Great reporting by Ed Condon of Catholic News Agency, who reveals that close Francis allies Cardinals Blase Cupich and Donald Wuerl collaborated on a plan to shunt the laity aside in investigating dirty bishops. Excerpt:

Cupich submitted the plan Tuesday to leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, proffering it as an alternative to a proposal that had been devised by conference officials and staffers.

The conference’s proposed plan would have established an independent lay-led commission to investigate allegations against bishops. The Cupich-Wuerl plan would instead send allegations against bishops to be investigated by their metropolitan archbishops, along with archdiocesan review boards. Metropolitans themselves would be investigated by their senior suffragan bishops.

Sources in Rome and Washington, DC told CNA that Wuerl and Cupich worked together on their alternative plan for weeks, and presented it to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops before the U.S. bishops’ conference assembly in Baltimore. Cupich and Wuerl are both members of Congregation for Bishops.

 

This is really something. They let Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the USCCB, proceed to the meeting’s opening totally in the dark, only to find out the night before that the Vatican was sandbagging its agenda. Word was that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops ordered the change. As Condon reports, both Cupich and Wuerl sit on that Congregation, and are close to Pope Francis, who is running this show.

When DiNardo made his shock announcement about the agenda change, it was noted by many that Cupich jumped up with an alternative proposal rather quickly. Now we know. The fix was in, or so he hoped. Wuerl resigned under pressure weeks ago, in disgrace over his handling of clerical sex abuse, but this clearly shows he still has a hand in running things. These two powerful cardinals, close Francis allies, conspired with Rome against all the American bishops to derail a plan that would have brought laity into oversight of bishops’ conduct. The sneaky, underhanded way they did this tells you much.

Cupich and Wuerl were acting as agents of Pope Francis to undermine the laity, and to undermine the reformist element of the US bishops. Mark that.

This quote, from the NYT’s latest account of the conference, takes on a certain resonance in light of the Cupich-Wuerl conspiracy:

“The summer of shame has marked a turning point in the way that Catholics, especially American Catholics, are perceiving the church,” Cathleen Kaveny, a Catholic legal and moral scholar at Boston College, said at a symposium in Baltimore on Sunday, a day before the bishops started meeting. “Many people are not seeing the sexual abuse crisis as an aberration within the system, but they’re seeing it as something that really runs throughout the system, that’s enabled by the system.”

In other words, not a bug, but a feature. Think hard about that point as you read Monsignor Charles Pope’s courageous, take-no-prisoners commentary on how Pope Francis has become “the face of the scandal.” Excerpts:

The greatest disappointment was Pope Francis’ decision to suppress any vote or action on the abuse scandals by the U.S. bishops. Some bishops remarked that this decision indicates that Rome is serious about reform—a gratuitous claim. To many if not most of the faithful from whom I regularly hear, this seems yet another sad example of intransigence from Rome and the Pope. There is an almost complete tone-deafness in Rome; there seems to be bewilderment as to why these American “conservatives” are so worked up. Even worse, it appears that there is intentional resistance, obfuscation, and outright refusal to grant the legitimate requests of God’s faithful for a full and prompt investigation. These requests by the faithful are intended to ensure that tolerance of sin, violations of chastity, and clerical malfeasance will end. Victims deserve a prompt and thorough investigation and the faithful are right to insist that their clergy live up to the vows they take and observe the Sixth Commandment.

To most Catholics, the Pope’s actions and seeming resistance place the ownership of the scandal squarely in his court; he has increasingly become the face of the scandal. This is due to the credible accusations that he knew of former Cardinal McCarrick’s predatory behavior but even more so to the fact that he has steadfastly refused even to respond to the charges. He could deny them, but he does not. Even if he were to say, “I made a serious error in judgment and I ask the mercy and forgiveness of God’s people,” many people would do so, even if with sadness. Instead, the Pope has declared that he will “not say one word on this.” Even worse, he subsequently referred to those who have asked for answers and investigations as “a pack of wild dogs,” “scandal-mongers,” and “those in league with the Great Accuser.” This is no way to treat God’s faithful; it makes him seem more of a besieged and angry potentate than a shepherd who “has the smell of the sheep.” There is a lot of talk about mercy and accompaniment, but the Pope’s actions, including the recent suppression of the USCCB’s planned vote and actions on the sexual abuse crisis, demonstrate that such terms will be very selectively applied.

Indeed, the response of the Pope to the situation in the U.S. seems eerily familiar to his treatment of the people of Chile: Pope Francis deeply offended abuse survivors by defending Chilean Bishop Juan Barros from what he called the “calumny” and “gossip” of victims of clerical sexual abuse, stubbornly backing his appointment as bishop despite widespread advice to remove it. He even called the Chileans who protested Barros’ appointment “dumb.” So detrimental was this stubbornness, dismissiveness, and unkindness to basic credibility that even some of Pope Francis’ closest associates, including Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, distanced themselves from him. Only when his hand was forced by strong protests and by actions of the Chilean government did Pope Francis alter his stance and finally remove Barros, later issuing an apology.

Americans, both clergy and lay, may well have to learn that it could take strong protest to move this pope to reconsider his seemingly dismissive stance regarding our concerns. While there were some early promises of an investigation and a canonical trial of Archbishop McCarrick, nothing seems to have materialized, and the Pope’s suppression of the planned votes and actions of the USCCB seems to indicate that it he does not consider it a high priority.

Yes, Monsignor Pope went there. More:

I am not confident that we will see anything close to a full inquiry or a clear adjudication of this matter in Rome. Too many there are implicated and compromised to be able to carry out a clear and forceful investigation. The testimonies of Archbishop Viganò have substantially withstood scrutiny: former Cardinal McCarrick’s misdeeds were known and ignored despite previous sanctions. However, there just seems to be little importance attached to any of this in Rome.

I cannot say strongly enough how uncomfortable it makes me to be detailing all this. Every faithful Catholic—and certainly every priest—has an instinct to support the Pope and our bishops, but this worldwide scandal has forced many of us to speak out. Just like the people of Chile, we are going to have to speak even more forcefully and persistently, focusing much of our attention now on Rome and the Pope. It will feel awkward, and we must be careful in what we say and how we say it, in what we insist upon and how we go about it.

Read the whole thing. Seriously, do. It’s very strong on its own, but given that it was written by a prominent cleric in the Archdiocese of Washington — well, it’s stunning. Do read the whole thing to see that final paragraph, with his description of what he’s hearing from hurt and angry lay faithful. Pope Francis seems bound and determined to ignore those people. And for what? To preserve a system that led to the rape of their children and subsequent cover-up, and to bishops sending sexual degenerates to be their spiritual fathers?