If He Did It

If He Did It September 2, 2018

I hope you’re sitting down, because I have some earth shattering news about the pope. It seems that he had been engaging in some serious sensuality himself. He kept a number of mistresses. He fornicated with widows, and even with his own niece. He dealt with his opponents among the clergy with extreme severity; chopping off the hand of one cardinal, and killing another. He blinded his confessor. Moreover, he toasted the devil with wine, and invoked pagan deities when playing dice.

What can be done about such a pope?

Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with the problem, because the pope I’m describing has been dead for over one thousand and fifty years. I haven’t been describing Pope Francis, but Pope John XII.

It is an undeniable fact of Church history that we have had down through the centuries popes and bishops that were, to say the least, major pieces of work. With that in mind, I would like to proceed on the assumption that everything contained in the testimony of Archbishop Vigano is true. Yes, I am aware that there are some questionable features contained in the charges, but I am convinced that it is not my place to address their truth or falsity within these pages. So I will instead deal with the question of what ramifications there will be for the magisterial impact of what Pope Francis has been telling us since the beginning of his pontificate if he indeed provided cover for a cleric whom he knew to be sexually abusing minors.

The answer: nothing.

That’s right. I said “nothing.”

But how can we respect the moral authority of a man who was an accessory to one of the vilest crimes imaginable? We can’t. But we don’t have to do that. Instead what we are called upon to do is respect the moral authority of the Holy Spirit.

It is true that Pope Francis has yet to speak on any matter ex cathedra, that is, infallibly. But the Second Vatican Council explained how we are to approach even the non-infallible teachings of the Holy Father:

“In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” [1] (Lumen gentium, §25)


And the Catechism tells us,

“Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a ‘definitive manner,’ they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful ‘are to adhere to it with religious assent’ which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.” [2] (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §892)

No exception is provided for bishops or popes who are bad people. The “Divine assistance” spoken of prevails notwithstanding the character of the popes or bishops involved. This, of course, isn’t so much an exaltation of clergymen to a superhuman level, but a protection provided to us. We don’t have to wonder about the authoritative nature of Church teaching because it may or may not have come to us through the auspices of a pope or bishops of questionable character. Instead, we need only rely upon the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, who will not permit the Church to teach error.

Now it has been the goal of some of the enemies of Pope Francis precisely to call his magisterial authority into question. But he has received the same Divine assistance in his teachings as any other pope, and we will continue to owe those teachings the same religious submission of mind and will due the teachings of other pontiffs, even if the Holy Father has engaged in malfeasance. No matter what the character of Pope Francis turns out to be, we will still be required to say “no” to an economy of exclusion. [3]


The icon of St. Joseph the Worker is by Daniel Nichols.

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  • Marthe Lépine

    Very good post, as usual.

    Finally, someone with a clear mind to remind us of what the Church is about, no matter what one thinks of the current Pope, or any of the other before him.

    However, I would also like to see someone bring some context, or background information, about part of the current crisis. In my opinion, the gravity of the situation has been greatly exaggerated, with a sensational title worthy of any tabloid rag.

    I was frustrated with the figures actually (not) appearing in the Pennsylvania report, and started doing my own research. I found some interesting facts. Was anyone informed that the report was about some 700 parishes? That 1000 incidents distributed among 700 parishes means less than 2 incidents for each parish? And that those fewer than 2 incidents were said to have taken place during a period of 70 years, since 1948, or in the course of approximately 3 generations? Of course, it is not enough to think in percentages and probabilities, since most of the abusers probably had several victims. However, the whole thing seems to me to have been mostly devised to discredit the Church and the Pope.

    Of course, child sexual abuse is very serious, it is a crime that should not be allowed to happen to even one victim. But the way of thinking in the 40’s and 50’s was different from what it is now; do we really know if absolutely nothing was done about it? It is quite probable that, if and when something was done, it was woefully inadequate, but we should not judge what was lacking several decades ago with today’s information and way of thinking. We can learn from the past many lessons about what not to do, about ways to improve on the clericalism and other causes that have been responsible for the failure to act in a decisive manner, and many other improvements. But playing a blame game will, and in my opinion, already has, done more harm than good.

    And… here is my feminist bias: While one boy in 6 will be the victim of sexual abuse before age 18, that will happen to 1 girl out of 4. For girls, as well as for some of boys, such abuse most often took – takes – place in or close to the family, and done by fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and other people often known by the victims. Also, often, one or more other members of the family did very little about it, e.g. was an enabler. If we accept the reactions expressed by some people to the revelation of abuse in Pennsylvania, all those family members deserve going to prison, but would that be useful, or at all possible? At the same time, survivors of that abuse don’t have access to an institution with very large pockets in order to demand compensation…

  • Marthe Lépine

    Maybe in my previous comment I should have used the word “victims” instead of “incidents”, but this would not make much difference as to what I am trying to establish. Statistically, we would still have 1000 victims distributed among 700 parishes in the course of 3 generations. Of course, this is not the total meaning of the report. It would also have been useful if the report had indicated the total number of priests in the 5 dioceses investigated, in addition to the number of abusers, to give a better idea of the size of the problem.

  • what we are called upon to do is respect the moral authority of the Holy Spirit

    So then magic is your answer? Has this route ever produced reliable results?

    It sounds like you’re apply a Dark Ages remedy (or taking a Dark Ages attitude) in the 21st century. Isn’t this naive?

  • Richard B

    Papal infallibility is a myth made up by popes who wanted to keep people in tow so they could “lord it over” them. The pope is a man like any other man.

  • www.tomatobubble.com

    First of all, where is the evidence that Pope Francis is guilty of anything? I believe that Vigano’s letter is a deliberate lie intended to remove Pope Francis from his God appointed position as the leader of the Catholic church. The Pennsylvania report is another fraud perpetrated by the enemies of the Church. There is a reason for the saying “Grand jury will indict a paper bag.” Where is the evidence for all these thousands and thousands of alleged sex abuses by the priest all over the world? It seems like anybody can come up with false accusations and be instantly believed and the wicked, willfully ignorant mob will immediately scream ‘”Crucify him!”

  • www.tomatobubble.com

    You call them victims, I would call them false accusers. I don’t think that even 1% of these accusations are true,

  • anna lisa

    “Statistically, we would still have 1000 victims distributed among 700 parishes in the course of 3 generations.”

    Thanks for putting that in perspective Marthe. Your points in your other statement are also very insightful. Thank you.

    Did you ever see that ad campaign to awaken parents to help stop drug use, called “Parents, the anti-drug” ? –Parents today would never be so naive as the parents of prior generations–it makes me think that the Catholic Church should push hard for a “PARENTS TALK TO YOUR KIDS” campaign.

    My Mom practically threw a book at me to teach me about the facts of life, and that was *after* I told my best friend that the book *her* parents gave her, meant that her parents were big perverts that did bad things. (I’m not kidding). My friend’s Mom called my Mom angrily to report this to her. Parents that expect their kids to understand without putting things in perspective are either negligent or horribly naive.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Hi! I’m glad you found my comment here, since Mark had simply non allowed it to remain on his blog. More to the point: I agree that parents have an important role in prevention, by educating their children about the “facts of life” and their potential abuse, but since I have never been a parent myself, I would not know the best way to do it. On the other hand, today’s parents are much better equipped to do so than were parents 3 generations ago, who probably tended to see priests as some kind of authority figures.

  • Marthe Lépine

    I admit that some complaints of abuse may be untrue, and even be influenced by the attraction of a monetary compensation. But certainly not all of them. Actually, it is usually considered that the number of reported cases of rape and sexual assault and abuse is only a fraction of the total number of actual cases, and there is no reason to think that the situation is different when the victims are children.

  • anna lisa

    Hi Marthe 🙂

    For starters, Mark wouldn’t bump that comment off. If he deleted it, it would say “comment deleted” I have asked him about my own disappearing comments in the past, and he has even asked the editor why it is happening. Patheos seems to have some lame-o spam filter these days.

    Please re-post what you wrote at his site!

    Anyway, in the midst of these days of shame and pain, I can’t help but think that we must also be happy that a light is shining in the darkness, and things are getting better–the culture of secrecy hadn’t just infected the Catholic Church, it was standard procedure all over the planet in every culture and in every religion. That we are standing up to abuse and aren’t going to tolerate it anymore is reason to be very, very encouraged.

    I hope it is beautiful in Canada today :)!

  • Marthe Lépine

    I tried again today… and it disappeared again…
    I’ll try another way

  • anna lisa

    Yeah, you can’t cut and paste. I’ve done that too, and whatever made the spambot reject it, makes it disappear again…:(

    Happy Friday! It’s been strangely cold here, but it warmed up a bit today. Beautiful today in Nor Cal.


  • Marthe Lépine

    It finally reappeared… In the post about Sherry Weddel Speaks the Truth. Thanks for your encouragement.