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Smoke And Mirrors At The Vatican… Credibility Is A No-Show At Sex Abuse Summit

February 27, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


In November of last year at the height of the McCarrick scandal — with the laity’s outrage at a fever pitch and the bombshell Viganò testimony sending shockwaves through the Vatican — the American bishops were in a frenzy to address the tidal wave of sex abuse and cover-up headlines at the USCCB’s fall meeting. The laity’s outrage was so palatable and the pressure so intense it appeared as though maybe the bishops this time around might get serious about addressing the crisis that has been crippling the Church for decades — sexual abuse, cover-ups, and homosexuality in the priesthood.

As the bishops’ meeting convened last November the topic front and center was the McCarrick case, highlighted by the Viganò testimony and the obvious cover-up over the years of McCarrick — who knew what and when. In the midst of taking up a vote on some sort of action regarding the crisis, suddenly, orders came down from on high from none other than the Pope himself: Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the USCCB president, relayed the message to the bishops that there would be no such vote allowed on this issue, for the Pope would be convening a much larger meeting of all the hierarchy in February to address this issue. Front man Blasé Cardinal Cupich was prepped by the Vatican prior to this announcement and was given a critical role in manipulating the agenda to align with Vatican wishes in conjunction with the February meeting.

An impatient laity and an anxious episcopacy seemed to be somewhat placated by the promise of a universal meeting of the hierarchy of the Church that would finally address the sex abuse issue in its entirety in February. Certainly on the surface this appeared to be a promising turning point. Now it looked as though possibly the Vatican was getting serious. Almost on cue, weeks before the February meeting, expectations for such a breakthrough were already being downplayed by the Pope himself.

Well, the Vatican sexual abuse summit of last week, to no one’s surprise, was another slap in the face to the laity which has been rolled again. The fix was in. After all, the last con job lasted almost twenty years, with the implementation of the Dallas charter (in which McCarrick was a key player), as it essentially treated the laity as part of the problem — requiring many of them to enroll in the Virtus program if they wished to participate in any Catholic school or Church event involving children — basically protecting the children against their parents. And all along exempting the bishops from any of the rules.

To properly set the tone for the Vatican’s conference on sex abuse, the Vatican PR team staged the smokescreen of defrocking McCarrick a week before the meeting to give the impression that this was not business as usual, even though it was just that — yesterday’s news — it was obvious this should have taken place years ago. The McCarrick defrocking only served as a heightened reminder of the importance of addressing accountability and cover-ups.

Last week’s con job looks like it was read from the same playbook by many of McCarrick’s protégés who participated in the big event — totally ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room — of which there were plenty of reminders. Continued cries from those faithful prelates who receive very little support from their brethren, namely Raymond Cardinal Burke, Walter Cardinal Brandmueller, and Archbishop Carlo Viganò, who pleaded through individual letters to the Vatican to break the silence and address the real issue in the room — the homosexual issue.

Even when continually being questioned by journalists on the homosexuality issue, the participants at the conference would have none of it. When the subject was broached multiple times at various press conferences, the topic was either avoided or we got the usual artful deception we are accustomed to. A small sampling follows:

When asked about the role of homosexuality and of a homosexual subculture in the clerical abuse crisis, “Rabbit Hole” Cardinal Cupich said that while a high percentage of abuse involves “male on male sex abuse,” homosexuality itself “is not a cause.” It is a matter of “opportunity and also a matter of poor training on the part of people.”

At another presser for the summit, Sandro Magister asked why “homosexuality” was missing from discourses that morning. Archbishop Charles Scicluna said homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a human condition “that does not predispose one to sin.” (See article on page one of this week’s sissue.)

You get the idea — typically any question concerning homosexuality was met with evasion or a change of subject. By most accounts the question and answer sessions after each conference treated the public with much handwringing and apologies to the victims with a lot of double speak about transparency and accountability and zero tolerance — with of course no evidence of any follow through — nothing we haven’t heard every time an abuse case goes public. Whenever the elephant entered the room — accountability or homosexuality in the priesthood — we saw more “smoke and mirrors” than at a P.T. Barnum circus.

Not that long ago, when the Viganò testimony first broke, we were told by the Pope himself, “I am not going to respond to this at the moment….Do your homework, it is all there to investigate.” Well, the homework so far indicates evidence of massive cover-ups that point to the very top of the Church — answers only the Pope can provide — and we know that when answers, clarity, and accountability are called for from this Pontiff, silence is the response.

This is another sorry chapter in the Church today where the lay faithful were sold another bill of goods by a self-protective and a gutless bunch of leaders who are totally ignoring the key issue at hand. This was a meeting that purported to address some real solutions to the sex abuse crisis in the Church today that has been consistently covered up for decades and it was reduced to a cheap PR stunt and a weekend crash course in the Sixth Commandment. That is, something every second grader used to understand instinctively from his or her catechism course, let alone a graduate of a seminary who has risen to the rank of bishop or cardinal.

The “smoke and mirrors” magic show put on by the Vatican this past week would not get a second glance from a cheap circus promoter, but perhaps the laity could be won over by the new-found sincerity of the bishops. This quote from Grand Master Cardinal Cupich going into the summit should really convince us of their seriousness — They are going to radically listen now! “The first orientation is a perpetual stance of radical listening to comprehend the deadening experience of those who have been sexually abused by clergy.” Now they’re going to radically listen — they are really getting serious now!

This latest charade of handwringing and pious platitudes is just more fodder for the continued erosion of ecclesiastical credibility and will only serve to enrage the laity all the more and disrupt a Church that is already reeling from despair and a lack of clear leadership. How long can Pope Francis and his minions hide behind the silence?

Silence again ruled the order of the day. It appears the hope of the Vatican is to avoid the real issues and time will heal, the laity will soon forget, as the culprits attempt to hide the elephant under the rug. Cardinal Cupich was not joking when he said at the peak of the crisis last summer — “he is not going down this rabbit hole — the Pope has much bigger things to tackle.”

So for the moment it looks as though “clericalism” lives on. The hierarchy can go back to what it does best — back to apologizing to victims and policing plastic straws in the ocean and advocating for open borders. All that is a much easier sell to a society that is aggressively softening its views on the evils of homosexuality and infanticide.

The emboldened forces of evil with Satan at the helm will press on, determined now more than ever with the wind at their backs. Infanticide and acceptance of homosexuality are now within their grasp, certainly not to be intimidated by an injured Church failing to embrace the teachings of Christ, preoccupied by the political whims of the day, and paralyzed by its moral impotence. That impotence is due to its inept and feckless leadership, which is severely handicapping its fight in the battle of good and evil.

The Pope’s zero tolerance rule already challenged by the McCarrick cover-up will be tested all the more with the latest revelations from a recent AP news report, challenging the Pope on cover-up allegations in Argentina. (For more background on this, see Fr. Kevin M. Cusick’s column in last week’s Wanderer, February 28, 2019, p. 2B.) The old axiom of every successful leader from generals to presidents and all the great leaders throughout the centuries is to never expect anything from your subordinates that you would not be willing to endure yourself. Zero tolerance comes to mind. We will soon see if that applies to Popes. Like the half of the original dubia signers — we may not live to see an answer.


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Fr. James Schall passed away today. A Jesuit priest & Georgetown professor, he served as mentor & model to a numberless many (including me). With penetrating insight & wit, he pointed us to Christ & those great Catholic minds we mustn't forget.

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