“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that line about the power and necessity of transparency in 1913. He was writing about corruption and the concentration of power in the investment banking world at the time. But he might just as well have been writing about the crisis the Catholic Church is in after a Pennsylvania grand jury report identifying 301 “predator priests” who sexually abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s. The grand jury said the tactics used by deacons, priests and bishops to cover up decades of abuse amounted to “a playbook for concealing the truth.” In a letter to all Catholics, Pope Francis called the clerical abuse in Pennsylvania “crimes” and “atrocities.”
There have been explosive new allegations from within the church accusing Francis of turning a blind eye to reports of decades of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians by Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C. McCarrick resigned last month after the church deemed the allegations “credible and substantiated.”
A statement by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., claimed Francis “knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator” and “covered for him to the bitter end.” Vigano called on the pope to “acknowledge his mistakes” and “be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.”
While we certainly believe that any claims against any Catholic clergy accused of abuse or its coverup should be thoroughly investigated, we also encourage readers to consider the source. Archbishop Vigano may be a classic whistleblower. But he is also a disgruntled Vatican employee who was reportedly furious over his transfer to the U.S. from Vatican City in 2011. He has been outspoken in opposing Francis’ more liberal stance on homosexuality. Much of his statement is dedicated to blaming church child sex-abuse scandals on “homosexual networks, which are now widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, religious orders … ”
At the heart of this civil war is the traditional role of celibacy within the church and whether homosexuality or abstinence has led to priestly abuse of the most vulnerable. Clearly, what’s most important in all this is tending the wounds of those abused by the Catholic Church. But to these wounds we can now add a church at war with itself.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS