I just arrived home from the Catholic Medical Association annual convention, where I gave a Benedict Option talk. I’m worn out — flew in Tuesday night from Milan, then out again the next morning to Dallas. But I really enjoyed myself for my brief time in Dallas. I talked to my old friend Michael Hanby, who also spoke; had Torchy’s Tacos with Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, who was also on the speaker’s roster; chatted with Flagg Taylor, who edited the English translation of Vaclav Benda’s essays; and met Dr. John Schirger, the president of the CMA. And I had lots of short conversations with really nice people. It was a pleasure to be there.
Here’s something unusual that happened a lot there, and happens everywhere I go now: Catholics walking up to my ex-Catholic self to thank me for all the critical things I’ve written about their cardinals and bishops. OK, I framed that in a weird way, but it is so puzzling to me — though gratifying! — that so many Catholics tell me how pleased they are with my work on this story. How things have changed over the last 10 to 15 years on that front! I tell you this not to pat myself on the back, but rather as an indication of the deep anger that ordinary Catholics have at their bishops over this scandal. I’ve never seen anything like this, and never thought that I would.
This means Pope Francis has:
1) Refused to investigate McCarrick
2) Has not pursued the dozens of ways to further sanction him
3) Still has not responded to +Vigano (promised to)
4) Refused to accept Wuerl’s resignation
5) Done nothing in wake of PA grand jury besides a letter! https://t.co/06p8iWJHgR
— Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) September 19, 2018
Back on August 16, the US bishops asked Rome for an “apostolic visitation” to investigate McCarrick. Last week, on the eve of a US bishops’ delegation meeting with Pope Francis to discuss the emergency in the American Church, Phil Lawler wrote about what an apostolic visitation could accomplish:
unearth the documents that will prove conclusively whether or not Archbishop Vigano’s testimony is accurate, whether or not his criticism of the Pontiff is justified;
identify the bishops, in this country and in Rome, who helped advance the ecclesiastical career of ex-cardinal McCarrick—and those whose careers McCarrick has advanced;
expose the influence of the “lavender mafia” and the corruption of the Roman Curia; and
give American Catholics at least some reason to believe that the Vatican is finally taking action, and the cover-up is ending.
But — surprise! — Pope Francis shot that down.
Serious question: can someone offer a plausible explanation for the Pope’s behavior here, one that does not involve a cover-up?
Representatives of the American bishops have now met with Pope Francis to discuss the much-needed investigation of the McCarrick Affair. This is understandable since any process involving the ex-cardinal and other prelates requires papal permission. It’s one thing to ask the pope’s support for an investigation, however, and quite another to trust Vatican officials to run it, given what we now know.
Because we now know – from former Metuchen Bishop P.G. Bootkoski and from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri – that the Vatican Secretariat of State received credible allegations against McCarrick over a decade ago. Yet the Vatican did not deprive him of access to seminarians and priests. Therefore, an investigation focused on McCarrick and the American bishops risks ignoring the pivotal role of higher-ranking officials in Rome.
He believes, apparently, that an apostolic visitation would not be credible, because the Vatican cannot be trusted to run an investigation that almost certainly would implicate its own senior officials.
Answers and accountability are vital for Catholics everywhere, not only in America. In Chile, cries of Catholics were repeatedly ignored or denounced by Rome. Eventually, Chile’s bishops offered to resign, but no Vatican officials followed their example. That scenario must not be repeated.
These circumstances make it impossible for the Vatican to act as a credible guarantor of the forthcoming review of the McCarrick Affair. The pope’s approval and cooperation are necessary, but since American bishops and Vatican officials are under scrutiny now, the investigative process must be independent of both. For the investigation to be effective the pope will need to cooperate by freeing Church officials from the Pontifical Secret and directing them to answer legitimate questions from investigators.
The review should be transparent and overseen by a board comprised of laity, religious, deacons, priests, and bishops. That way the entire Church would be represented in assessing and remedying the problems. That should involve exonerating the innocent, punishing the guilty, repairing the harm, and changing administrative structures and policies. A board like this could become a model for dealing with other failures by bishops and the Vatican.
What happens if Francis refuses this too?
Can anybody in Church authority be trusted? Or are they all too compromised by sex, money, and secret-keeping?
Meanwhile, the pope continues his series of ranty homilies; today he laid into “hypocrites” for persecuting the Church. It’s unreal.
And speaking of unreal, look at this from one of Francis’s biographers and sympathizers:
The very idea of leaving the Catholic Church because of the sins of its members or the failures of parts of its institution is deeply anti-Gospel. If Christ doesn’t reject His Body because of its sins and failures, what gives any of us the right to? It’s not a golf club. https://t.co/yiQ97vsfr0
— Austen Ivereigh (@austeni) September 19, 2018
MBD responds perfectly: