the decisionmaking process. Of course, no women or men in normal committed relationships.

Fox correctly cites a recent NCR editorial that states the situation succinctly. It reads in part (in italics):

It is time for church teaching to reflect what social science tells us and what Catholic families have long understood: Catholicism must cast off a theology of sexuality based on a mechanical understanding of natural law that focuses on individual acts, and embrace a theology of sexuality that has grown out of lived experience and is based on relationships and intentionality.

Fox fairly observes that the Irish vote is a wake up call. If the Synod on the Family ends with only a “pastoral” conclusion, a call that we all need “to open our selves and parishes to essentially wayward, sinners, that we need to love these “sinners” even as they continue to engage in “intrinsically disordered acts,” it will have failed all of us. The Synod then, despite the best intentions, will almost certainly end up further eroding the Catholic Church – if this is possible – as moral force on matters of family, human relationships and sexual theology.

Pope Francis says Catholics should “create a mess” to help him promote changes in the Catholic Church. The Irish responded and have created a “mess”. The Catholic majority are pleased for now; although many are skeptical. Some see a bright ray of hope shining through the crisis of trust triggered by Church scandals. Others think the window of opportunity for hopeful light from Pope Francis will close soon if he is not prophetic and transparent in his limited time still available. Indeed, some even think the Vatican’s current “holy mess” will be its final mess.

Yet, Francis has so far offered few indications about concrete changes he really wants. Many Church leaders seem fearful of any changes. Yet, many Catholics and others are finally pressing for permanent changes. They have by now seen Vatican misconduct up close and too often. They now also understand better that many of the Vatican’s frequently ambiguous, if not vague, basic biblical and historical sources supporting papal power and “unchangeable dogmas”, have too often been overplayed, if not misused, in encyclicals and a Catechism, to justify supreme papal power, a clearly unchristian concept.

Significantly, these permanent changes, that the Catholic majority seeks in good conscience and good faith, may differ ultimately from what many in the Vatican now want. As the “infallible Supreme Pontiff” for millions of Catholics, Pope Francis has the best papal opportunity in many years, if not centuries, to fix the broken Catholic Church. This may also be the final papal opportunity to clean up the “holy mess”. Time will soon tell.

This crisis has led to one papal resignation already. Pope Francis appears for many reasons to be the Vatican’s best and last chance to lead on initiating overdue Church changes.

Pressures beyond Vatican control can be expected to compel more severe changes if Francis fails to act effectively and transparently. This has already begun to happen with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European governmental investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets.

Prospects for criminal prosecutions of Catholic Church officials have seemingly caused the Vatican to focus on overdue reforms in ways that earlier financial penalties and shameful publicity had rarely done before. As with corporate criminal executives worldwide, prosecution risk is generally a uniquely effective deterrent to future crimes by senior leaders.

Almost 150 years ago, facing a similar crisis, Pope Pius IX refused to initiate overdue changes to his arbitrary and ineffective leadership of his Kingdom of the Papal States in central Italy. His key misguided “fix” was to push to be declared “infallible” in July 1870.

Two months later, he militarily lost the Kingdom completely to Italian nationalists. Traditional papal protectors like France and Austria-Hungary stood by and passively watched, unwilling to support further papal mismanagement and capriciousness. Will Pope Francis make a similar mistake like Pius IX did by misjudging his precarious position?

The Vatican no longer even has comparable powerful protectors. It is mostly on its own now in the international political arena, like Pius XI’s Vatican was by 1870. Popes since 1870 have counter culturally tried secretively to rule mainly as “semi-divine infallible” absolute monarchs with tightly controlled subordinate bishops worldwide in an increasingly democratic world now linked by an open Internet and an 24/7 worldwide free media.

The Vatican is running out of time to adjust to current reality and may be forced to do so soon.

Building governmental pressures indicate currently that if the Vatican does not adopt key changes voluntarily and soon, the Vatican can be expected to be compelled to change involuntarily. This has recently already happened repeatedly, for example, in the financial area.

Another recent example of increasing governmental pressure is the Australian national investigation into child abuse in religious organizations. It has already led to the Vatican changing both internal policies, and key leadership in Australia, including Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Papal Nuncio, following a massive effort by government investigators. Similar investigations can be expected in other countries as well, and are already underway in the UK and Scotland.

The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions.

Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks.

The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia and in the marriage area in Ireland, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.

Significantly, the Vatican no longer benefits from the powerful international protection that had enabled the Vatican to avoid overdue changes for centuries. In the current world of democracies and a free press and Internet, the secretive Vatican is vulnerable.

Neither the Vatican’s high priced consultants, lawyers and lobbyists, nor the Vatican’s opportunistic financial elite allies, who seek Vatican backing to protect the income inequality status quo that benefits them so disproportionately, are hardly comparable substitutes for the earlier military backing of the Holy Roman Emperor and other powers. These powers had effectively protected the Vatican for centuries from demands for change. No more.

The world’s political leaders have noted that the pope’s polling popularity in predominantly Catholic Ireland does not carry over to Catholics supporting papal positions in voting booths.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis’ Synod strategy has pulled back the curtain on the Vatican’s fallible and incoherent management structure and helped explain why ex-Pope Benedict had no real choice but to resign.

In our 24/7 media world, as the Church’s scandal and mismanagement dominoes fall, a further domino effect will likely take over beyond the Vatican’s power to control it. Fear of this effect has likely contributed to provoking some of the strong opposition that Pope Francis is facing among many in the Church’s leadership.

The Vatican’s sexual morality policy errors on same sex marriage, contraception and other matters are only sick symptoms of a fundamentally deformed Church management structure. These errors stem mostly from the Vatican’s self-interested goal of preserving the myth of a top down, unaccountable, infallible and absolute papal ruler with his unaccountable Vatican bureaucracy and subordinate worldwide bishops. True monarchies like the papacy are doomed in this world of democracies.

The editors at the National Catholic Reporter recently referred to the pope’s many seemingly intentional and contradictory statements and actions as the “Francis two-step”, or the “Pope Francis shuffle”. On the issue of church teaching on sexuality, the editors believe the time for dialogue is likely passed. Action is needed. The strongest message out of the Irish referendum is that on its teaching about sexuality, the Church today faces a watershed moment, just as it did in 1968 with Humanae Vitae banning the birth control pill.

The editors note that Pope Paul VI, whom incidentally Pope Francis unnecessarily,  hastily and unwisely beatified, addressed contraception with a disastrous formula. By rejecting the evolving learning about artificial birth control and married love — documented by social science and the testimony of committed, faithful married Catholics on the papal commission he appointed — Paul contributed mightily to the erosion of episcopal credibility. Pope Francis is doing likewise with his “son of the Church” ideological nonsense.

The editors at the National Catholic Reporter view the recent Irish vote for same-sex marriage as a watershed moment for Catholic Church teaching. As an experienced international lawyer, I am more sceptical.

Pope Francis has failed in two years even to initiate any significant permanent reforms in the Catholic Church’s top down governance structure — the source of most papal scandals and sexual morality errors. After much spin, the unnecessary Vatican Bank has reported still almost 150 suspicious transactions in 2014 involving many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Moreover, the pope’s failure to address seriously his biggest challenge, the priest child abuse scandal, is telling. This is clear, for example, from the pope’s acquiescence in the continuing merciless abuse of survivors in Milwaukee, as described below by Fr. Thomas Doyle, and the pope’s outrageous promotion and protection of Cardinal George Pell, also described more below.

It is clear the Vatican is mainly trying to ride out the scandals — keeping the hierarchy out of jail and flush with cash as top priorities. German and US bishops are in a battle with each other over giving remarried divorced Catholics access to communion — a big money issue for bishops in both countries. The German bishops want to loosen up the marriage rules to appeal to divorced couples to protect the multi-billion dollar annual German governmental subsidies. US bishops want to preserve the rigid marriage rules to appeal to US billionaire donors to the bishops who need the anti-gay marriage fundamentalist US voters to elect a “low tax, less regulation and least safety net” US Republican president next year.

The pope’s current trajectory will leave children, poor couples, women and divorced and gay persons at continued risk of harm from unaccountable and self interested Catholic hierarchs. Hence the need for more outside goverment pressure to press the Vatican to restore Church democracy as existed for centuries in the Church Jesus first disciples, including women, left behind.

More governments, including the USA, Germany, Italy, UK, Philippines, et al., must follow Ireland’s and Australia’s impressive lead and press Pope Francis hard to begin real reforms now. The recent Irish vote has shown clearly that this is what a large majority of the world’s Catholics also want, so political leaders must wake up before Pope Francis and his “low tax” US billionaire allies succeed in launching a new major Middle East war “to protect Christians”.

The pope knows well he could change many of the Church’s repressive social policies if he really wanted to. Indeed, for example, Australian Bishop Paul Bird, just stated that the Catholic Church should consider ordaining women. Bishop Paul Bird reportedly said that he had no theological problem with the idea of women priests. “Essentially I don’t have scriptural problems with that,”he said. Of course, the repressive ex-Pope removed Australian Bishop Morris for making statements like Bird made.

Pope Francis will be finishing his papacy soon enough, to be replaced as pope perhaps by the current major power behind the papal throne, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Parolin recently and amazingly called Ireland’s referendum to allow civil same sex marriage “not only a defeat for Christian principles, but also a “defeat for humanity.” It appears that the pope and Parolin appear are playing “good cop-bad cop” on same-sex marriage. They are fiddling while Rome (the Vatican) burns, no?

It is abundantly clear now, to me at least, that Pope Francis was picked as an interim place holder to change the subject with papal platitudes about mercy, capitalism and the poor, and with distractions like papal media junkets, absurd “celibate men only Family Synods”, gratuitous and amateurish climate change, capitalism and other vague and ambivalent encyclicals and statements, countless photo ops and the like.

Pope Francis may have given some incurable and docile Catholics temporary hope and a new excuse to avoid stepping up as a Christian to curtail priest child abuse and obtain justice for abuse survivors, after the regressive last two popes, but  the recent Irish vote makes clear by almost a two one margin that Catholics, even in the world’s most Catholic country in recent centuries, are no longer buying any pope’s self interested and secretive acts any more. Pope Francis may be liked by many, but he has very limited moral authority over most Catholics as the Irish referendum and recent Chile protests clearly indicate. The Irish vote, in particular, shows that the Catholic Church is rapidly losing its tight grip over its flock

The Catholic Church has only one choice to survive — by democratizing its structure to provide for bishop selection only by the entire People of God, as was the case for over three centuries in the Church Jesus’ own disciples, including women, left behind.

Francis can implement this structure only by a widely representative (including women) general council, that includes the laity and not just bishops and cardinals .  If the Pope is serious about reforms, he must call for a general council as Pope John XXIII did. Yes, the Pope must now really openly address the crisis he faces with more than just platitudes, diversions and spin.

Concerning the continuing cruel “re-abuse” of priest abuse survivors,  “[t]he Milwaukee situation is the most insidious and openly destructive one I have seen in 31 years…”, said Dominican Fr. Thomas P. Doyle recently. Tom Doyle gives the reasons for his concern and outrage in his recent full remarks below. There he addresses the horrendous and ongoing mistreatment, indeed “re-abuse”, by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee of local survivors of priest sexual abuse, including some of the more than 200 deaf boys who were abused a single priest. See the related HBO Emmy and Peabody Awards’ winning documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God , and here .

This abusive Milwaukee priest was protected for decades by unaccountable cardinals and bishops, including ex-Pope Benedict and his Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.  For years, these defenseless deaf boys tried to tell of their priest abuse in Milwaukee, to little avail.

This Catholic hierarchical cover up of a “one-priest” sexual abuse tsunami and of the related “re-abuse” of survivors are outrageously not unique, as is evident from the recent grilling by the Australian Royal Commission of Fr. Gerald Ridsdale, who was protected by his close ties to Cardinal George Pell, whom Pope Francis nevertheless promoted to a top Vatican position.

Most of the Ridsdale allegations had been well established and publicized before Pell’s promotion. Almost 75,000 people in just a few days have signed a petition calling for Pell — the Vatican’s financial chief and former Archbishop of Sydney — to answer questions under oath in Australia, despite Pell’s initial efforts to duck giving testimony there on new matters. Reportedly, Ridsdale raped an 11 year old girl at a home he shared with George Pell and other priests.

If Pell ever does testify again, the world’s Catholics can expect Pell’s classic “three monkey act” — he saw, heard and knows nothing, that he can recollect in any event. Even “no recollection” replies by Pell are an admission that he does not rule out that Ridsdale’s horrendous abuse of innocent children did occur and that Pell knew about it at the time! In any event, it is crucial that Pell gives evidence to Australian commission .

Moreover, Pell, in effect, under oath also earlier admitted, in effect, to “re-abusing” abuse survivors with cruel and punitive legal tactics, for example, in the so-called Ellis case, like the Milwaukee Archbishop and Cardinal Timothy Dolan also apparently have similarly done.

A Vatican confidante reportedly spoken to by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia confirmed Pope Francis was personally aware of the allegations against Cardinal Pell, but was treating them as just that — unconfirmed allegations. Unconfirmed beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, perhaps. But in my experience over three decades as an adviser to top leaders of multinational organizations and corporations, not one of them would ever have promoted Pell like the pope did in light of the well known, widespread, multiple and plausible allegations against Pell. Indeed, Pell admitted before moving to the Vatican under oath to, in effect, using ruthless legal tactics to punitively “re-abuse” abuse survivor, John Ellis.

Of course, Rupert Murdoch appears to be very close to the Vatican and Pell, and also apparently to a top Pell supporter, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and to the indicted Adelaide Archbishop, the first Catholic archbishop ever criminally charged in a priest child sexual abuse cover up case . And the pope and Murdoch also appear to be partnering to elect a “low tax” Republican as US president next year, possibly Jeb Bush with Big Oil backing.

If the pope were really sincere and serious about curtailing priest child abuse, he would forthwith fire the Archbishop of Milwaukee, as he should have long ago fired, not promoted Pell, and replaced Pell with a woman executive .

It seems evident now, to me at least, that Pell fled Australia to try to get the benefit of the Vatican’s immunity protection from prosecution, with Pope Francis’ full knowledge and support, as Cardinal Bernard Law did earlier under Pope John Paul II.  Please see “Australia’s worst pedophile priest’ ” , and “Cardinal Pell is ‘weak and ineffectual’ and not very smart” . 

While Pope Francis talks often publicly of “mercy”, his US bishop subordinates privately practiced, and still practice, cruelty, including New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, relating to, among other matters, the Milwaukee priest sexual abuse scandal . Even many college students at a NY Jesuit college recently showed their disgust with Cardinal Dolan and his abuse cover-up hypocrisy when they protested Dolan’s addressing them at their graduation.

Tom Doyle is a Dominican priest in good standing with a doctorate in canon law and five separate master’s degrees. He worked in the early 1980’s for the Vatican’s top US official shortly after then Argentine Jesuit provincial, now Pope Francis, was under the direction of the same official. Tom sacrificed a rising career at the US Vatican Embassy, and a likely bishop appointment in due course, to become instead the world’s most outspoken advocate for Catholic Church abuse victims. For this prophetic and courageous choice, Tom has endured much pain at the Vatican’s hand.

Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become the world’s top expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem—working directly with victims, their families, accused priests, bishops, and other high-ranking Church officials. Doyle has interviewed over 2,000 victims of clerical sexual abuse in the U.S. alone, and has been the only priest to provide expert testimony in over 200 cases as to the legal liability of the Church. He has developed policies and procedures for dealing with cases of sexual abuse by the clergy for dioceses and religious orders in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Significantly, Robert Blair Kaiser’s final book, Whistle: Tom Doyle’s Steadfast Witness for Victims of Clerical Sexual Abuse, is due out in a few weeks. Kaiser left the Jesuits after a dozen years and covered the Second Vatican Council for Time magazine and was later a writer for The New York Times. He was until his recent death a well known author of a half-dozen insightful and unapologetic books on the post-Vatican II Catholic Church. Kaiser was particularly proud of having written The Politics of Sex and Religion, the definitive history of Pope John XXIII’s joint lay and clerical commission that called for the Church to change its official teachings on birth control and to approve of artificial contraception.  Kaiser generously in 2012 republished this classic as a free e-book (click here) .

Pope Francis inexplicably and inexcusably failed to appoint Tom Doyle to the pope’s “go lightly and slowly” abuse commission, which just confirmed finally the low priority the pope gives to protecting children and the high priority he gives to protecting unaccountable bishops and their wealth.

The many continuing and new priest abuse scandals and bishop cover-ups, as reported 365 days a year by journalist stalwart, Kathy Shaw, at Bishop’s  ABUSETRACKER , just confirms the pope’s smokescreen strategy on curtailing priest child sexual abuse and on holding bishops accountable for covering up for the criminal priests. The recent charges, and the pope’s related inaction, by Philadelphia Monsignor Lynn’s family that lay his abuse crimes on Cardinals Justin Rigali and Anthony Bevilacqua, just further confiems this.

It is abundantly clear, to me at least, that Pope Francis was picked as an interim place holder to change the subject with papal platitudes about mercy, capitalism and the poor and distractions like papal media junkets, absurd “celibate men only Family Synods”, gratuitous and amateurish climate change, capitalism and other vague and tw0 sided encyclicals and statements, countless photo ops and the like. It may have given some incurable and docile Catholics temporary hope after the regressive last two popes, but  the recent Irish vote makes clear by almost a two one margin that Catholics, even in the world’s most Catholic country in recent centuries, are no longer buying any pope’s self interested and secretive acts any more.

The Catholic Church has only one choice to survive — by democratizing its structure to provide for bishop selection only by the entire People of God as was the case for over three centuries in the Church Jesus’ own disciples, including women, left behind. Francis could implement this structure only by a widely representative (including women) general council, that includes the laity and not just bishops and cardinals .

Pope Francis is unlikely to convene such a council, so prosecutors will have to force the Catholic hierarchy to reform. Either way, the top down Vatican hierarchy is on “life support” as the Irish just showed. Amen!!!

Here are Fr. Thomas P. Doyle. O.P. ‘s recent full remarks:


Recently a prominent psychologist with over two decades of intense experience helping clergy abuse victims said that the most morally compromised group of people he knew of were the attorneys who represent the Catholic Church in the abuse cases. The recent pronouncement of Francis LoCoco, lead lawyer for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, confirms this opinion. “Let’s spend the money” he is quoted as saying, in reference to the 56 million dollars that Cardinal Dolan illegally and immorally tried to divert in the notorious Milwaukee bankruptcy proceedings. Lest the lawyers bear the brunt of the blame, the main culprits are the present archbishop, Listecki, and his predecessor, Dolan. The squadron of attorneys work for them and not the other way around.

When abuse survivors call attention to the stonewalling tactics and often-vicious attitudes of the Church’s lawyers, its not uncommon for the bishops to plead innocence, claiming that it’s the lawyers doing their job. But the lawyers are hired by and work for the bishop and not vice versa. The disgusting charade going on in Milwaukee was cooked up by and has been sustained by Dolan and Listecki. Thus far the Milwaukee lawyers have spent over $20 million dollars to stonewall the victims. Some bishops and church cheerleaders in this case and others have regularly tried to blame the victims and their lawyers, claiming they are only in it for the money. This is nonsense. The Church lawyers get paid by the hour, win or lose. Victims’ lawyers are paid on the contingency that the case will end in favor of the victim. I have known lawyers who represented victims who took major cuts so that their clients would end up with some respectable compensation. How many of the Church lawyers work sex abuse cases pro bono? The money the archbishop is encouraging his lawyers to squander comes from the People of God of the archdiocese.

The bankruptcy process was initiated over four years ago, on January 4, 2011 to be exact, two days before the archbishop was scheduled to be deposed. The church’s lawyers are challenging each and every claim of the 570 victims who have come forward. Many of the claimants were among the 200 deaf boys sexually violated by Fr. Lawrence Murphy at St. John’s School for the Deaf. These victims have been fighting for decades for some form of justice and what they have received instead has been vicious, dishonest and certainly unchristian revictimization.

The archbishops of Milwaukee going back to Cardinal Albert Meyer have all played a key role in making the Milwaukee Church unique in its hypocritical and narcissistic response to the havoc caused by its priests. Meyer was told about Lawrence Murphy way back in the mid fifties and sent him on retreat for a month. The Redemptorist priest who reported Murphy to Cardinal Meyer also reported his behavior to the Apostolic delegate in Washington so the Holy See effectively knew about Murphy way back then.

Archbishop Cousins, whose tenure lasted from 1958 to 1977, knew about Murphy and not only did nothing, but he threatened one of the deaf boys who reported Murphy and forced him to sign a letter of retraction.

Rembert Weakland was archbishop from 1977 to 2002. He was faced with reports not only about Murphy but several other Milwaukee priests. Weakland’s track record in responding to victims is far from stellar but at least he tried to get Murphy laicized with no success, thanks to former Pope Benedict and his cohort, Cardinal Bertone who refused Weakland’s request and allowed Murphy to live out his days in the dignity of his priesthood while his victims lived out their days in the agony of his abuse. Then came Dolan in 2002.

Dolan tried to deal with the sex abuse nightmare primarily with his “hail fellow well met” personality but his rhetoric and back-slapping fell flat in the face of what he was really up to. Bankruptcy was being used by some bishops as a way to avoid trials and the revelation of the truth that comes with them, as well as a way to limit the compensation given to victims. Although he would be gone when the bankruptcy process started Dolan obviously knew where it was all going. He diverted approximately $56 million dollars into a cemetery trust in 2007. When accused of trying to hide the money in 2011, he lashed out at victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson and accused him of spreading “groundless gossip.” Dolan’s lie was discovered when a letter he wrote to the Vatican in 2007 came to light….a letter in which he sought permission to transfer the $56 million to a restricted trust. Why? To quote his own words “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from and legal claim and liability.” A local judge, Rudolph Randa, ruled that the transfer was protected by the first amendment and that “removing some or all of these funds from the trust and placing them in the bankruptcy estate would undoubtedly put substantial pressure on Archbishop Listecki to modify his behavior and violate his beliefs.” Over two years later a federal appeals court ruled that Randa was not only wrong but should have removed himself from the case. The $56 million was back on the table. Now LoCoco and his fellow lawyers have declared that they plan on spending it all in litigation. Is this protracted and obscenely expensive process about achieving justice and assuring fair compensation for victims, as Archbishop Listecki has claimed in attempting to justify it? Not by a long shot!

In his narcissistic arrogance Listecki openly invited all who were sexually abused to step forward: “nothing will prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed.” His real plan was to get them all to step up so that he could have his lawyers do everything possible to have their cases thrown out of court. The best comment on this comes from one of the victims: “These victims have already been betrayed by the Church in the most damaging ways imaginable. How could the archbishop, a man of God, then proceed to try to throw each and every one of their cases out of court? This action in effect re-abused and betrayed these fragile victims yet again.”

Judge Randa said that putting the cemetery trust millions back on the table would put pressure on Listecki to violate his beliefs. What beliefs? There is nothing even remotely Christian or even Catholic about the travesty he is presiding over. He’s a civil lawyer himself so he knows well that the millions spent thus far represent countless billable hours for the lawyers defending his strategy. This is tons of money they will take home whether they win or lose. The only belief that seems to be in danger of violation is the belief that the victims whose lives have already been severely damaged by the negligence of his predecessor, must now be pounded into the ground and defeated once and for all.

The Milwaukee bankruptcy has been a mockery of the American judicial process. It is an unconscionable abuse and subversion of the legal process, using it as a weapon to punish and further traumatize the victims. It has surely justified the pessimistic and negative image of civil attorneys and it has also made a mockery of the office of bishop. It is an example of the virus of clericalism at its virulent worst. What Dolan, Listecki and the phalanx of attorneys have completely lost sight of, in addition to the objective meaning if justice, is what this is really all about: several hundred young boys and girls who were believing and trusting Catholics and who were betrayed and violated in the worst imaginable ways by the very men they trusted. As their lives unfolded they had the courage to take the risk of confronting the Archdiocese. Rather than act like the Body of Christ, the leaders of this Church have come at the victims with every resource available to punish them for having had the audacity to demand that which their Church incessantly preaches about, justice and charity.


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