A lot more people than just Pope Francis are implicated in lack of action to stop these scandals, and I dare say that that includes the four previous popes as well (saints or no).
I think a good case can be made now that the traditionalist (not reactionary) complaint that too little was and is being done about heterodoxy and dissenters (and abusers, as it were) in the Church was correct, and that we should have cleaned house long ago.
I know why it wasn’t done. I’ve written about it (way back in 2002). It was fear of schism, which was very real after Humanae Vitae in 1968. But in retrospect, in my opinion I think that was the wrong (though quite well-meaning) approach.
Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon (my mentor) was an adviser to Pope St. Paul VI, and he said that Paul VI felt like he had a crown of thorns on his head: so much did he suffer from the dissent.
Of course he did. But the question (hindsight is 20-20) is what to do about it. I say that the Church didn’t do enough, and that’s a large reason why we’re in the mess we’re in. Most of the abuses in question occurred long before Francis was pope: even before St. John Paul II was pope.
The liberals have been wreaking havoc, and the Church didn’t sufficiently crack down on them. That’s my present opinion, based on hindsight: “we tried x; now it is evident that x has failed, if we look at the fruit.” The problem wasn’t Vatican II. The problem was allowing the liberals who distorted Vatican II to run wild. But of course I could be wrong.
I think another major factor is also the human tendency to be men-pleasers, which has often afflicted our bishops, per the classic 1995 article by James Hitchcock: “Conservative Bishops, Liberal Results.”
Personally, I’ve never had nothing but pure, utter disdain for the views of Catholic dissidents and liberals and modernists and so-called “progressives”. That’s been made abundantly clear in my writings. I think they are fundamentally dishonest and oftentimes deliberately devious and deceptive, and with nefarious intentions. I refer mainly to the big shots, not necessarily every individual: many of whom are simply ignorant.
How specifically to deal with dissenters and heterodoxy, however, is a separate issue, where equally good Catholics can and do disagree. I suspect now that the Church has been far too lenient, and that this was a huge prudential misjudgment and grave mistake, in retrospect. “Hindsight is 20-20.” But we must learn from our well-meaning mistakes.
I wrote a Facebook post on 9-3-18, entitled, “Spotlight and Goodbye, Good Men: Getting to the Roots of the Sexual Scandals.” Here it is (I won’t bother to indent it):
I watched Spotlight last night: about the Boston Globe expose of the sex scandal in Boston, and cover-up by Cardinal Law in 2002. It was well-done and a fair treatment. I had thought it likely wouldn’t be fair, which is why I didn’t watch it till last night.
Now I’m reading Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church (2002), by Michael S. Rose. It attempts to provide reasons for why these scandals have occurred (theologically liberal / heterodox control of seminaries, leading to a contemptible rejection of many good candidates for the priesthood).
The book was written before the Boston Globe bombshell articles came out. Rose wrote on pp. x-xi:
Although I did not set out to write a book about clerical sex abuse, what I discovered provides at least part of the answer to the burning question: How could this have happened? . . .
[A]s one recently ordained priest confided in me after reading the prepublication manuscript, the revelations herein have long been known within the inner circles of the Catholic Church — among bishops and priests especially. . . .
In short, many have hijacked the priesthood in order to change the Catholic Church from within.
In the first chapter he demonstrates with much documentation how seminaries and dioceses that uphold Church teaching in its entirety have thriving vocations, whereas those that don’t, have terrible vocations.
That’s how true Catholic belief and orthodoxy eventually overcome dissent in the long run. But of course, incredible damage can occur in the meantime, as we are now seeing.
I feel so bad for faithful priests, who are in the great majority. They need our support and prayers more than ever. It looks like the lions’s share of blame rests on the bishops.
What else is new? There have been many periods of history where they messed up big-time and were wrong to a massive extent, such as the Arian crisis: much written-about by Cardinal Newman, who contended that the laity basically saved the Church. History repeats itself again! There are certainly a lot of bad apples.
I believe that Rose gives a true report in his book. I think it offers as plausible a reason for our crisis as any other. He casts light on a phenomenon that can hardly be doubted. Whether he has gone to extremes or not, I don’t know. It’s a flaw of human nature to do so, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if he did go overboard in some ways or become paranoid or overly conspiratorial. But the fundamental problem remains and must be dealt with: or if it has finally been controlled now, it is still true that for a long time it was tragically ignored and allowed to grow and cause incalculable damage to the Church and souls.
See also further discussion from others in the original Facebook thread.
(originally 9-3-18 and 1-26-19 on Facebook)
Photo credit: Anton Fredrikson / Keski-Suomen museo (27 January 1918). Taulumäki old church burning in Jyväskylä, Finland [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]