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Vigano's Letter - Abuse in a Civil War

I am not Catholic, so I observe the current scandal in the Church of Rome from a distance if you will. But it seems that Archbishop Vigano’s 11-page missive has caused at least a tremor in the structure of the world’s largest Christian church. It revolves around the all-too-familiar tale of abuse, complicit silence, and deliberate cover-ups within the church hierarchy. Michael Brendan Dougherty titled his article in National Review: The Predator, The Diplomat, and the Pope. Here’s who he’s referring to:

  • The Predator: Cardinal McCarrick is the former Archbishop of Washington D.C. and a former Cardinal, having been recently stripped of his post by the Holy Father. He is accused of sexually abusing seminarians at the Seminary of Newark. A powerful man lording his power over young acolytes within a secretive ancient culture. The stuff of spy novels. But this is not a novel and there are all too real victims of his abuse.
  • The Diplomat: Archbiship Vigano was the Papal Nuncio to the United States and his 11-page letter released just as Pope Francis was winding up his visit to Ireland, names names, suggests a grand conspiracy at all levels, and demands that the Pope himself resign. He accuses the Pope of the following:
  • The Pope: Pope Francis is accused of lifting sanctions (which no one is really sure of because it was all done in secret by Pope Benedict in order to avoid a scandal) on McCarrick and promoting him knowing full well of his abuses, because McCarrick is - or was - a progressive within the Catholic Church leadership.

There is a civil war going on in the Church of Rome between progressives and conservatives and if Vigano - who seems very much to be a conservative - is right, then the abuse victims are mere collateral damage on a bloodied chessboard where any concept of Christian love and grace is a desiccated ghost, unholy and unhearing of its victims' cries. In other words, pleas for church leaders to come clean are too little and too late. Unless everybody resigns.

Will this be the beginning of the end? That seems unlikely, but right now Catholic faithful have surely lost much faith in their leadership. And in a world increasingly defined by identity politics, the church will be - and is - dismissed as a crumbling anachronism by radical academics. And the ideal of shepherds and their flock has become a bawdy joke that would be laughable if it weren't so appalling. That's a broad brushstroke, surely way too broad. But right now, we just don't know how bad the problem is.

But hold on. Pope Francis has been portrayed more than sympathetically by much of the media for his positions on immigration, for his opposition to capital punishment, for his attempts at reform and for his hints of an increasingly liberal church in the years to come. The media are all for the civil war in the Catholic Church. As long as the progressive side wins. What will they say now? Here's Michael Brendan Dougherty:

Ever since Cardinal Timothy Dolan alerted the public about a credible accusation of pederasty against McCarrick, letting loose a flood of stories about the "open secret" of his sexual harassment of seminarians, lay faithful have been demanding that bishops tell the public "what you knew and when you knew it." The answers cannot wait until the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November. They cannot wait until bishops war-game how their disclosures will play out within the Catholic Church's ongoing political and theological civil war. Just tell us what you knew, like Archbishop ViganĂ², and let reporters try to verify it.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't seem enough. The Catholic Church needs to reform. This could be another pivotal moment in its history, much like the crisis of indulgences that drove Martin Luther to nail his 95 theses to the cathedral door at Wittenberg just over 500 years ago in October 1517. And while scholars doubt that Luther literally nailed the documents to a church door, by early 1518 they had been published and were causing the great rift in Christianity that helped lead to bloody warfare in Europe over many generations and which still divides Christians in all sorts of uncomfortable ways. Will Rome Reform or will Rome increasingly lose faithful to other Christian denominations?

Catholics will surely feel this is their problem with their church leaders. But if the now vanishing ambition of a closing of that great rift in Christianity still somehow remains a goal of the Vatican, what are the rest of us to think?

Posted by AllardK at August 28, 2018 6:28 PM
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