Pope Francis is trying to get out from under. Just this week an Archbishop and former Vatican diplomat accused the Pontiff of concealing and ignoring accusations of abuse against a once prominent and now disgraced American cleric. Just this week American Catholic leaders emerged in open conflict not just about abuse allegations, but about more fundamental issues, especially the Church’s position on homosexuality. And just this week the state of Pennsylvania issued the most careful and complete chronicle ever of sexual abuse in America – testifying to some 1,000 child victims abused by some 300 Catholic clergy.
What was the Pope’s response to this deluge? It was, in effect, a non-response. To journalists asking about the Archbishop’s statement that detailed his charges, Pope Francis chose not to engage. “I will not say one word on this, “he said. “I think the statement speaks for itself and you have sufficient journalistic capacity to reach your own conclusions.”
The Pope’s reluctance to get embroiled is understandable. To stay above the fray is a reasonable short-term tactic. Whether it will be an equally reasonable long-term strategy remains to be determined. It is not likely to quiet those who have already called on him to resign.* Nor is it likely to stem the end of leadership – a tide that has already engulfed many other leaders in many other places.
*Matthew Schmitz, “A Catholic War Over Gay Priests,” New York Times, August 28, 2018. Schmitz started his piece by writing, “Pope Francis must resign. That conclusion is unavoidable if allegations contained in a letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Gigano are true.”