One week after Archbishop Carlo Viganò released his bombshell letter, it looks obvious that Pope Francis admits the key allegation: Francis knew McCarrick to be a serial molester, and he returned McCarrick to public ministry anyway. As we’ll see later in this post, Pope Francis has a pattern of letting molesters and their protectors off the hook.
Speaks for Itself
Did the pope admit to the horrendous allegations directly? Not directly. He said of the letter, “I believe the statement speaks for itself.”
And on August 30, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, repeated the Holy Father’s endorsement of Viganò’s testimony: “The text speaks for itself.”
What do people mean when they say, “the text speaks for itself?”
Usually, they mean the text requires no interpretation. The text is clear and obvious and means what it says. Colloquially, “It speaks for itself,” is an endorsement of the text. From the Cambridge English Dictionary online:
If something speaks for itself, it is clear and needs no further explanation: The school’s excellent record speaks for itself.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
The phrase also has a legal meaning. The legal doctrine, res ipsa loquitur, means that the incident infers negligence by the very nature of the injury. Like when a surgeon leaves a scalpel inside the patient. Or when a pope releases a serial molester to terrorize the public.
Whether used as a colloquialism or as a legal doctrine, both Pope Francis and his spokesman Cardinal Parolin seem to be admitting that Viganò’s words need no further explanation. And the result of Pope Francis’s decision to free McCarrick of his exile to a life of “prayer and repentance” imposed by Pope Benedict XVI needs no other explanation. McCarrick’s subsequent defrocking speaks for itself. The pope screwed up.
And this isn’t the first time Pope Francis has let a crooked bishop slip by.
The Chilean Debacle
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jim Towey Is Confused, Pope Francis defended Chilean Bishop Barros against allegations the bishop covered up sex abuse he personally witnessed perpetrated by a Chilean priest. Via CBC Canada:
The scandal exploded last month [January 2018] when Francis’s trip to South America was marred by protests over his vigorous defence of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of covering up the abuse by Rev. Fernando Karadima. During the trip, Francis callously dismissed accusations against Barros as “slander,” seemingly unaware that victims had placed him at the scene of Karadima’s crimes.
Later, Pope Francis did a 180 and apologized. Before that apology, though, Pope Francis apparently misled the Church about receiving a letter from the abuse victims. In fact, the pope denied ever hearing of the victims. Again, from CBC Canada:
Pope Francis received a victim’s letter in 2015 that graphically detailed sexual abuse at the hands of a priest and a coverup by Chilean church authorities, contradicting his recent insistence that no victims had come forward, the letter’s author and members of Francis’s own sex-abuse commission have told The Associated Press.
Implicated in the Chilean scandal was Boston Archbishop Sean Cardinal O’Malley. O’Malley is the head of Pope Francis’s abuse commission. O’Malley told the Chilean victims of Barros and Karadima that he personally hand-delivered their letter to the pope. Both O’Malley and Pope Francis refuse to answer questions about the letter or whether O’Malley delivered it to his Holiness. (See a pattern here?) For his part, O’Malley cannot deny that he received the letter. He’s seen in the AP photo receiving the letter from Marie Collins, then a member of the pope’s commission on child sex abuse:
The Chilean affair demonstrates Francis’s consistent and persistent lack of judgment and discernment regarding the church’s sex abuse scandal. Still from the CBC of Canada:
The Barros affair first caused shockwaves in January 2015 when Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno, Chile, over the objections of the leadership of Chile’s bishops’ conference and many local priests and laity. They accepted as credible the testimony against Karadima, a prominent Chilean cleric who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for abusing minors. Barros was a Karadima protege, and according to Cruz and other victims, he witnessed the abuse and did nothing.
Why would a pope who has vowed to accept “zero tolerance” for child abusers promote a bishop who not only covered up a crime but personally witnessed the crimes? I’m being generous when I blame Francis’s inexplicable moves as errors in judgment and discernment. Res ipsa loquitur, indeed.
Moreover, the church’s handling of the Chilean affair was more than just inept and callous. It was a total abuse of power:
Cruz and other survivors had for years denounced the coverup of Karadima’s crimes, but were dismissed as liars by the Chilean church hierarchy and the Vatican’s own ambassador in Santiago, who refused their repeated requests to meet before and after Barros was appointed.
Lessons from Pope Paul III
While the Church will survive this scandal, justice demands that the Church use any means necessary to bring this sordid 30-year episode to a rapid end. By continuing to protect pederast priests and bishops, the Church prolongs its victims’ suffering and drives souls into the hands of the devil.
Pope Francis must either follow the lead of his predecessor Pope Paul III by instituting a complete and vigorous cleansing of the Church or resign. If Francis chooses to take the route of reform, a Church Council similar to the Council of Trent seems in order. The church needs both structural reform and doctrinal discernment to errors the errors committed in the 1960s and 1970s by ill-fated “modernization” efforts.
Finally, it’s been a week since Viganò’s letter threw the Church into turmoil. Yet, neither the pope nor his spokesmen have attempted to deny any of Viganò’s allegations against the pope. Their silence seems to speak for itself.
Res ipsa loquitur