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A Sad Clerical Bestiary: Perhaps the Roman Pontiff is Telling Lies…

By Marco Tosatti  (11 February 2018)

[Editor’s Note: A bestiary was a medieval compendium of animal stories, which often contained a moral point.]

This is a sad clerical bestiary. More sad than anyone can imagine. Let’s give a reason: perhaps the Roman Pontiff is telling lies. And this, permit me to say it, is at least for me a great cause for sadness.


Can the Pope tell lies?

The latest episode – but not the only one, alas – is that of the sexual abuse committed in Chile by Father Fernando Karadima, who may have been assisted by Juan Barros, now – named by the Pope – Bishop of Osorno. The victims wanted to meet Pope Francis during his January 2018 visit to Chile, but it was not permitted. On the return flight, as reported by Catholic World News, the Pope asked for evidence of the accusations, saying that he had not received any. So wrote my colleague Franca Giansoldati of Messagero: “I did not hear of any victim of Barros. They have not come, I have not been able to speak with them [because] they have not presented themselves. On one thing we must be clear, that whoever accuses without evidence and with persistence is a slanderer. If a person with evidence comes forward, I will be the first to listen to him.” Now, the victims of Barros had requested, during the papal journey in Chile, to have an audience with the Pontiff, who in fact did meet with other victims of abuse, very discreetly, but not with them. And subsequently my colleague Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press published a letter written to the Pope in 2015 from the victims of Barros. As Catholic World News writes, “Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who oversees the papal special commission on abuse, has informed the members of the commission that he hand-delivered the letter from the victims to the Pope. Juan Carols Cruz, the author of the letter, said to the Associated Press that he had received assurance from Cardinal O’Malley that the Pope had in fact received his letter in 2015.

However, this is not the first time that there are, shall we say, discrepancies of this sort. I am speaking from memory, without having made extensive research. Some years ago the Pope said a sort of falsehood: I do not throw anyone out without having first spoken to him. But Rogelio Livieres Plano, bishop of Ciudad del Este, was thrown out of his diocese, and spent two weeks in Rome asking to have an audience with the Pope, without any luck, before returning to Argentina, and died of a tumor some time later. On another occasion, responding to a demand about why the three excellent and capable officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been thrown out without explanation and against the will of Cardinal Mueller, the Pope said, “The director of the disciplinary office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been replaced; he was excellent but a little tired and he returned to his homeland to do the same work with his Bishops’ Conference.” The director of the disciplinary office was one of three officials dismissed arbitrarily. He was not at all tired. And he had no desire to return to his homeland.

And while we are still on that topic: in an interview which was never contested soon after his non-renewal in his position as Prefect, Cardinal Mueller said that the Pope had explained his decision thus: from now on I do not want to keep anyone in their office in the Curia after they turn 75, and he [Mueller] was the first one to whom this new policy applied. Right now at the highest levels of the Curia there are no lack of examples to the contrary: Cardinals Amato, Stella, and Coccopalmiero are the first who come to mind, but there are also others. And not only that: from the Terza Loggia they tell me that they are thinking of a measure to extend the term of bishops and Curial officials to age 78, or alternatively, of a norm which makes even more clear and regulated what is in fact already happening: that the Pope can hold someone in office or dismiss him ad libitum. In short, let’s make up a reason: if we do not want to say that the Pope is telling lies (surely he couldn’t!) let’s just say that he is a little distracted….

Cupich, tu quoque…

And it must be a contagious disease – distraction, that is – if Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago has been corrected by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, while he was giving his version of the Synod on the Family, the synod which gave us Amoris Laetitia as well as the ambiguities and controversies which still continue dividing the Church. In this interview, Cardinal Cupich said at a certain point, “The bishops…were united in this respect, at the end voting for all of the proposals with a two-thirds majority, and in the majority of cases with a unanimous vote.” Edward Pentin wrote, “Your Eminence, as anyone who followed the Synod knows, this is false.” My colleague refers to a very interesting article, from which we have excerpted this paragraph:

“It is often forgotten…that despite the strenuous efforts by the Synod secretariat and others to manipulate and jostle the synod fathers into accepting the most controversial propositions…none of the three most controversial propositions managed to obtain a two-thirds majority during the first, Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in October 2014.”

He also explains why: Amoris Laetitia was designed in an ambiguous way. As Archbishop Bruno Forte explained it, referring to the advice of Pope Francis, “If we speak explicitly of communion for the divorced and remarried, there’s no telling what a mess we will have on our hands. So we will not speak of it in a direct way, do it in a way that the premises are there, and then I will draw out the conclusions.” After recounting this quip of the Pope, Forte joked saying, “Typical of a Jesuit.”

Galantino, politics and the Church

That’s enough to be sad about, don’t you think? But on top of that we have – and this is what concerned “Big Shot” yesterday – the TV interview of Bishop Galantino [President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference], who said, among other things, “Whenever the Church has addressed the theme of immigration, she has always addressed the theme of stories, of faces, and of migrant persons. It has not addressed the political problem because politics don’t belong to [the work of] bishops or the Pope.” Does this seem to you like it corresponds to reality? I have strong doubts, because not only at the time of the [Christian Democratic Party] have we seen a similar adherence of the leadership of the Italian Bishops’ Conference to one political party. And, alas, it is not easy to get away from the idea that apart from the ideological closeness to a party which has passed laws contrary to Christian values, which is in itself extraordinary enough, there is also a thick slice of political interest in all this. But even if the intentions were as white as snow, the Italian bishops, without “playing politics” ought to speak a political word, and how. They ought, as pastors of a specific people entrusted to their care, say to the government that it is not licit to support and encourage migration policies without rules, indiscriminately, and become essentially accomplices in the phenomenon of human trafficking. The bishops ought to remember that they cannot meddle in this alchemy without running the risk, sooner or later, of an explosion. Perhaps they ought to listen to what the bishops and governments of Africa are saying on this issue, and value it, and not hide themselves behind the comfortable minimalism of individual stories, on which we can all agree. They ought to – if they had stature, responsibility, and capacity. Now you know why this a sad bestiary.


Originally published in Italian at Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino

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