Pope Francis, on Monday, responded to the backlash the Vatican has received, calling on Christ’s Church to fight those causing division with “silence and prayer.”
Silence and prayer. Let’s look into what Pope Francis could gain from silence and prayer.
He asks for silence first. Why? There are certainly times for silence. Before the Blessed Sacrament. As one sits in beautiful silence in the mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ’s offering during the Holy Mass. Silence in solemn remembrance of a loved one passed on, hopefully to our Lord’s peaceful embrace.
But is silence really necessary now, when the Church is in crisis? While the Church inevitably has its members who are clueless as to what has been going on over the last month of Pope Francis’s papacy, the majority of Catholics across the world want answers. Holy Father, are you telling the truth? Holy Father, is Viganò telling the truth? Holy Father, did you know about any of this?
The pope’s response, so far, to the victims of the United States clerical sex abuse scandal has included (I paraphrase):
- We are all to blame, and we should all work to make things better in our church as laypeople
- If you have read Carlo Maria Viganò’s letter accusing me and the people I am loyal to, make your mind up for yourself.
Serious accusations have been made, and major implications are at stake. All the while, the successor St. Peter can’t find anything other than be silent and prayerful.
Pope Francis calls for silence. Those who believe him are calling the cause of this sexual abuse scandal, the cover-up, and ensuing crisis an issue of clericalism (the pope’s and his associates most common “smokescreen”). I would argue that the Holy Father has not even once brought up the real issue.
He calls for silence, but why? The Viganò letter implicates Pope Francis in serious crimes against his people. Silence would serve him well. The irony is that if there is division among the Church, it is solely because Pope Francis, guilty or innocent, has not addressed the matter at hand. Every time Francis puts the onus for this scandal on the laypeople of the Church instead of on himself (and on the bishops and archbishops he knowingly appointed despite counsel proposing better candidates), he further victimizes the people who are truly suffering: the children, students, young adults, and seminarians who have been sexually and physically abused amid the McCarricks of the United States clergy. He causes suffering, over and over and over again, institutionally, by his actions, or lack of actions.
Why does he do this? Continually?
That brings us to his next proposal to fight “division”: prayer. John Vianney said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” Pope Francis’s prayer has been public and on camera, on Instagram and Twitter, since the first day of his papacy. Here lies an important observation: Pope Francis outwardly makes a point to be seen by the media. He makes well known the fact that he does not stay in the facilities offered to him as pope. He lives a life of “visual poverty,” in aspirations to be like the great Francis of Assisi, his namesake. But Francis of Assisi held a spiritual and inner poverty. He gave up his worldly goods to be poor, yes, but his spirituality of denial of self in exultation of the Lord is what the beloved saint’s mission was all about. St. Francis would never undermine Catholic doctrine on marriage, sanctity of life, sex, the Holy Eucharist, and most importantly the role of the family in God’s plan as Pope Francis has. Pope Francis has rewritten Church teaching, essentially revamping the teaching on same-sex attraction; allowed people living in adultery to receive communion; and ridiculed Catholic families for being too “rabbit-like” in childrearing.
Why would he suggest prayer? Sure, he could be asking us all to pray for peace and an end to suffering. Or he could be asking us to bury our heads, quiet our mouths, and forget all that Carlo Maria Viganò has accused him and his posse of. Could it be that he wants to distract from himself, McCarrick, and the Wuerls and Tobins while we, the flock, are silent in prayer?
Silence is what the pope asks of us now. Silence and prayer.
I will continue to pray for the Holy See and the Church that St. Peter was given to lead by Jesus Christ Himself. I will pray for the countless victims of clerical abuse and their families, as well, that they find healing in God’s divine love. I will also pray for the wonderful priests who are standing out, appalled by this scandal and by the pope’s lack of response, that they continue to have courage despite their leader’s cowardice. And lastly, I will continue to pray for the lay faithful, who by all accounts are strengthening their faith despite the lack of honesty and leadership from the highest points of our Church hierarchy.
But I will not be silent. Silence only implies the pope’s guilt. I will not be silent when Christ’s Church thirsts for leaders to call heresy and injustice by name. I will continue to speak out. I will speak the Truth. I will speak the Good News. The Word of Everlasting Life has survived many corrupt popes and much adversity before and will continue well beyond your silence, Pope Francis.
Nikko Lane is a Catholic husband and father from Nashville, Tenn. Studying to be a family nurse practitioner and caring for patients in a Catholic hospital, he strives to live out his faith in service to others as part of everyday life.