Peace Be With You? (August)
By: Kerith Willard
Angry Catholics across the globe are calling for Pope Francis to resign after recent allegations have come to light that the Pope knew about and aided in a cover-up of sexual abuse.
In an 11-page letter published by The National Catholic Register and Lifesite News, retired Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò alleged that Pope Francis lifted unconfirmed sanctions already in place on Washington D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. The letter detailed the cover-up by Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
Viganò stated that Pope Benedict XVI had previously sanctioned McCarrick to a lifetime of penance and prayer back in 2009-2010. He was not to travel, give lectures or publicly celebrate Mass.
Viganò alleged that Francis knew about the sanctions back in 2013, and he even asked Viganò about the accusations against McCarrick. Viganò claimed he told Francis that McCarrick had “corrupted generations of priests.”
Shortly after the alleged 2013 conversation, the sanctions against McCarrick seemed to have been lifted as he began to travel and enjoy public mass.
McCarrick was removed from active ministry in June of this year after a U.S. investigation found the sexual abuse allegations against him to be credible. He resigned in July.
He is accused of sexually abusing generations of Junior Seminarians and young priests in New Jersey, as well as having sexually abused at least two minors.
Barry Coburn, McCarrick’s attorney has said, “These are serious allegations, but McCarrick, like any other person, has a right to due process. He looks forward to invoking that right at the appropriate time.”
McCarrick is one of the highest ranking church officials to be accused of sexual abuse. Since his resignation in July, another man has come forward to say he was molested, as well as a few other former seminarians.
He is currently facing an internal trial and has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in penitential seclusion until that time. He currently faces no criminal proceedings because of the statute of limitations, which raises its own set of issues.
Viganò ended his 11-page letter with a call to Pope Francis and all those involved in the cover-up to resign. The letter was published while Francis was traveling in Ireland. After facing thousands of protestors, the pope touched on the allegations, stating that he “won’t speak a word about it” but may choose to speak “when some time passes.”
He additionally stated that “it is an act of trust” for journalists to report on the issue and get it right.
During his time in Ireland, Francis begged for forgiveness of the church and admitted that the hierarchy had been guilty of cover-ups and a failure to show compassion.
Calls for the pope’s resignation have become more frequent in frequent months, especially with the recent scandal out of Pennsylvania in which a grand jury report found that 300 priests had abused more than 1,000 children over the course of 70 years.
Conservative members of the Catholic Church are calling on Francis to resign because they believe he is culpable for the abuse. Gerard Mannion, professor of Catholic Studies at Georgetown University went even further in an article for Times Magazine, stating that not only should the pope resign, but all U.S. bishops should also resign.
However, supporters of Pope Francis believe that conservative Catholics are using the scandal to weaken Francis’s pro-progressive views within the church. Only a handful of popes have resigned before, and having him resign so quickly after Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation could damage the centuries long bond of the church, showing that the papacy is no longer a lifelong role.
Viganò himself is no stranger to controversy within the church. An archconservative, he is known for his anti LGBTQ views. Earlier this year he spoke at a gathering of anti-Francis dissenters. In his letter he mentions “homosexual networks” within the church that are to blame and states that, “the seriousness of homosexual behavior must be denounced.”
Pope Francis has been a more accepting member of the church, telling a gay man earlier this year that “God made you like that and loves you like that.” For many, he is a welcome breath of fresh air within the church, gradually eroding teachings on sexuality.
It is unlikely that Francis will resign, but if he chooses to do so there will be a transitional period between popes. There will be a “Papal Conclave” where the College of Cardinals will convene to elect a new pope.