The Vatican finally announced the members of the organizing committee responsible for preparing the meeting of the heads of the world’s bishops’ conferences this coming February 21-24. Most of the early reaction and attention has been on the membership of the organizing committee: Cardinal Blase “The Pope has a bigger agenda” Cupich of Chicago is a conspicuous presence, while Cardinal Seán O’Malley OFM Cap, the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, is rather conspicuous by his absence.
Cupich is a known Papal favorite, and at the center of controversy over the recent spiking of the US bishops’ proposals, which were supposed to get a vote at the recent plenary meeting in Baltimore.
O’Malley is a member of the C9 Council of Cardinal-Advisers, in addition to his role as President of the Commission for the Protection of Minors. He has criticized Pope Francis publicly for his treatment of abuse victims in Chile, and faced criticism for his inept handling of a letter detailing some of the strange proclivities of the depraved and now disgraced former Archbishop of Washington, Theodore Edgar “Uncle Ted” McCarrick.
A statement from Cardinal O’Malley issued early Friday afternoon in Boston essentially takes credit for the idea of holding the meeting, and made clear that he will, in some capacity, be taking part:
The proposal for such a meeting was developed by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was reviewed by the Council of Cardinals and subsequently accepted by the Holy Father. I am pleased that this meeting has been convoked by the Holy Father and I look forward to participating.
It requires no stretch of the imagination to believe the idea for the February meeting did not originate with Pope Francis. The wording of the February meeting’s announcement made it sound to this Vatican Watcher as though the C9 — facing serious troubles of its own — had to twist the Pope’s arm to get him to do anything at all.
The inclusion of Cupich is theater, but the real story is elsewhere: in the stated purpose of the meeting, and in the talking points Fr. Hans Zöllner hit in his interview with official Vatican media outlets, which was released in concert with the announcement from the Press Office of the Holy See on Friday.
“As the Holy Father wrote in the letter to the People of God,” Fr. Zöllner told Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano:
[W]e feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite. With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.
Neither the Vatican, nor the world’s bishops, simply found themselves someplace else. The problem is not that the Vatican or the world’s bishops “did not act in a timely manner,” nor is it that they failed to realize “the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.” Bishops — and evidence suggests Popes among the bishops — were not merely slow to cotton to the magnitude and gravity of the damage done. They were complicit in it.
What’s more, the theme of the meeting is “the protection of minors in the Church” — a worthy cause and a needful thing — but what we most need from bishops is accountability, transparency, and readiness to foster a sane moral culture among the clergy, high and low. The whole reason we are in this unholy mess in the first place is that the bishops have proven themselves incapable of any of that.
There are also the promises and assurances, repeated ad nauseam — this time by Fr. Zöllner in the aforementioned interview with Vatican media — that the Pope is really serious about this:
The Holy See reiterated this clearly: “Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”
If that is so, why did Pope Francis rehabilitate Cardinal Danneels? For that matter, why is Cardinal Ezzati still in his See? Or Bishop Malone in his?
Francis’s handling of the lavender Mafia within the Vatican also begs to differ. One would have to be blind not to see the infiltration of clerical ranks — even in the episcopate, even in the Roman Curia — by active homosexuals for whom their collars are little more than cover. Such men are not abusers of children, in the main, though they do lead disorderly lives, and they do use their position within the clergy to fund their depraved purposes, shield their perverse proclivities, and recruit men into their nefarious ranks.
The Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, admitted as much in his reply to the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano:
[T]he fact that there may be persons in the Vatican who practice and support behavior contrary to Gospel values regarding sexuality, does not authorize us to generalize and declare this or that person as unworthy and as accomplices, even including the Holy Father himself. Should not the ministers of truth be the first to avoid calumny and defamation themselves?
Ministers of truth ought to be the first to avoid calumny and defamation. Truth, however, is a defense against slander. (So, why not try Viganò?) The accusations Archbishop Viganò leveled against the character and proclivities of men in the Curia may be misplaced. If they are, then true and genuine solicitude for their good names should compel the Holy See to vindicate them with more than a nasty letter from an underling.
In any case, Cardinal Ouellet’s riposte still not only concedes the broad point about the presence of a so-called “lavender Mafia” inside the Curia, but also demonstrates a rather cavalier attitude toward it and its members — as if it were no concern of the Vatican unless the hapless official in question gets himself convicted of a go-to-jail felony. In the case of Msgr. Pietro Amenta — erstwhile judge on the Roman Rota — that’s what it took, and even then, he was allowed to resign shortly before copping a plea to escape jail time.
“Give him time,” urged Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, referring to Pope Francis, when asked on the sidelines of the October synod what the faithful ought to do in the face of burgeoning crisis and apparent paralysis at the highest echelons of Church governance. Francis has given himself until February.
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