Most Catholics seem to agree (and we need all the agreement we can get!) that — at a minimum –, a serious investigation has to take place. I like what my friend, radio host and author Al Kresta has stated:
It is the opportune time to begin treating our bishops and priests like fellow Christians with distinct gifts but no more gifted or called than any member of Christ’s body. They are called to serve the people of God and we now need them to push for a thorough investigation into the truth or falsity of Archbishop Vigano’s claims. If the Church won’t do it, the secular press, secular government or independent Catholic journalists using private investigators will.
Why is it so important for lay Catholics to act right now? Because positive action right now might turn a nightmare of corrupt clergy into a vision of consecrated laity. Remember what Pope Benedict taught so clearly: You as a baptized Christian bear co-responsibility for Christ’s body, the Church. You must not merely cooperate or collaborate with the ordained. You must show by your engagement that the Church is not the possession of the ordained. They don’t “own” it.
We are not asking for Pope Francis to resign. We are not asking for a lynching or mindless mob chest beating. We are asking for the transparency that leads to truth. Today we ask for a thorough investigation. (comment on the the Ave Maria Radio “Church Sexual Misconduct Resource Page”)
For what it’s worth (and to be definitively on the record) I’ve made a number of statements in Facebook discussion, as to how we should proceed at this juncture (line break means new and separate comment):
We must read all sides to thoroughly investigate.
I stick up for Pope Francis if he is right and I don’t if he is wrong. That’s why I have called for reserving judgment until some kind of full investigation is done (likely to be lay-led investigative journalism, as Karl Keating noted on this page). If he’s guilty of the charges, I have already said he should resign. If not, his accuser should be excommunicated.
We should make our best attempt to investigate with as much “legal rigor” and impartiality as possible.
If we’re serious about solving this sex scandal, we have to “weed out” anyone discovered to have abused or harbored abusers, whether we are in their fan club or not. We have to find “the bad guys”: not prejudge who they are before the investigation ever begins. Calling for an investigation doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome. We have to investigate: because the possibility exists that Abp. Vigano is not telling the truth. We have to follow the rule of law, and actual factual evidence, not merely our own subjective opinions.
The Church always supplies plenty of sin for our critics. It has never been otherwise. And the Church has always been in need of reform. So let’s do it. The difference lies not in the need but in the willingness to act and to purge until the filth is removed from Holy Mother Church (at least in the institutional sense).
I submit that the investigation should be led by Abp. Charles Scicluna.
It is likely to be (and likely only can realistically be) investigative journalism, such as that which is being done right now about the massive corruption in the FBI, CIA, and Justice Dept. It would be largely an informal, lay investigation. There should (and will in fact) be investigators who have been critical of Pope Francis (Karl Keating, Douthat, et al), and others who have been his advocates or neutral: like John Allen or my good friend Dr. Robert Fastiggi). Only by hearing all voices in this sort of investigation, can we arrive at some semblance of truth. If there is any bright spot, it is ostensible agreement by all that “whoever is guilty of abuse or harboring abuse should be kicked out.”
There are definitely people out there right now saying that Pope Francis should resign (just like Abp. Vigano holds). And if they think that, they obviously think he has guilt of some sort in this matter. And they have concluded that (if they have in the last few days), not based on investigation of the claims under consideration, but based on a belief that the Vigano letter alone is compelling and irrefutable evidence. And there are many others who think it is a conservative conspiracy to bring the pope down, and are engaged in sullying Abg. Vigano’s character as a witness.
I think Allen and Douthat would be good examples of people who could participate in a fair investigation. One is predisposed not to like the pope and his views, the other is the opposite. Both on such a team is a balanced approach: they balance each other out. That’s fair. I would put Karl Keating in a similar category. But folks like Sire and Lawler, Arroyo et al are too opposed to be fair-minded about it. And there are others who are too gung-ho to be fair and as impartial as possible (arguably, myself included, since I have defended the pope over a hundred times).
It’s of the utmost importance for the sake of Holy Mother Church that we get to the bottom of this cesspool and act decisively as a Body.
In the spirit of “hearing all sides, so as to best ascertain the truth,” I shall now offer readers a chance to do just that, by listing / linking and categorizing important and informative [mostly] Catholic articles on this entire debacle (15 “fer” Pope Francis, 15 “agin”):
Ex-papal envoy to US calls on Pope to resign, saying he knew about McCarrick (Crux staff, Crux, 8-26-18)
Viganò’s accusations: What we know and what questions they raise (Michael J. O’Loughlin, America, 8-26-18)
Pope addresses Viganò report, child abuse cover-ups and families with gay children in press conference (Cindy Wooden, America, 8-26-18)
Former nuncio to the USA Viganò: “The Pope must resign” (Andrea Tornielli, La Stampa / Vatican Insider, 8-26-18; updated 8-27-18)
Making sense of McCarrick cover-up charges against Pope Francis (John L. Allen Jr., Crux, 8-27-18)
The Vatican Soap Opera Continues (Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It!, 8-27-18)
Benedict’s secretary: Reports ex-pope confirmed Vigano’s letter ‘fake news’ (Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 8-28-18)
Facts and omissions of Viganò’s testimony against Francis (Andrea Tornielli, La Stampa / Vatican Insider, 8-28-18)
US cardinals reject Vatican diplomat’s claims of widespread cover-up of abuse (Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter, 8-28-18)
Doubts about Viganò’s accusations aside, Pope Francis needs a better response (Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, 8-28-18)
If Pope Francis Resigns, It Will Not Be Valid. The Church Will Have an Antipope (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defence, 8-28-18)
Today’s Palace Coup News (Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It!, 8-28-18)
Archbishop who accused Francis of cover-up denies he stopped abuse investigation (Charles Collins, Crux, 8-28-18)
Story of bombshell charges against Pope more surreal by the minute (John L. Allen Jr., Crux, 8-29-18)
Today’s New Facts I Learned About the Palace Coup (Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It!, 8-29-18)
Ex-Nuncio Accuses Pope Francis of Failing to Act on McCarrick’s Abuse (Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 8-25-18)
Vatican Bombshell: McCarrick Conspiracy Uncovered! (Rod Dreher [Orthodox, not Catholic], The American Conservative, 8-25-18)
Francis Gay Mafia Bombshell: The Day After (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 8-26-18)
If Viganò’s “Testimony” is true, Pope Francis has failed his own test (Christopher R. Altieri, The Catholic World Report, 8-26-18)
Answering Vigano’s Critics (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 8-27-18)
Former U.S. Nunciature Official: ‘Vigano Said the Truth’ (Ed Condon, National Catholic Register, 8-27-18)
Viganò Testimony Receives Mixed Response From US Bishops (Mary Rezac, National Catholic Register, 8-27-18)
Reflection on the ‘Testimony’ of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (Bishop Athanasius Schneider, National Catholic Register, 8-27-18)
Archbishop Viganò responds to criticisms of handling of 2014 Nienstedt investigation (Updated) (Carl E. Olson, The Catholic World Report, 8-27-18)
The Viganò letter could spark a conflagration in the curia (Fr. Raymond de Souza, Catholic Herald, 8-27-18)
Vigano: I Did Not Quash The Nienstedt Investigation (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 8-28-18)
Today In The Catholic Scandal (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 8-28-18)
Archbishop Gänswein’s Comments Were Correct and We Stand By Our Reporting (Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 8-28-18)
What Did Pope Francis Know? (Ross Douthat, The New York Times, 8-28-18)
The Catastrophic Cost Of Secrets & Lies (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 8-29-18)
What we need to avoid at all costs (but almost certainly won’t: knowing human nature), is what Fr. Angel Sotelo has wisely and eloquently warned about:
It would be bad enough for bishops to lose credibility. But worse, for me, is the loss of charity (the theological virtue) among the faithful of the Church. And without a filial love for Our Lord and love of neighbor for the sake of God, what is all this discussion?
It is cut throat, open war between sides who hate each other. After the Faith is reduced to that pitiable image before the world (that we talk about, but have no Christian charity), being perceived as molesters won’t matter.
The Church would appear before others as a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. The Church would have proved itself to to be, as the atheists say, the superstitious nonsense of a rabble who obsess about delusions of a sky fairy.
Photo credit: From the Cycle “Satanists”: Satan Sowing Tares (1882), by Félicien Rops (1833-1898) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]