Pope Francis Must Resign

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/08/26/pope-francis-must-resign/

You’ll know things are getting better in the Roman Catholic Church if by the end of the week at least 15 high-ranking bishops have resigned because of what they have done and what they have failed to do about clerics committing sexual abuse.

One of those should be Pope Francis.

On Saturday night a former papal nuncio to the United States (which is like an ambassador to a foreign government on behalf of the pope, except also with a supervisory role over bishops in that country) stated publicly that former Pope Benedict about eight or nine years ago imposed restrictions on then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick because of his sexual abuse of seminarians, and that Pope Francis later removed those restrictions and made McCarrick one of his trusted advisers even though he knew about McCarrick’s past behavior.

The former nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, now 77 and retired, also named various high-ranking bishops in the Vatican and elsewhere as having full knowledge of McCarrick’s past behavior, of the restrictions on travel and appearing in public that Pope Benedict privately placed on McCarrick, and of Pope Francis’s subsequent reversal of that decision.

According to Vigano, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals earlier this summer only because the Archdiocese of New York (led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan) forced his hand by announcing that an investigation had found credible charges that McCarrick had sexually abused adolescent boys while a priest and auxiliary bishop in New York.

There is no reason to doubt Archbishop Vigano’s claims, which are direct, detailed, and capable of being confirmed or refuted by those who would know. Vigano was in a position to know what he reports, and he reports what he knows in devastating fashion.

In an 11-page written testimony, Vigano calls on Pope Francis and other bishops who covered for McCarrick to resign. He’s right.

“To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ, which is terribly disfigured by so many abominable crimes, and if we truly want to free the Church from the fetid swamp into which she has fallen, we must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths we have kept hidden,” Vigano writes. “We must tear down the conspiracy of silence with which bishops and priests have protected themselves at the expense of their faithful, a conspiracy of silence that in the eyes of the world risks making the Church look like a sect, a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the mafia.”

Pope Francis has done some good things as pontiff, like spotlighting the disabled, the poor, and prisoners. He gave a wonderful talk on family life last night to a packed stadium in Dublin.

Pope Francis has also done some bad things, like sowing confusion about the Church’s commitment to the sanctity of marriage. He has also marginalized loyal churchmen and allowed half-listeners to come away thinking that he isn’t all that committed to various ancient moral teachings of the Church.

Both the good and bad things of this papacy, though, are right now irrelevant.

When it comes to sexual abuse committed by clerics – whether against children, adolescents, or adults — the Roman Catholic Church needs to open the windows of the barn, clean out the stalls, and spread disinfectant everywhere. 

That alone won’t be enough, because avoiding evil is never enough. We must also do good, and do it with love. But avoiding evil is a necessary first step. This evil is so bad, and has been festering for so long, and has resisted reform for so long, that it must be rooted out.

That such rooting out includes Pope Francis has nothing to do with the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, which says that a sitting pope cannot err when teaching formally ex cathedra (“from the chair”) on faith and morals. This a matter of governing, not faith and morals. There is no Catholic doctrine that says a pope will always make good decisions.

This is not a moral judgment of Pope Francis, who has many admirable qualities and appears to have done much good as a priest, archbishop, and pope.

This is a judgment of his judgment, which has been tried and found fatally wanting.

During the Middle Ages there were times when a holy man who had a good claim to the papacy was challenged by less holy men with poor claims to the papacy. The answer, at times, was for everyone to resign, and for the cardinals to pick someone else.

That’s what needs to happen here.

Only with significantly fewer cardinals than we have right now.

One of them, as his second-to-last official act, should print up dozens of blank resignation forms.


Matt McDonald is Editor-in-Chief of New Boston Post.