Pope Francis: Bishops are under attack from 'Great Accuser.' Internet: Wait, what?
By Jessica Remo
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
September 11, 2018
|Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference about the grand jury report.|
Photo by Matt Rourke
In the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report alleging decades of sexual abuse of children by priests and sophisticated cover-ups by bishops, people have been hanging on the pope's every word.
So, wait? What, exactly, did his Holiness mean when he referenced a "Great Accuser" attacking bishops in a homily today?
Weeks after the Pennsylvania allegations (which included four priests with ties to N.J.) — and after a cardinal accused the pope of covering up other alleged sexual abuses by former Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick — Pope Francis preached the following, according to Vatican News:
“In these times, it seems like the 'Great Accuser' has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The 'Great Accuser', as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the Book of Job, 'roams the earth looking for someone to accuse'. A bishop’s strength against the 'Great Accuser' is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.”
A vastly different tone
The mention in his homily — which, to be clear, did not reference the recent scandals directly — certainly came at an interesting time.
If he's talking about the accusations of sexual abuse, then his words are in stark contrast to his condemnation issued a few days after the Pennsylvania grand jury report — and would seem to undermine his call for accountability.
"With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives," Pope Francis wrote in a letter to the church following the report. "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."
The New York Times called it "one of the strongest mea culpas to date on an issue that Pope Francis has tried to address head-on in recent months."
Today's bit about the "Great Accuser"? Not so well received. Here, a peek at the fallout so far.
Who is the Great Accuser?
If the pope's comments are a veiled commentary on the scandals, who, exactly, is the Great Accuser, folks asked on Twitter. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro? The grand jury? The victims themselves? Or is it Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò?
Well, the "Great Accuser" is a Biblical reference to Satan himself, as those who know such things explained.
According to bible.org, "The term is used of one who makes accusations and presses charges" and, specifically, Satan himself in Revelations 12:10.
The verse reads: "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God."