The Conservative Resistance Inside the Vatican

Some Catholic leaders are using the sex abuse crisis to unseat Pope Francis.

By Kaya Oakes

In August, in a letter published in the National Catholic Register, Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò blamed the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis on gay priests who “act under the concealment of secrecy and lies with the power of octopus tentacles, and strangle innocent victims and priestly vocations, and are strangling the entire church.” Pope Francis, he wrote, had sheltered such priests. Viganò specifically named Theodore McCarrick, a “serial predator” who resigned as a cardinal in July after the news broke that he’d sexually abused adolescent boys while rising to become one of America’s most prominent archbishops. Viganò called on Francis to “set a good example” and resign, along with the other cardinals and bishops implicated in the scandal. He wrote little about the fact that McCarrick’s abuse took place during the papacies of Francis’s conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Whatever Francis knew about McCarrick, the previous popes likely knew more. But their complicity was overlooked.

Viganò belongs to a traditionalist wing of the church that has never truly accepted Pope Francis. In the United States, this contingent includes Cardinal Raymond Burke of St. Louis, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, and Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. These powerful clergymen aren’t just conservative on theological matters, but in their politics as well. While serving as the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio, or ambassador, to Washington, Viganò was responsible for introducing Pope Francis to Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples in 2015. From San Francisco, Cordileone publicly supported California’s Proposition 8, which opposed same-sex marriage, raising over $1 million to get it on the ballot. Chaput has called on the University of Notre Dame to give President Donald Trump an honorary degree. And Burke plans to partner with former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon to construct a Catholic compound near Rome that will host meetings and seminars with church leaders and politicians interested in protecting “Christendom.”

In late August, several conservative American bishops and their allies published letters in support of Viganò, even after journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that he had likely exaggerated many of the claims he made in the Register. They are using the worst crimes of the church to attack Francis and his liberal policies. What should have served as a reckoning has been transformed into an opportunity to take him down.

Francis has been fighting off critics practically since the day he was elected in 2013. When Benedict, a Bavarian theologian nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler,” stepped down earlier that year, he still had significant support in the Vatican for his most extreme conservative stances—he once quoted fourteenth-century texts that criticized Islam as “evil and inhuman”; lifted the excommunication of a British bishop who denied the Holocaust; and claimed condoms worsened the fight against AIDS. Since then, conservative dissenters in the Catholic hierarchy have formed a resistance of sorts, pushing back against Francis’s pronouncements on divorce, immigration, climate change, and poverty.

Much of this resistance comes from the United States. Although 63 percent of American Catholics support the pope, according to a recent CNN poll, conservative clergy and wealthy Catholic donors remain among his fiercest critics. Their most common line of attack focuses on Francis’s supposed support for gay priests. In 2013, the pope quipped, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay Catholics. Two years later, he met with an openly gay former student, Yayo Grassi, and his partner in Washington. And more recently, he asked James Martin, a Jesuit priest who has written a book on LGBT Catholics, to deliver a talk at the World Meeting of Families in Ireland this past summer. Francis has actually taken no official action to change church policy about homosexuality, but conservatives have still reacted in horror. In May, when Francis told a gay Chilean sexual abuse survivor that God made him gay and loves him anyway, American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher said the pope was destroying the church like a “wrecking ball.” Conservatives like Dreher maintain that gay priests are the main perpetrators of child sexual abuse, and that their powerful supporters within the Vatican—whom Dreher calls the “lavender mafia”—are responsible for harboring them.

Of course, there is no evidence of a higher rate of abuse among gay clergy; in fact, abuse, religious and secular, is most commonly the result of “situational generalists” who abuse whoever is in their control, male or female, children or adults. But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from arguing that gay men are responsible for the abuse crisis. In his letter, for example, Viganò uses the word “child” twice; “homosexual” appears 16 times. Cardinal Burke compared gay priests to murderers in a 2015 interview with LifeSite News, a pro-life web site. The problems the church faces, from child abuse to a lack of men applying to the priesthood, he once said, are because it has become too “feminized,” which, given Burke’s track record, could be taken as a way of saying “too gay.”

The conservatives attempting to blame gay priests for sexual scandals appear to have two main objectives. First, they hope to purge the church of its gay clergy. And second, they want Francis out. Because he has softened the church’s stance on LGBT issues, his opponents can accuse him of sheltering gay priests and, in their minds, saddle him with responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis, despite the fact that it began long before he was elected pope.

No one yet knows how much Francis knew about the abuse. On the papal plane hours after Viganò’s letter was released, he did not deny the charges leveled at him. Instead he told journalists on board, “You have the journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.” A strong denial would have been preferable, under the circumstances—he was traveling back to Rome from Ireland, where he had just met with victims of sexual abuse there, which reached such a horrific scale that an entire generation of people had left the church. The pope later said the meeting left a “profound mark” on him. Presented with the letter so soon after seeing the traumatized victims, he may simply have been too shaken to answer. Or it could mean that Francis did know about McCarrick. He has been pope for five years. He could have taken a stronger stance against sexual abuse in the church already. He still can.

But amid this muddled, internecine conflict, one thing is clear: Conservative attempts to tear Francis down, while absolving his predecessors and blaming a global sexual crisis on gay priests, are sinister and abusive. The problems of the Catholic Church stem not from homosexuality but from an entrenched culture that protects clergy—and the church itself—at the expense of the people they are meant to serve. Long ago, the Vatican and its leadership lost their connection to the ordinary lives of the billion Catholics worldwide. Now, they privilege reputation above truth, and, like many of the current accusations flying around, that instinct is rotten.

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal Pens Scathing Letter to Archbishop Who Accused Pope of Cover-Up

Pope Francis has ordered a “thorough study” into the Vatican archives to investigate the charges surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

By Jason Horowitz

The Vatican has decided to fight fire and brimstone with fire and brimstone.

Six weeks after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador in the United States, shook the church by accusing Pope Francis of covering up sexual abuse, the Vatican broke its public silence on Sunday with a scathing public retort from a powerful prefect for the Congregation for Bishops.

The prefect, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, called the accusations by “dear Viganò” “false,” “far-fetched,” “blasphemous,” “incomprehensible” “abhorrent” and politically motivated to hurt Francis. He suggested that the archbishop would be wise to “quickly repair” his break with the pope.

“I cannot begin to understand how you let yourself be convinced of this monstrous accusation, which does not stand up,” Cardinal Ouellet said in the letter, which was written in French.

Archbishop Viganò did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday.

On Aug. 26, conservative Catholic outlets critical of the pope published a long letter by the archbishop accusing Francis of lifting punishment for sexual misconduct for a former American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, that were reportedly imposed by Pope Benedict XVI.

On Sunday, just a day after the Vatican announced that Francis had ordered a “thorough study” into its archives to investigate the charges, Cardinal Ouellet wrote to Archbishop Viganò that accusing the pope of covering up for this “presumed sexual predator” and judging Francis unfit to lead the church was “incredible and far-fetched.”

Cardinal Marc Ouellet called the accusations against the pope and the Vatican hierarchy “false,” “blasphemous,” “abhorrent” and politically motivated to hurt Francis.

He noted that he was responding with the permission of a pope to whom he, unlike Archbishop Viganò, had remained loyal. He seemed to suggest that the archbishop, who has disappeared from view, was in serious danger of severe punishment from the church and called on him to “come out of hiding, repent for your revolt and return to better feelings toward the Holy Father instead of worsening hostility against him.”

Cardinal Ouellet urged him to “quickly repair” the injustice of a “political set up” and, in a deft dig at the ambitious cleric, to overcome the “bitterness and disappointment” that had marked his clerical career.

“You should not finish your priestly life involved in an open and scandalous rebellion that inflicts a very painful wound” on the church, he wrote.

Archbishop Viganò’s initial letter was a remarkable broadside against the Vatican hierarchy. Francis has essentially said he would not dignify the accusations with a response. But Cardinal Ouellet did, and he answered in kind.

Cardinal Ouellet offered personal testimony based on his own interactions and the congregation’s archives. He said that there was no written record of punishment against Archbishop McCarrick, though he acknowledged that the American had been “strongly exhorted” to live a discreet life of prayer, without travel or public appearances, because of the sexual misconduct rumors.

“We come to the facts of the matter,” Cardinal Ouellet wrote to Archbishop Viganò, whom Benedict XVI sent to Washington as the papal envoy in 2011, after his involvement in a scandal in Rome that revealed his frustration at not being made a cardinal.

“How is it possible,” Cardinal Ouellet wrote, that Archbishop McCarrick was promoted to the “high offices of archbishop of Washington and cardinal?”

A professor in a New Jersey seminary sent warnings to the Vatican of the sexual misconduct allegations, in 2000, when Archbishop McCarrick was made archbishop of Washington.

Pope John Paul II, who was accused of allowing sexual abuse to fester in the church, made him a cardinal in 2001. Other accusations have recently surfaced, including from men who say they were abused as young teenagers.

In his letter, Cardinal Ouellet treads carefully on the fact that the American’s ascent took place under John Paul, while making clear that Francis had nothing to do with Archbishop McCarrick’s promotions from New York to New Jersey to Washington.

“Without getting into the details,” he wrote, decisions are made by the popes based on the information available at the time, and the judgments “are not infallible.”

Coming to the defense of John Paul II, who is beloved by Archbishop Viganò and his conservative allies, Canadian Cardinal said it seemed unfair to call the decision makers corrupt, even if “some indications supplied by witnesses should have been examined further.”

He said that Archbishop McCarrick showed great ability in defending himself, and, in response to Archbishop Viganò’s ad hominem attacks on Vatican officials for being homosexual or supporting homosexuals within the church, he wrote that “the fact” that in the Vatican there could be people who practice or support sexual behavior “contrary to the values of the gospel” was not reason to generalize and declare “unworthy and complicit” a broad swath of people, “even the Holy Father.”

To do say, he said, was only “slander and defamation.”

He acknowledges that Archbishop McCarrick, who retired in May 2006, was strongly urged “not to travel and not to appear in public, so as not to provoke more hearsay about him,” but he said it was false to present those measures taken against him as punishments decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and then lifted by Francis.

“After a review of the archives, I find that there are no documents signed by either pope in this regard” Cardinal Oullet wrote.

That seems to undercut the central claim of Archbishop Viganò’s story. He had written in his August letter that he first learned from Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, Cardinal Oullet’s predecessor, of the punishment Benedict had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick. He has said his own predecessor in Washington, the late Archbishop Pietro Sambi, received instructions to enforce those measures.

Cardinal Ouellet suggests that the moves were merely precautionary.

“Thus, the Congregation’s decision was inspired by prudence, and the letters from my predecessor and my own letters urged him, first through the Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi and then through you, to lead a life of prayer and penance, for his own good and for the good of the Church.”

The direct accusation by Archbishop Viganò was that he had personally told Francis about Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual misconduct during an audience with many papal emissaries on June 23, 2013.

“I can only imagine the amount of verbal and written information that was provided to the Holy Father on that occasion about so many persons and situations,” Cardinal Ouellet wrote. “I strongly doubt that the Pope had such interest in McCarrick, as you would like us to believe, given the fact that by then he was an 82-year-old Archbishop emeritus who had been without a role for seven years.”

To counter the archbishop’s description of Archbishop McCarrick as the pope’s American confidante and political ally, he writes that he had never heard Pope Francis even mention him.

Cardinal Ouellet ends his letter by accusing Archbishop Viganò of harboring political motivations.

“Dear Viganò, in response to your unjust and unjustified attack, I can only conclude that the accusation is a political plot that lacks any real basis that could incriminate the Pope and that profoundly harms the communion of the Church.”

Complete Article HERE!

Want To End Child Sex Abuse In The Church, Pope Francis?

Change Canon Law!

By

Last week Pope Francis acknowledged that the way the Church’s leadership has handled child sex abuse was driving away those who are the future of the Church: young people. He stated, “we ourselves need to be converted…we need to change the many situations that, in the end, put you off.”

The speech came not long after a Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed that over 300 priests had sexually abused at least 1000 children over a period of 70 years, and a study in Germany found a similar pattern of abuse and the Church’s failure to address it. The pope himself has been accused of protecting the now ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted seminarians and a child. People have rightly wondered why, for so long, the pope and his bishops, who are supposed to be shepherds over their flock, have left the wolves to the sheep.

The pope, rather than asking for forgiveness, or having the Church’s leadership undergo an unspecified “conversion,” should focus on some basic institutional reforms. The first among those is revising the Code of Canon Law—the legal rules by which the Church operates. Bishops are sworn to follow canonical procedures as well as various instructions later issued by popes to clarify the application of canon law. As Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said in a deposition, “A bishop must obey the rules of the Church. We’re all in a society of law in the Church too.” Bishops also are only responsible to the pope—they do not answer to fellow bishops or parishioners.

It’s clear that if Francis wants to start solving the problem of how the Church has mishandled child sex abuse cases, he needs to undertake a revision to the Code of Canon Law to make the first response to abuse punitive, restore to diocesan bishops the capacity to defrock priests, raise the statute of limitations, reduce the stress on secrecy about alleged cases, require reporting to local civil authorities, and implement rules for handling errant bishops.

Canon law sees abuse through the lens of a priest violating his vow of celibacy, not from the perspective of harming a child. This has led bishops to interpret child sex abuse as a priest “really struggling with his sexuality” or as a “morals incident,” not as a case of criminal behavior.

It requires that the bishop’s first response be “pastoral”, not punitive, to the priest. Punishment, which can include removing the priest’s right to present himself as a priest in public and to perform the sacraments publicly, is only to be used as a last resort, when all other remedies have failed. That has led to the church failing to deal sternly and swiftly with suspected and confirmed cases of child sex abuse. Canon law encourages the bishop to wait and see if the priest will be a repeat offender.

Bishops are also prevented from defrocking their own priests under canon law. Between 1983 and 2001, priests had to be found guilty at a canonical trial, and the Vatican—officially, the pope—had to agree to dismiss them afterwards. Canonical trials are complicated, and require the participation of the victim, who may be understandably reluctant to be grilled by clerical judges or may have been advised by a lawyer not to cooperate pending a civil lawsuit. Verdicts are easily overturned on technicalities. Even when bishops recognized they had a sexual predator who should not be around diocesan children, their hands were tied. As one Los Angeles diocesan official wrote of a priest in 1988, “Given his past, I don’t think we can assign him to parish ministry, and there are no clear alternative options at the moment.”

After deciding it needed to control cases directly, since 2001 the Vatican has required that bishops send all credible cases of child sex abuse to the Vatican. It decides whether to order a canonical trial or use an administrative procedure to address the case. Even a finding that a priest has serially abused children does not automatically result in laicization (“defrocking”). Instead, the Vatican may decide, as it has in some cases, that the priest should live out his life in a state of “prayer and penance,” or that the events were so long ago that the priest doesn’t deserve punishment. Priests were dismissed in only 25 percent of 3420 cases sent to the Vatican between 2004 and 2013.

The statute of limitations in canon law needs to be extended or abolished. For decades it had been only five years. In 2001 it was raised to 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. With victims understandably reluctant or unable to come forward as youth, many cases eventually reported were beyond formal procedural limits. (They were usually beyond the civil jurisdiction’s statutes of limitations, too).

Canon law requires bishops maintain secrecy about suspected cases. Even though the Vatican has said bishops should obey local reporting laws, the secrecy requirement is in canon law, whereas the reporting to local authorities is not. Bishops, with a sworn moral obligation to obey the Church, opt for secrecy.

The Vatican also needs to develop formal procedures within canon law for punishing bishops who are negligent in their handling of abusive priests. There is no such procedure now. The pope needs to, at a minimum, establish a tribunal. The catch is, due to the strictures of canon law, what looks to outsiders as negligence by bishops is often behavior required by church procedures.

There are several aspects of Catholic theology that have been a hindrance to addressing clergy child sex abuse. One is the theology of forgiveness; the Church has a strong belief in the redemptive and curative power of confessing sin and being forgiven, and has applied this to priests. Pope Francis commented in 2013, “Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him pope.” The Church needs to stress that one can be forgiven—but also face consequences for their actions.

Another is celibacy, not because, as is often assumed, abusing priests are substituting children for adult heterosexual partners, but because bishops, and the Vatican, bend over backwards to retain priests, due to the substantial decline in their numbers. Statistics from the Vatican show that the number of priests worldwide is lower than it was in 1970, even though the world’s Catholic population has doubled since then. The celibacy requirement is one clear barrier that discourages many men from entering the priesthood and encourages the Church to hang onto those inside, no matter their criminal behavior.

So now we must consider, will these recent revelations finally be a turning point? We’ve been here before: cardinals and bishops passing priests around and covering up abuses, Catholics outraged, the general public appalled, and attorney generals launching investigations. What may be different is that now there is public awareness that the problem goes all the way to the top. The pope and the Vatican now need to take action to change the rules by which the Church handles abusing priests and bishops.

While the Catholic church has been affected by secular trends in declining religiosity, as have other mainstream religions, its obtuseness on how it has handled clergy child sex abuse may be further damaging adherence. It has certainly hit the Church financially. It isn’t clear that the Vatican will see this any differently. In speaking to the press on the plane home from Estonia, the Pope relativized the Church’s actions, comparing that to how child abuse in families has been handled over time. He said he has never approved an appeal from a priest after a canonical trial verdict, ignoring that he has reinstated priests who were laicized through administrative processes.

The Vatican has refused to investigate ex-Cardinal McCarrick. Francis needs to be honest that the Church does not have a zero tolerance policy on clergy child sex abuse. The hypocrisy has turned away many Catholics. The risk for the Church is that while the leadership is praying for their own conversion, the faithful will convert to something else.

Complete Article HERE!

Cloud of sex abuse scandal hangs over Vatican youth meeting

Sex abuse scandal hangs over Vatican youth meeting

By Nicole Winfield

Pope Francis opens a monthlong meeting of bishops Wednesday on engaging young Catholics as his church is again under fire for the way it covered up for priests who raped and molested young people.

One American bishop suggested postponing or cancelling the synod, given the poor optics of assembling the church hierarchy to discuss a demographic harmed by the culture of concealment the same hierarchy has been accused of fostering.

A Dutch bishop, outraged that the Vatican hasn’t responded to claims that Francis himself rehabilitated a predator American cardinal, announced he was boycotting the meeting altogether. Another American bishop asked Francis to let him stay home to cope with the scandal’s fallout in his diocese.

Despite the dark cloud hanging over the synod, organizers said they thought the rebirth of the scandal could still give the Vatican an opportunity to show that the Catholic Church isn’t just about sex abuse and cover-ups.

“The church isn’t represented by those who make mistakes. The church is more important and fundamental than that,” said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who is organizing the Oct. 3-28 meeting.

The synod is bringing together 266 bishops from five continents for talks on helping young people find their vocations in life – be it lay or religious – at a time when church marriages and religious vocations are plummeting in much of the West.

It’s a follow-on synod to the meetings Francis organized in 2014 and 2015 on family life that inspired his controversial opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

No single pressing issue is facing bishops this time around, although the way they address homosexuality will be the most closely watched topic. The Vatican’s preparatory document made what is believed to be the first-ever reference in an official Vatican text to “LGBT.”

In addition, the role of women in the church will be watched, although no woman has any vote on the final document. Only a handful of women are attending as experts or as some of the 34 young people picked to attend – a structural imbalance in the Vatican’s synod process.

On the eve of the synod, a parallel conference got underway across town in Rome organized by Catholic women’s groups, which have long lobbied for a greater say in church decision-making.

Students from the Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, Britain opened the conference by reading the letter they wrote to Francis complaining about the prejudice they feel as young women in the church. They even criticized Francis’ frequent use of the term “feminine genius” to describe the qualities he says are so necessary to the church today.

“Initially, ‘feminine genius’ sounded complimentary, but then we asked ourselves what it really means,” the girls wrote. “We think of the qualities it refers to which are supposedly inherent to womanhood, such as caring, nurturing and receptivity. We believe motherhood is really important, but for a number of reasons, focusing only on this does not relate to our ambitions as women.”

The synod’s working document says young people in many secularized parts of the world simply want nothing to do with the Catholic Church, because they find it not only irrelevant to their lives but downright irritating.

“This request does not stem from uncritical or impulsive scorn, but is deeply rooted in serious and respectable reasons: sexual and economic scandals,” for which they demand the church enforce a zero-tolerance policy.

But at the same time, the Vatican itself has fueled the latest scandal by refusing to respond to claims by a retired ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, that Francis and a long list of Vatican officials before him covered up for ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington.

Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined an allegation that he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible. But it was apparently common knowledge in the Vatican and U.S. church that McCarrick pressured seminarians to go to bed with him.

The one bright spot for the meeting is that for the first time, two bishops from mainland China are participating in a synod, the first tangible result of last month’s breakthrough agreement between the Vatican and Beijing over bishop appointments.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church Is Sick With Sex

Outside of condemning adulterous behavior, Christ never said anything about whom you could love.

Pope Alexander VI

By Timothy Egan

One pope was a father of 10 through multiple mistresses, a man who purchased the papacy with mule-loads of silver. It is said that Alexander VI, the most debauched of the Borgia pontiffs, elected in 1492, even had an affair with one of his daughters.

Another pope contracted syphilis during his reign — a “disease very fond of priests, especially rich priests,” as the saying went in Renaissance times. That was Julius II, known as “Il terrible.”

A third pope, Pius IX, added Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and John Stuart Mill’s book on the free market economy to the Vatican’s List of Prohibited Books during his long reign in the 19th century. He also formalized the doctrine of papal infallibility.

What these Holy Fathers had in common was not just that they were badly flawed men putting forth badly flawed ideas: At the root of their moral failings is Catholicism’s centuries-old inability to come to grips with sex.

I say this as a somewhat lapsed, but certainly listening, Catholic educated by fine Jesuit minds and encouraged by the open-mindedness of Pope Francis. The big issue behind the budding civil war in a faith of 1.3 billion people — a rift that could plunge the church back into a medieval mind-set on sexuality — is the same old thing.

And most of the church’s backward teachings, dictated by nominally celibate and hypocritical men, have no connection to the words of Jesus.

If you’re going to strike at a pope, to paraphrase the line about taking down a king, you must kill him. Right-wing Catholics, those who think allowing gay members of the faith to worship with dignity is an affront to God, have just taken their best shot at Francis.

The attempted coup was disguised as an exposé by a conscience-stricken cleric, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. He claims that the pope must resign because he knew about the sexual abuse of young seminarians by a disgraced cardinal and did not defrock the predator.

It’s a fair point, and one that demands a full response from Francis. But if you read Viganò’s full 11-page letter, you see what’s really driving him and his ultraconservative cabal — an abhorrence of gay Catholics and a desire to return to the Dark Ages.

“The homosexual networks present in the church must be eradicated,” Viganò wrote. Those close to Francis, he claimed, “belong to the homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.” For theological authority, he cited the infamous 1986 letter to bishops condemning homosexuality as “a moral disorder.”

That instructive was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, designed to do to heretics what the Inquisition once did, without the stake-burning.

The bishop’s letter cites Old Testament sanctions against “sodomites” and a New Testament interpretation from St. Paul, who admitted he was not speaking with direct authority from the divine. St. Augustine, who loved sex and had plenty of it before he hated it, set the church template in the fifth century, saying, “Marriage is only one degree less sinful than fornication.”

What’s missing from these puritanical pronouncements, from then till now, is the figure at the center of the faith. That’s because, outside of condemning adulterous behavior, Christ never said anything about whom you could love. Nothing about homosexuals. Nothing about priestly celibacy or barring women from clerical ranks, for that matter.

Last year, while walking the thousand-year-old Via Francigena, I came upon many Catholics along that pilgrim’s path to Rome excited about the fresh air blowing through a Vatican that hadn’t opened a window in decades. The only cloud over these spiritual sojourners was the constant news about criminal clergy.

The conservatives would do nothing to fix this, but would make the church a global pariah. The old guard is infuriated by statements like the one Pope Francis made on Sunday. When asked how a parent should treat a gay child, he said, “Don’t condemn, have dialogue, listen.”

The way out of the present crisis is more light, less darkness and a few bold and dramatic moves. For starters, clerics should not be judging other clerics; let lay members, women and men, conduct the investigations.

Priestly celibacy should be optional. It’s an anachronism, certainly not one of the “infallible” truths, and may be one of the main reasons pedophilia is thick in clerical ranks. For the first thousand years of the church, married men could become priests, as they still can in the Greek Orthodox faith.

Women should be priests. Duh. When asked about this, Francis said only men could serve because Jesus chose only men as his apostles. This logic is flawed, as Jesus also chose Jews, and you don’t see a lot of them being invited into the priesthood.

A final alternative might be to look to the United States ambassador to the Vatican for moral guidance. That would be Callista Gingrich, who carried on a six-year affair with a married Newt Gingrich and became his third wife. In Rome, as always, hypocrisy is eternal.

Complete Article HERE!