The Catholic Church has overseen the world’s longest-lasting and most widespread campaign of institutional sexual abuse. Why is it that after sixteen centuries of documented evidence and decades of continuous international public exposure, new revelations of the scope and magnitude of the crisis continue to shock the public?
Manufacturing the Clerical Predator goes beyond the usual clichéd and tediously-repeated popular explanations offered for the abuse crisis by exploring the personal narrative and theoretical accounts of three Wisconsin former seminarians and priests detailing the transmission of the culture of clerical abuse across three generations. It supplies a fresh, unique, and urgently-needed approach to the question that has yet to be answered about sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church: Why?
— From his reforms to his foreign relations, criticism of Pope Francis has intensified since the death of his predecessor Benedict XVI, revealing a climate of “civil war” at a time when the Catholic Church is engaged in a global conversation about its future.
Benedict, a conservative German theologian who was pope for eight years before resigning in 2013, died on December 31 at the age of 95.
Within days of his death, his closest aide, Georg Gaenswein, revealed Benedict’s concerns at some of the changes made by his successor Pope Francis, notably his decision to restrict the use of the Latin mass.
The criticism was not new. Many in the conservative wing of the Roman Curia, which governs the Church, have long complained the Argentine pontiff is authoritarian and too focused on pastoral matters at the expense of theological rigour.
But it was followed by the death of Australian cardinal George Pell, and the subsequent revelation that he had authored an anonymous note published last year that directly attacked Francis.
The note had described the current papacy as a “catastrophe”, and among others criticised “heavy failures” of Vatican diplomacy under his watch.
Pell, a former close adviser to Francis, was jailed for child sexual abuse before being acquitted in 2020.
Then, at the end of the month, German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller published a book adding fuel to the fire.
The former head of the Vatican’s powerful congregation for the doctrine of the faith denounced Francis’ “doctrinal confusion” and criticised the influence of a “magic circle” around him.
– Civil war –
Mueller’s book caused consternation among some inside the Vatican.
“When you accept a cardinal’s cap, you agree to support and help the pope. Criticisms are made in private, not in public,” said one senior official in the Secretariat of State.
Pope Francis himself told reporters on his plane back from South Sudan last Sunday that his critics have “exploited” Benedict’s death to further their cause.
“And those who exploit such a good person, such a man of God… well I would say they are unethical people, they are people belonging to a party, not to the Church,” he said.
Italian Vatican expert Marco Politi said Mueller’s book “is a new stage in the unstoppable escalation by the pope’s adversaries”.
“There is a civil war in the heart of the church which will continue until the last day of the papacy,” he told AFP.
– Global consultations –
The tensions come as the Catholic Church conducts a vast global consultation on its future, the “Synod on Synodality” launched by Pope Francis in 2021.
Designed to decentralise the governance of the church, it has revealed key differences, with the German Catholic Church, for example, showing distinctly more appetite for reform than Rome.
Discussions include everything from the place of women in the church to how to handle the scandal of child sex abuse, from whether priests should marry to how the Church welcomes LGBTQ believers.
With the synod, which is due to conclude in 2024, “we will see the weight of the different currents within the Church”, Politi said.
He said critics of Pope Francis are already converging into a “current of thought capable of influencing the next conclave”, and by extension the next papacy.
A conclave, a global gathering of cardinals, would be called if Francis died or resigned.
The pope has said he would be willing to follow Benedict’s example and resign if his health stopped him doing his job.
But despite knee problems that have seen him use a wheelchair in recent months, he remains active and in charge — and extremely popular all over the world, as the crowds during his recent trip to Africa showed.
“This knee is annoying, but I go on, slowly, and we’ll see,” the 86-year-old said on Sunday, quipping: “You know that the bad weed never dies!”
“The Roman curia suffers from spiritual Alzheimer [and] existential schizophrenia; this is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive spiritual emptiness which no doctorates or academic titles can fill. […] When appearances, the colour of our clothes and our titles of honour become the primary object in life, [it] leads us to be men and woman of deceit. […] Be careful around those who are rigid. Be careful around Christians – be they laity, priests, bishops – who present themselves as so ‘perfect’. Be careful. There’s no Spirit of God there. They lack the spirit of liberty [..] We are all sinners. But may the Lord not let us be hypocrites. Hypocrites don’t know the meaning of forgiveness, joy and the love of God.”
Pope Francis I
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Feb 8 2023 (IPS) – When the Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV/Ratzinger died on the last day of 2022 it did not cause much of a stir in the global newsfeed. Maybe a sign that religion has ceased to play a decisive role in modern society Nevertheless, religious hierarchies are still highly influential, not least for the world’s 1, 4 billion baptized Catholics, and a pope’s policies have a bearing not only on morals, but also on political and economic issues. By contrast, there are more Muslims in the world, 1.9 billion, though adherents are not so centrally controlled and supervised as Catholics and hierarchies do not have a comparable influence on global affairs.
When Benedict abdicated in 2013 he retained his papal name, continued to wear the white, papal cassock, adopted the title Pope Emeritus and moved into a monastery in the Vatican Gardens. It must have been a somewhat cumbersome presence for a new, more radical pope, particularly since Benedict became a symbol of traditional values and served as an inspiration for critics of the current papacy.
By the end of his reign, John Paul II was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and Cardinal Ratzinger was in effect running the Vatican and when he was elected Pope in 2005, his closest runner-up was Cardinal Bergoglio from Buenos Aires. What would have happened if Borgoglio, who eventually became Francis I, had been elected? Would he have been able to more effectively deal with clerical sexual abuse and Vatican corruption?
When Joseph Ratzinger became pope, he had for 27 years served John Paul II by heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), investigating and condemning birth control, acceptance of homosexuals, “gender theory” and Liberation Theology, a theological approach with a specific concern for the poor and political liberation for oppressed people.
Under Cardinal Ratzinger the CDF generally overlooked an often shady economic cooperation financing Pope John Paul II’s successful battle against Communism, while covering up clerical sexual abuse and marginalizing “progressive” priests. Several Latin American liberation theologians agreed that John Paul II in several ways was an asset to the Church, though he mistreated clerics who actually believed in Jesus’s declaration that he was chosen to “bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” John Paul II and his “watchdog” Joseph Ratzinger were considered to have “armoured fists hidden in silk gloves.”
Ratzinger censured and silenced a number of leading “liberal” priests, like the Latin American Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff and the American Charles Curran, who supported same sex marriages. Both were defrocked. Under Ratzinger’s CDF rule, several clerics were excommunicated for allowing abortions, like the American nun Margaret McBride, and the ordination of women priests, among them the Argentinian priest Rómulo Braschi and the French priest Roy Bourgeois.
Ratzinger/Benedict wrote 66 books, in which a common theme was Truth, which according to him was “self-sacrificing love”, guided by principles promulgated by the Pope and implemented by the Curia, the administrative body of the Vatican:
“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labelled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting one be tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
A strict adherence to Catholic Doctrine meant bringing the Church back to what Benedict XVI considered as its proper roots. If this alienated some believers, so be it. Numerous times he stated that the Church might well be healthier if it was smaller. A point of view opposed to the one expressed by Francis I:
“Changes need to be made […] Law cannot be kept in a refrigerator. Law accompanies life, and life goes on. Like morals, it is being perfected. Both the Church and society have made important changes over time on issues as slavery and the possession of atomic weapons, moral life is also progressing along the same line. Human thought and development grows and consolidates with the passage of time. Human understanding changes over time, and human consciousness deepens.”
Benedict XVI allowed the issue of human sexuality to overshadow support to environmentalism and human rights. He wanted to “purify the Church” in accordance with rules laid down in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992 and written under direction of the then Cardinal Ratzinger. The Catechism might be considered as a counterweight to “relativistic theories seeking to justify religious pluralism, while supporting decline in general moral standards.”
Pope Benedict endeavoured to reintegrate hard-core traditionalists back into the fold, maintaining and strengthening traditional qualms related to sexual conduct and abortion. He declared that modern society had diminished “the morality of sexual love to a matter of personal sentiments, feelings, [and] customs. […], isolating it from its procreative purposes.” Accordingly, “homosexual acts” were in the Catechism described as “violating natural law” and could “under no circumstances be approved.”
Papal condemnation of homosexuality may seem somewhat strange considering that it is generally estimated that the percentage of gay Catholic priests might be 30 – 60, suggesting more homosexual men (active and non-active) within the Catholic priesthood than within society at large.
In 2019, Frédéric Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican sent shock waves through the Catholic world. Based on years of interviews and collaboration with a vast array of researchers, priests and prostitutes, Martel described the double life of priests and the hypocrisy of homophobic cardinals and bishops living with their young “assistants”. He pinpointed members of the Catholic hierarchy as “closet gays”, revealed how “de-anonymised” data from homosexual dating apps (like Grindl) listed clergy users, described exclusive homosexual coteries within the Vatican, networks of prostitutes serving priests, as well as the anguish of homosexual priests trying to come to terms with their homosexual inclinations.
According to Martel, celibacy is a main reason for homosexuality among Catholic priesthood. For a homosexual youngster a respected male community might serve as a safe haven within a homophobic society.
By burdening homosexuality with guilt, covering up sexual abuse and opaque finances the Vatican has not supported what Benedict proclaimed, namely protect and preach the Truth. Behind the majority of cases of sexual abuse there are priests and bishops who protected aggressors because of their own homosexuality and out of fear that it might be revealed in the event of a scandal. The culture of secrecy needed to maintain silence about the prevalence of homosexuality in the Church, which allowed sexual abuse to be hidden and predators to act without punishment.
Cardinal Robert Sarah stated that “Western homosexual and abortion ideologies” are of “demonic origin” and compared them to “Nazism and Islamic terrorism.” Such opinions did in 2020 not hinder Pope Emeritus Benedict from writing a book together with Sarah – From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church. Among injunctions against abortion, safe sex, and women clergy, celibacy was fervently defended as not only “a mere precept of ecclesiastical law, but as a sharing in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and his identity as Bridegroom of the Church.” This in contrast to Francis I, who declared:
“It is time that the Church moves away from questions that divide believers and concentrate on the real issues: the poor, migrants, poverty. We can’t only insist on questions bound up with abortion, homosexual marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. It is not possible … It isn’t necessary to go on talking about it all the time.”
The current pope is not condoning abortion, though does not elevate it above the fight against poverty, climate change and the rights of migrants, which he proclaims to be “pro-life” issues in their own right. In 2021, Francis I stated that “same-sex civil unions are good and helpful to many.” He is of the opinion that Catholic priests ought to be celibate, but adds that this rule is not an unchangeable dogma and “the door is always open” to change. Francis propagates that women ought to be ordained as deacons; allowed to do priestly tasks, except giving absolution, anointing the sick, and celebrate mass and he has recruited women to several crucial administrative positions within the Vatican. Furthermore, he ordered all dioceses to report sexual abuse of minors to the Vatican, while notifying governmental law enforcement to allow for comprehensive investigations and perpetrators being judged by common – and not by canon law.
Just hours after Benedict’s funeral on 5 January Georg Gänswein’s memoir Nothing but the Truth — My Life Beside Benedict XVI, was distributed to the press. Gänswein, who was Benedict’s faithful companion and personal secretary, writes that for the Pope Emeritus the Doctrine of the Faith was the fundament of the Church, while Francis is more inclined to highlight “pastoral care”, i.e. guidance and support focusing on a person’s welfare, social and emotional needs, rather than purely educational ones.
In 2013, Gänswein entered in the service of Benedict XIV. He was professor in Canon Law, fluent in four languages, an able tennis player, excellent downhill skier and had a pilot’s licence. He was also an outspoken conservative and often critical of Francis I.
Shortly before his abdication, Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Gänswein archbishop and made him Prefect of the Papal Household, deciding who could have an audience with Pope Francis I, while he at the same time was responsible for Benedict’s daily schedule, communications, and private and personal audiences. The Italian edition of the magazine Vanity Fair presented Gänswein on its cover, declaring “being handsome is not a sin” and calling him “the Georg Clooney of the Vatican”. Six years before Donatella Versace used Gänswein as inspiration for her fashion show Priest Chic.
There was an air of vanity and conservatism surrounding the acolytes of Benedict. Gänswein writes that working with both popes, the active one and the ”Emeritus” was a great challenge, not only in terms of work but in terms of style. Benedict XIV was a pope of aesthetics recognising that in a debased world there remain things of beauty, embodied in a Mozart sonata, a Latin mass, an altarpiece, an embroidered cape, or the cut of a cassock. The male-oriented lifestyle magazine Esquire included Pope Benedict in a “best-dressed men list”. Gänswein states that when Pope Francis in 2022 restricted the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass “I believe it broke Pope Benedict’s heart”.
Pope Francis is now 86, not much time remains for him as sovereign of the Catholic Church. Hopefully he will be able to change the Curia by staffing it with people who share his ambition to reform the Church by navigating away from doctrinal rigidity, vanity and seclusion towards inclusion, tolerance, human rights, poverty eradication and environmentalism.
In the early hours of January 2, the fully robed body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was transferred from the little monastery in the Vatican where he had died on the last day of 2022 to St Peter’s Basilica. There is a photograph of his remains being lifted into a vehicle. It’s shocking, but not because it shows a dead ex-pope. It’s true that today’s megapixel cameras conveyed the waxwork sheen of the corpse in unnerving detail, but that was more obvious when Benedict was lying in St Peter’s (and, anyway, we British are squeamish because we don’t open the casket for mourners).
No: the shocking thing about that photo is that Benedict XVI, the greatest Catholic theologian of the 20th century as well as a revered pontiff, is being loaded into a white van. OK, so it’s an undertaker’s vehicle, and everyone is behaving with due reverence, but what was the Vatican thinking? The optics are terrible: Benedict looks like a piece of furniture. It’s hard to escape the suspicion that Pope Francis’s staff didn’t think Benedict merited a ceremonial hearse. At the Requiem Mass, Francis preached a homily in which he mentioned his predecessor’s name only once, and couldn’t be bothered to attend the interment in the crypt. Even the Vatican correspondent Robert Mickens, a veteran critic of Benedict’s, wrote that the Pope Emeritus “deserved better”. Cardinals from around the world were horrified.
Now Francis is paying the price. No sooner was Benedict in his grave than we felt the first tremors of an earthquake that threatens to bury his successor alive. The Catholic civil war has entered a new phase. The Pope has been accused by his enemies of favouring heretics, foul-mouthed outbursts of temper, sucking up to dictators, sadistic manoeuvres against traditionalists, perverting the course of justice, a feeble grasp of Catholic doctrine and — not for the first time — of protecting a sex abuser. Catholic conservatives had been worried for years that when the ancient ex-pope finally died, Francis would be free to pursue his own agenda. For nearly 10 years he stopped short of formally changing Catholic teaching on divorce and homosexuality, restricting himself to giving a nudge and a wink to hardline liberals while missing no opportunity to give traditionalists a kicking.
In a development that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago, Latin Mass parishes and communities are attracting disproportionate numbers of young priests and worshippers. Some of them cultivate a fogyish, holier-than-thou manner that gets up the nose of ordinary Catholics — but most of them are breathing new life into a moribund Church. Pope Francis loathes them. In 2020, with no warning, he banned many of their Latin Masses, and according to multiple sources, at a meeting with seminarians in December he ranted against “fucking careerists who fuck up the lives of others”. In his defence, perhaps the words were less vulgar in Spanish. Then again, it’s no secret in the Curia that the air turns blue when the Vicar of Christ is displeased.
With his scholarly predecessor finally dead, the thinking went, the Argentinian Pope could really let rip. And so his conservative critics decided to get their revenge in first. Benedict’s private secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein landed a blow within hours of his boss’s death. The ex-pope, he said, was “heartbroken” by Francis’s Latin Mass ban, and no wonder: it was Benedict who reintroduced the old liturgies in his 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum. On January 12, Gänswein rushed out a book, Nothing But the Truth, which claimed that Benedict thought Francis had misrepresented his reasons for issuing the document. It also hinted that he felt his successor was adopting a dangerously careless approach to Catholic teaching on sexuality.
In the same week came more bombshells. To the anguish of the Church’s conservative wing, Cardinal George Pell, former head of Vatican finances, died suddenly after a routine operation on January 10. A few hours later, The Spectator published an article by Pell that tore mercilessly into Pope Francis’s pet project, a forthcoming “Synod on Synodality” whose agenda has been dictated by liberal Catholics who support women’s ordination and are obsessed with placating the LGBT+ lobby. Pell said the synod was shaping up to be a “toxic nightmare” and poured scorn on the working document’s “neo-Marxist jargon”.
Never before had the Australian cardinal expressed himself so bluntly — or so it seemed, until the celebrated Vatican mischief-maker Sandro Magister revealed that Pell was the author of a memo, signed “Demos”, that circulated among cardinals last year. And “blunt” doesn’t begin to describe the language Pell used when writing under a pseudonym. The cardinal — once one of Francis’s closest advisers — described this pontificate as “a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe”. He accused the Pope of remaining silent in the face of “heretical” voices calling for the scrapping of the Church’s ban on women priests and gay sex, while encouraging “the active persecution of traditionalists” and writing papal documents that marked an intellectual “decline” from the standards of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Pell warned his fellow cardinals that the Church was heading towards bankruptcy. He accused the Pope of turning the Vatican’s trial of Cardinal Angelo Becciu and other defendants on massive corruption charges into “an international scandal” by shifting the legal goalposts. That was a typical Pell touch: although Becciu had been his arch-enemy in the Curia, he had himself been the victim of a grotesque miscarriage of justice when he was jailed in Australia on false charges of sex abuse, and he did not want to see a fellow cardinal denied “due process”. The memo mentioned the regular phone-tapping that frightens everyone in the Curia, Francis’s habit of ruling through decrees that allow no appeals, and the Vatican’s betrayal of Chinese and Ukrainian Catholics. “The Holy Father has little support among seminarians and young priests,” it added.
Pell would have been amused to watch Francis’s dwindling band of admirers jump like scalded cats when the authorship of the Demos memo was revealed. Given that he had died the day before, they couldn’t savage his memory; nor could they challenge the damningly precise detail in the memo; and perhaps some of them realised that George Pell had never been a traditionalist and, when Francis was elected, had believed that he might be the right man for the job. His despair came from his personal dealings with the Pope, whom he came to regard as devious but dithering and, worse, not fully committed to the Catholic faith.
And then it looked as if another bombshell had landed. On January 20, Benedict XVI spoke from beyond the grave in his final book, What is Christianity?, which he hadn’t wanted published during his lifetime because anything he said provoked hysteria from German liberals. Would Joseph Ratzinger finally settle scores with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who genuinely had humiliated him by trashing his ruling on the Latin Mass? The answer was no, as anyone who knew Benedict should have guessed. His book is a collection of essays, infinitely better written and, yes, more conservative than Francis’s writings — but the late Pope Emeritus would have considered it just as wrong to break his promise to show loyalty to his successor after his death as before it. So, nothing to see here, then.
But try looking somewhere else, to a book by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Benedict and sacked without warning or explanation by Francis in 2017. Müller, a moderate conservative with liberal friends who seemed like a bridge between the two pontificates, was understandably furious. Recently he has criticised the theological incoherence of this pontificate. On January 27, a book-length interview with Müller entitled In Good Faith was published in Italy. In it, the 75-year-old German cardinal sailed closer to the wind than Pell ever did under his own name. Pope Francis, he said, surrounds himself with “a kind of magic circle… composed of people who, in my opinion, are not prepared theologically”. Papal reforms of the Curia were a disaster, reducing it to “a business that works to provide assistance to ‘clients’, the episcopal conferences, as if it were a multinational enterprise and no longer an ecclesial body”.
What makes Müller’s interview so deadly for Francis, however, is that it is the first time that a cardinal has drawn attention to the Pope’s favouritism towards clergy who have been accused of sex abuse. Müller mentions the “special status” given to Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, an Argentinian protégé of Francis whom he made a bishop as soon he became pope. In 2017, Zanchetta had to resign from his diocese of Orán amid allegations of abusing seminarians and financial mismanagement. Francis promptly created a job for Zanchetta in the Vatican overseeing the Holy See’s property and financial assets. This jaw-dropping appointment came to an end, however, when Zanchetta was jailed in Argentina for abusing two seminarians — despite the Vatican’s mysterious refusal to supply the courts with its own investigations into the charges.
This was at least the third time Francis had stuck his neck out — and risked his reputation — to defend a Latin American ally either plausibly accused or convicted of sexual abuse. Now there are questions about what the Pope knew about another of his clergy friends — his fellow Jesuit Fr Marko Rupnik, a celebrity artist whose tacky mosaics adorn churches all over the world and in the Vatican. The Rupnik scandal beggars belief. In 2015 the Slovenian priest seduced a novice nun and then absolved her of the sin of sleeping with him in the confessional. He was convicted of this grave offence — which incurs automatic excommunication — by a church court in January 2020. But his official excommunication was not imposed until May 2020, and lifted that same month because he had repented.
In between the conviction and the official excommunication, however, Rupnik was asked to preach the Lenten homilies at the Vatican in March 2020 and Francis signed off on it. Did he really not know about Rupnik’s trial for the seduction and absolution of a novice, particularly as Rupnik had been ordered not to preach in public without permission or to hear women’s confessions as a “preliminary” measure as early as June 2019? But that’s not the worst of it. Last December, Italian websites began claiming that Rupnik was suspected of serially abusing women in the Nineties. After the reports appeared, a former religious sister gave an interview to an Italian newspaper alleging that during the Eighties and Nineties Rupnik abused half the members of a community of consecrated women he founded in Slovenia. She claimed that he demanded that she play “erotic games in his studio… while painting or after the celebration of the Eucharist or confession”. Those “games” became increasingly pornographic.
Then it emerged that in 2021 the Jesuit order had started investigating allegations by nine women, but that nothing was done because the Vatican refused to investigate them, citing its statute of limitations. In 2022, the Jesuits asked for this to be lifted because the alleged offences were so “gruesome”, but the Vatican again refused. In January 2022, Rupnik had a private meeting with Francis. We know nothing about it, but we do know that in February the Diocese of Rome posted a talk by Rupnik on Eucharistic Adoration on its YouTube channel. And for the rest of the year this celebrity priest swanned around Italy giving retreats.
Last December, the Cardinal Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, issued a statement claiming that Rome learned of the Rupnik allegations “only in very recent times”. It ended with the statement that his diocese was “comforted by the discernment of her Supreme Pastor”. This prompted a veteran Vatican correspondent, Christopher Altieri of Catholic World Report, to claim that De Donatis was speaking in code. “Basically, Cardinal De Donatis is telling everyone who reads and understands curialese that Pope Francis is calling the shots on this one, and that Pope Francis has Fr Rupnik’s back,” he wrote. This was just before the deaths of Benedict and Pell and the flurry of books criticising Pope Francis. Vatican-watchers forgot about the Rupnik scandal for a few days, then started asking with increasing alarm whether Francis was party to a cover-up.
The Pope seems to have panicked. On January 24, he gave a long interview in Spanish to Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press — definitely one of the safer choices for a pontiff worried about being grilled. Francis called for homosexuality to be decriminalised everywhere, which AP justifiably ran as the headline. Winfield gushed about what a milestone this was for LGBT people, while admitting that the Pope “referred to the issue in terms of ‘sin’”. In fact, he had described homosexuality as a sin, which is not the teaching of the Catholic Church. As a result, he had to write a hasty letter to the Jesuit gay rights activist Fr James Martin explaining that he meant that all sexual acts outside marriage were sinful, though “circumstances may decrease or eliminate fault”. For his critics, it was an example of Francis at his worst: a mixture of confusion, evasion and sleight of hand.
Inevitably, both sides in the Catholic civil war slugged it out over the episode — which was embarrassing for the Pope but at least deflected attention from the very slippery answer he gave when he was asked about his friend Rupnik. To quote AP: “Francis denied he had any role in the handling of Rupnik’s case, other than to intervene procedurally to keep the second set of accusations from the nine women with the same tribunal that had heard the first.” His only decision was “let it continue with the normal court, because, if not, procedural paths are divided and everything gets muddled up”. And, he added: “So I had nothing to do with this.”
This makes no sense. As Altieri points out, you can’t simultaneously claim that you intervened in a procedural matter and had “nothing to do with this”. And then there’s the fundamental question of why the Vatican was so determined to scupper a Rupnik trial by invoking a statute of limitations that Francis could easily have waived. Someone in Rome needs to do some more pushing on Francis’s protection of Zanchetta and others. And here we encounter the infuriating reluctance of accredited Vatican correspondents to subject the ruler of Western Europe’s most corrupt independent state to the scrutiny that any president or prime minister would receive.
As a result, most Catholics, and even some of the cardinals who will be voting in the next conclave, don’t know the extent of the crisis. And that’s why Cardinal Pell, with a heavy heart, wrote the Demos memo. He was doing everything in his power to ensure that the next pope was an orthodox Catholic — not something previous conclaves have had to worry about, but some of the red hats Francis has doled out have landed on the heads of clerics whose views are more liberal Protestant than Catholic. Unfortunately Pell died first, reminding us that a man regarded by countless Catholics as the worst pope for centuries has one precious asset: he’s lucky.
Pope Benedict XVI may have died a month ago, but is reaching beyond the grave to shade Pope Francis, according to The Telegraph.
“In a blistering attack on the state of the Catholic Church under his successor’s papacy, Benedict, who died on Dec 31 at the age of 95, said that the vocational training of the next generation of priests is on the verge of ‘collapse.'”
He also said gay “clubs” operate openly in Catholic seminaries, the institutions that prepare men for the priesthood, and that some bishops allow trainee priests to watch pornographic films as an outlet for their sexual urges.
“Benedict gave instructions that the book, ‘What Christianity Is,’ should be published after his death. It is one of a handful of recent books by conservative Vatican figures which have poured scorn on the decade-old papacy of Francis, who was elected after his predecessor’s historic resignation in 2013,” The Telegraph said.
“The existence of ‘homosexual clubs’ is particularly prevalent in the US, Benedict said in his book, adding: ‘In several seminaries, homosexual clubs operate more or less openly.'”
Benedict also claimed his books were targeted as being “dangerously traditionalist” by more liberal elements in the Church.
“In not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books are considered unworthy for the priesthood. My books are concealed as dangerous literature and are read only in hiding.”
In October, Pope Francis spoke out against church members watching porn, including nuns. “He made the remarks in October, saying that indulging in porn is a danger to the soul and a way of succumbing to the malign influence of ‘the devil.'”