No, this is not The Onion.
As the Catholic Church deals with wide-ranging allegations of child sex abuse and associated cover-ups, Pope Francis stood up during Mass and told his followers about the virtues of “silence” and “prayer.”
Silence is the last thing needed when victims are already having difficulty speaking up, but the Catholic leader thinks otherwise. Specifically, the pope pushed silence and prayer in response to those seeking scandal and division.
Francis offered the advice Monday in his homily at Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former papal envoy in Washington, stunned the faithful last month by claiming Francis allegedly lifted unconfirmed Vatican sanctions against disgraced U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick.
Francis has said he “won’t say a word” about Vigano’s allegations that Benedict XVI as pope had sanctioned McCarrick, including avoiding public life, but that Francis later allegedly lifted the sanctions.
Francis said Monday Jesus’ grace helps people discern when to speak and “when we should stay silent.”
Pope Francis has been in hot water for months because of a series of child sex abuse cover up claims around the world, including those recently revealed as part of a massive grand jury report in Pennsylvania. But things took an interesting turn when he was accused of being part of the problem, according to Vigano, who has credibility problems of his own.
Francis could have chosen, as a self-proclaimed innocent man, to debunk the allegations or (at the very least) to focus on making amends with the countless victims. Instead, he spoke about the benefits of remaining silent. There’s a charitable way to interpret that, saying silence is a wise response when people are making unfounded accusations against you. But when one of the most powerful men in the world opts for silence on matters involving sexual abuse while victims around the world are begging for change, saying nothing helps nobody. Even if specific allegations by Vigano seem literally unbelievable, there are larger issues he brought up which the pope ought to be able to discuss freely.
By speaking out, the pope could amplify credible, powerful voices demanding change within the Church. But because he’s now caught in the crossfire, he’s shirking responsibility.
Prayer, like his first recommendation, isn’t helping either.
This could have been handled much better, but at this point, we shouldn’t be shocked when the leaders of the Catholic Church find themselves incapable of doing the right thing. There is a long history of the Church sweeping problems under the rug, but the world is demanding real reform.
If the pope has nothing to say, he should get out of the way.
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