The Church certainly is in a mess right now. The clerical sex abuse scandal and the attempt to protect children have blown into a full-scale civil war of liberals versus conservatives. It’s gone so far that some people are actually calling upon Pope Francis to resign from his office.
If we’re looking at historical parallels, this is something like the Reformation in the 15th century, except that things today happen a lot more quickly. Had Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenburg, in the age of social media, it would have been all over Facebook in an instant.
Hopefully, we have learned from the split in the Church that occurred during the Protestant revolt must not be allowed to happen again. We believe that the Church is One and such a fracture would be a failure to see the work of the Spirit alive in our day.
Some things need to be said about the controversy swirling around Pope Francis. The first is the statement by Archbishop Vigano that Francis rescinded the limitations put on Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict. The charge is that Francis knew about the indiscretions about McCarrick and yet turned a blind eye to them and allowed McCarrick to fully function as an ambassador for the Church.
It’s curious that no one else seemed to have known about these so-called sanctions on McCarrick. If they existed, he did not follow them. At no time did the former Archbishop of Washington disappear from sight and cease to function. Up until his recent health problems that have limited his movement, he was always very visible.
Second, if there were sanctions, we are probably dealing with something much different than the sexual abuse of minors by McCarrick. At the time, the allegations about molesting an altar server, a minor, were not the issue. They did not come to light until very recently because of the reporting procedures that have been out into place in the Church. The issue at the time would have been sexual indiscretion by the former Cardinal with seminarians, presumably young adults. Not a pretty picture to be sure, but not quite the cover-up of the criminal abuse of minors that it is being made out to be.
Pope Francis’ choice to remain silent on Archbishop Vigano’s “testimony” is wise. He should avoid a shouting match about who said what. The subtleties of the situation are not served by a war waged in the headlines.
The Holy Father says the press should be given time to do their job. Give them the time to investigate the charges and he is confident that truth will prevail. For starters, the tone of Archbishop Vigano’s charges are very vindictive and he seems to throw so many people under the bus that you just have to question his motives.
This is not the time for knee jerk reactions based on ideological beliefs. There is too much at stake. Frantic calls for the Pope’s resignation are out of line and belie a cancer within church ranks.
“Because the truth is meek. The truth is silent. The truth is not noisy,” Pope Francis said.
Remaining silent and refusing to fight back is not always easy, he said, but it is what Jesus did and it is “anchored in the strength of God.”
That doesn’t mean we don’t demand answers. In time, the truth will become clearer and will set us free.