Conversation with a Reader About the Crisis

Conversation with a Reader About the Crisis September 1, 2018

He writes:

There must be a reformation in the Church. Not in the Catholic FAITH, but in the administrative hierarchy. Business as usual needs to be “violently” shaken to the core. Pope Francis, a pope I’ve loved, must resign and clearly state the reasons why. The clergy needs to be purged of abuse offenders and global Catholicism urgently needs to aggressively clean house and publically repent with radical, public penance in epic and visible proportions. It needs to be an authentic REFORMATION. An existential earthquake for all humanity to see.

Otherwise, I’m looking East…

Your thoughts?

I agree with most of this and think that, here in the US (though this is a global problem) the Reformer will have to be Caesar and that every state in the union will need to do what PA did.  I think it will be painful and bloody and that priests and bishops and cardinals will need to be jailed.  I am not buying the particular story being hawked by the Right Wing Noise Machine in support of Vigano, who I regard as a vengeful bureaucrat whose tale is full of holes…

…who refuses to document that tale, and who has now gone into hiding from the press.  I want that story fully investigated, but I think it is already revealing itself as a palace coup by people whose inflexible narrative is  Smear the Queers and Blame the Liberals:

In the eyes of many, the fact that Archbishop Vigano consulted with and was even assisted by journalists and bloggers who have worked publicly to oppose and discredit Pope Francis does not help his cause.

One of those involved was Aldo Maria Valli, author of the blog “Duc in Altum,” which has been very critical of Pope Francis since the publication of “Amoris Laetitia” on the family. Valli wrote Aug. 27 that Archbishop Vigano called him more than a month ago wanting to talk to him. Valli invited the archbishop to dinner at his home.

“He was worried about the church and feared that at its top there were people who were not working to bring the Gospel of Jesus to today’s men and women, but to sow confusion and give in to the logic of the world,” Valli wrote.

As they walked to the archbishop’s car at the end of the evening, Valli said Archbishop Vigano told him, “Don’t call me. I’ll get in touch with you.”

A month later, the archbishop called again. And during another dinner in the Valli home, “he cited the case of McCarrick, the former cardinal held guilty of serious abuse, and he let it be known that everyone — in the USA and the Vatican — knew about it for a long time, for years. And yet they covered it up.”

The archbishop said he would send a document to Valli to read and to publish or not as he saw fit. Valli said he asked if it would be an exclusive, and Archbishop Vigano told him, “No. I will give it to another Italian blogger, an Englishman, an American and a Canadian. There will be translations in English and Spanish.”

They spoke later and agreed on the date and time of publication, Valli said. “He decided on Sunday, Aug. 26, because the pope, returning from Dublin, would have an opportunity to reply, responding to the journalists’ questions on the plane.”

The other Italian blogger and papal critic, former journalist Marco Tosatti, told the Associated Press that he helped Archbishop Vigano edit the document for publication. The meeting Aug. 22, he said, came after a similar, earlier phone call and meeting like Archbishop Vigano had with Valli.

After the Pennsylvania grand jury report came out, Tosatti told AP that he told Vigano, “I think that if you want to say something, now is the moment, because everything is going upside-down in the United States. He said ‘OK.’”

The National Catholic Register, which is owned by EWTN, and the Canada-based LifeSiteNews also received the text in advance. The LifeSiteNews Rome-based writer did the official translation of Archbishop Vigano’s document into English.

The Register reported Aug. 25 that it had “independently confirmed that the allegations against McCarrick were certainly known to Benedict, and the pope emeritus remembers instructing Cardinal Bertone to impose measures but cannot recall their exact nature.” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was Vatican secretary of state.

But Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope’s personal secretary, told the German newspaper Die Tagespost Aug. 28 that Pope Benedict did not and would not comment on Archbishop Vigano’s document. The Register then replied that it never said Pope Benedict had read Archbishop Vigano’s report or that he had commented on it, only that Pope Benedict remembered wanting to impose sanctions of some sort.

Some things are clear: Archbishop Vigano’s document was prepared in consultation with at least one of the bloggers and journalists who were the first to publish it; the archbishop’s document is filled with rhetoric indicating a broader agenda than just ending clerical sexual abuse; and the release of the document was coordinated and timed to have maximum impact.

And now we see Raymond Arroyo being hawked on Liesite News as he appears on FOX to bash Francis.  This is a story very long on Right Wing Noise Machine Panic Stampede tactics but extremely short on documentation. That’s what I want: documentation, evidence, facts, paperwork.  At least before calling for resignation from the Pope. Especially since the tentpole holding the whole thing up has now snapped in two and fallen to the ground with this spectacular backpeddle from the Register which originally dropped this bomb for Vigano:

As far as Benedict could recall, the source said the instruction was essentially that McCarrick should keep a “low profile.” There was “no formal decree, just a private request.

In short, this was not a sanction. There was nothing to enforce and nothing to formally lift.  And now Vigano is suddenly pleading Bad Memory.

So far, then, this is much ado about nothing, but it was absolutely the best chance a complex of Francis haters in Church and media have had to destroy him as they have long to do for years.

I think that crowd cannot get it through their heads that the real problem is abusers–both gay and straight–and bishops–both liberal and conservative–who protected the Machine, not victims.

That said, I also think that though this story and the people engineering the attempted palace are problematic and the exact wrong people to oversee reform, reform is nonetheless necessary. Indeed, I think that if the people trying to run this coup had any brains instead of just animal cunning, they would ask to open the files in Buenos Aires, not Rome. And if they had any hearts, they would ask to do so, not in order to nail the pope they have hated in their grasping lust for power, but for the sake of the victims of sexual abuse about whom they have evinced not a jot of interest.

My bet is that as bishop, Jorge Bergoglio thought and acted pretty much like every bishop on the globe when it came to sexual abuse. He’s sloooooowly improved since Chile, but that it took Chile to teach him strongly suggests that his previous approach as bishop was not inspiring–and indeed, it still is not. And that’s because bishops have largely thought and acted, not like devils in human form, but like every other managerial type from every other organization. That’s the tragedy: not that our bishops were more horrible men than any other on earth, but that they are pretty much exactly the same as any other bureaucrats on the planet. And their learning curve is still astonishingly slow.

The trouble is, the people hungering to destroy Francis and coordinating with each other on the Vigano Assault are themselves precisely the grasping, power-hungry bureaucrats least likely to reform the Church with a view to helping the only people who matter: victims. Re-read this passage:

After the Pennsylvania grand jury report came out, Tosatti told AP that he told Vigano, “I think that if you want to say something, now is the moment, because everything is going upside-down in the United States. He said ‘OK.’”

Is that the mind and heart of somebody interested in victims–the only people who matter?  No.  It is the mind and heart of somebody interested in dropping a bomb and achieving maximum damage against a culture war enemy, victims (and facts) be damned.  And indeed, the principle achievement of this attack on Francis has been to completely drive out of the picture victims–the only people who matter–and transform the story into an ugly power struggle.

The irony here is that when you point this out, the palace coup crowd replies that “We must investigate the claims!” and accuses those who note their clutch at power of standing in the way of the Truth even as they try to stampede us with Vigano’s demand that Francis resign.  You see the trick?  They try to short-cut the investigation by claiming the testimony has proven everything when it has proven nothing except that, by his own confession, Vigano did nothing to enforce the supposed sanctions he claims were placed on McCarrick. I totally support a full investigation of Vigano’s claims.  It is the complex of Right Wing Media Figures with which Vigano coordinated who are banging the drum and chanting that we have no further need to investigate and Francis must resign.  I refuse to be stampeded by them.

Everything about the behavior of that Complex makes clear they believe themselves God’s anointed and see power, not serving Christ present in the victims, as the goal. Francis has, I think it will be found, failed victims in significant ways. But I think he is trying to change and that his love for the least of these is sincere. His enemies in the Complex have, so far, demonstrated they could not care less about that Kumbayah crap (as they think of it). They want him destroyed and they want power for themselves. Victims don’t enter into it.

Reform will not be achieved by Burke, EWTN, Liesite News, the Register, Church Militant, 1 Peter 5, Franciscan University, Raymond Arroyo, Laura Ingraham, FOX News, First Things, and the usual crowd who have been gunning for Francis’ blood, adoring Donald Trump, and trying to turn the Church into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP for 20 years. Nor, by the way, will it come from lefty ideologues who believe we need to ignore the sins of lefties who overlooked abusers for their political reasons either. Nor will it come from those who glom on to the sufferings of victims in order to promote agendas ranging from their hatred of Vatican II, their views on Humanae Vitae, abortion, contraception, banners in the sanctuary, women’s ordination, celibacy, the Paul VI rite, the Traditional Latin Mass, Donald Trump, liturgical dance, clown Masses, or any other culture war narrative.

It will come through those willing to listen to the whole of the Church’s teaching and do it, even when that offends their left wing or right wing aesthetic preferences.  It will have to come through those who can maintain a laser focus on the fact that the issue is abusers, gay and straight, and bishops, liberal and conservative, who protect them.  God will have to call them out since I, at any rate, do not know who the saint he will raise up are (except for a few of them).  I’m trying here in my tiny corner of the world to be one of them. But I suck and am a bear of very little brain and even less money, power, organizational skill, or influence.

I believe that the East is no refuge from all this.  The same problems here are there, it’s just that they are invisible because their pockets are not as deep and so our legal establishment does not focus its energies.  These problems will be found in any human community where children and adults mix.  It is not a Catholic, nor merely a Christian thing.  Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and secular institutions are all going to open their records and find horrors.

But judgment begins with the house of God and I believe we must stay and fight it out here.  And I think it will be a long fight and we must not be discouraged when and if Peter fails us, as he does from time to time ever since the first Peter sat on his Chair. It may well be that Francis will have to resign.  I just don’t think it will be about this particular culture war bomb.

We have to resolve ourselves to the fact that the goal is not Protecting an Institutional Machine.  Nor is it Protecting the Pope.  It is serving Christ in the Least of These as we serve him in the Eucharist.  St. John Chrysostom is right:  If we do not see Christ in the beggar at the Church door (or the rape victim in the sacristy) we will not find him in the Chalice.

My laity have a heavy burden on our shoulders in this hour.  We staff all the cops, run all the courts, sit on all the juries, own all the guns, and run all the jails.  We have to be smart.  We cannot allow ourselves to be either stampeded, nor biased by our love for Fr. He Married Us and Baptized My Kid, nor for Bishop Friendly, nor even for the Pope (who I love and have admired for years).  We have deal with facts and we have to steel ourselves to do what facts require.  And most complex of all, we have to figure where prudence and mercy fit in, without succumbing to hysteria.

An example: I hear people screaming for bad priests to be laicized even if there is no legal conviction against them.  That sounds emotionally satisfying.  The problem is: once you do that you just cut them loose into the community, where they are free to get a job at a day care, or work in a school, or find some other way to get close to prey.  A priest remains under obedience and can be sent away to some hole in the wall away from prey.

I mention this simply be there is a lot of hysteria and short-sightedness.  The goal is to protect prey and help victims, not just run around with our hair on fire.  Ideally, predators should be behind bars, but that is up to us laity and Caesar.  I think statutes of limitation should be altered to help fix that–and that’s up to us.

In the end, I think this is part of a much larger Kairos Moment for the whole world and that we have been called, in this generation, to put an end to the sins of the fathers that go back to the dawn of time when it comes to the treatment of sex abuse and assault victims. By no small coincidence, that means prioritizing women, children, and the economically weak and calling to account the powerful and rich. It is an outrageously ambitious project that only the Holy Spirit would undertake.  Without Him, there is no hope of even beginning, much less finishing.  With Him, I believe that he who has begun a good work will carry it through to completion in Christ Jesus.

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