When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis, in 2013, the world rejoiced in celebration. It was the first pope in history from South America, and the first pope from outside of Europe since the eighth century. Pope Francis was projected to be a figure who would chart a new course, rejuvenating the Catholic Church and bringing legions of disillusioned and lapsed Catholics back to the flock of the faithful.
The Catholic Church was in a state of perpetual moral crisis, reeling from multitudinous accusations of child sexual abuse on the part of priests. But that was not the worst part. Clear evidence would soon emerge, demonstrating that not only did the Catholic Church hierarchy fail to report the abuse to the authorities, but they covered up the egregious behavior of their priests by transferring them to other parishes.
Boston, Massachusetts became the epicenter for the scandal, which rocked the church to its very core. A team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe went on to break the story, which offered up a tale of almost unbelievable malfeasance, at the highest levels of the diocese. They went on to win the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their efforts, while the 2015 film “Spotlight” won that year’s Academy Award.
Now, evidence has emerged that Pope Francis, himself, has been complicit in a coverup of abuse on the part of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who stands accused of abusing seminarians under his authority, and molesting an altar boy, while a priest in New York City. McCarrick was forced to resign in disgrace, and stripped of awards and honorary degrees.
Did Pope Francis know and seek to cover up McCarrick’s transgressions for the sake of maintaining the church’s reputation?
That is the allegation of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who issued an open letter claiming that he warned Pope Francis about McCarrick in 2013.
When queried about the allegations by reporters, Pope Francis bristled.
“I will not say a word about that. I think that the communique speaks for itself.”
Clearly, the accusation is hitting close to home. Vigano has openly called for the pope’s resignation. If the allegations are true, it seems clear that Pope Francis should consider resigning.
But…there is a 500 pound elephant in the room: politics.
The allegations against Pope Francis have laid bare a deep division in the church between “progressives” and “conservatives” for lack of better terms.
Vigano published his letter in the National Catholic Register, which is associated with the more traditional wing of the church.
The letter was attacked in an editorial of the National Catholic Reporter, affiliated with the church’s progressive wing:
“Make no mistake. This is a coordinated attack on Pope Francis…A putsch is afoot and if the US bishops do not, as a body, stand up to defend the Holy Father in the next 24 hours, we shall be slipping towards schism.”
Neither the left nor the right has been entirely correct about Bergoglio. He is neither a conservative traditionalist, nor one who indulges Marxism and radical liberation theology. In Argentina he was hardly regarded as a leftist radical; in fact Nestor and Cristina Kirchner reportedly viewed him as a major threat and rival. Neither did he speak out against the Argentine military dictatorship in the 1980s.
He has, however, greatly angered believers in free markets with his questionable attacks on the free enterprise system, and libertarian ideology. He has also angered traditionalists who argue that he is changing church doctrine without pretext or justification; that he is overstepping his boundaries.
Neither of these reasons should demand his resignation, however.
With allegations of widespread coverups of sexual abuse of children, the church is facing the greatest moral crisis in its modern history. The pope brought hope to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics by claiming that he would be ruthless and steadfast in pursuit of truth and justice.
Nothing is more despicable after all, than a respected institution, helping to cover up the sexual abuse of children.
Now, however, it appears that Pope Francis may be a hypocrite: someone who claims one thing and does another.
The Catholic Church should conduct a full, open, and transparent investigation into how Pope Francis handled the situation with McCarrick, as well as the entire scandal in general.
If Pope Francis helped to cover up this kind of abuse, in any way, shape, or form, he should resign. The Church must now be focused like a laser beam on protecting the vulnerable children in its care.