New Cardinals? Any Women, Pope Francis?


New Cardinals? Any Women, Pope Francis?

  • The Wall Street Journal has reported that Pope Francis is likely to name more Cardinals, possibly as early Sunday, 1/4/15, as he seeks to reshape the makeup of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and to strengthen his support within the Vatican administration, known as the Roman Curia.
  • Will any women be named? Unlikely, unfortunately for Catholics and for Pope Francis himself, who has a serious credibility problem among women.
  • Rubber stamp journalists, including pathetically many women, will likely praise Francis for advancing with his latest  appointments to the 19th Century with greater geographical diversity, while underplaying Francis’ failure to move into the 21st Century without even a token appointment reflecting gender equality.
  • As supreme and unaccountable Church lawmaker, Pope Francis could re-write the rules quickly before February and appoint some women as Cardinals. Indeed, he may already have that authority. As Jesuit Vatican spokesman, Fr. Lombardi, told the Irish Times not very long ago, ““Theologically and theoretically, it is possible,” he added. “Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained … ” Pope Francis could authorize women Cardinals quickly, just like he recently created the Council of Cardinals almost instantly out of thin air.
  • At least half a billion Catholics, women, know very well that a major reason for the unabated continuation of the priest child abuse scandal is men, in particular over a hundred celibateCardinals. These men likely do not even know “how to change a nappy”, as Mrs. Mary McAleese, the former Irish President recently so well put it.
  • Pope Francis really needs to invite as Cardinals some women and mothers, like Ireland’s “straight talking” leader, Mrs. Mary McAleese, and brave Illinois Justice Anne Burke, to become Cardinals in February, and then to attend October’s Final Synod. What is he waiting for?
  • Mrs. Mary McAleese would be one of the most qualified Cardinals. She is a wife and mother of three and has been a  former Irish President, a barrister and a criminal law professor. Upon retirement from political office, she enrolled at the Jesuits’ Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where she obtained a licentiate in canon law and is now studying for a doctorate on children’s rights in canon law. For some of her recent remarks in Rome,  and for more information on Mary McAleese’s outstanding career, please see:
  • http://laycentreblogsite.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/former-irish-president-reflects-on-the-lay-centre-mission/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_McAleese
  • Moreover, Justice Burke, a devout Catholic and friend of the Obamas, even negotiated courageously, if somewhat futilely, with ex-Pope Benedict as then Cardinal, and with several US Cardinals, earlier on trying to put some teeth in the US bishops’ Child Protection Charter. Both these women could teach the Pope and Cardinals a few things about Catholic families, among other things, no?
  • For some very helpful background on, and examples of some earlier relevant remarks of,  Justice Burke, please see , “Anne Burke’s Advice for Catholic Laity …”, and her own remarks “Keep faith in the truth” and ” The truth shall set us free: Responding to the sex abuse crisis” at:
  • http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2011/01/anne-burkes-advice-for-catholic-laity.html
  • http://www.uscatholic.org/blog/2011/01/keep-faith-truth
  • http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2010/03/truth-shall-set-us-free-responding-sex-abuse-crisis#sthash.x6DPsx4i.dpuf
  • Many Catholics, especially those seeking real reforms, including countless women, are steadily losing hope that this media created pope is the “real deal”. Even some in the media are beginning to shed their earlier “Francismania” mentality, for example, please see David Gibson’s recent article, “Lost in translation? 7 reasons some women wince when Pope Francis starts talking” at:
  • http://ncronline.org//news/vatican/seven-reasons-some-women-wince-when-pope-francis-starts-talking
  • As Pope Francis now heads towards his 80th year in less than 12 months, he needs to act boldly now. Women Cardinals would surely be bold and constructive. Pope John XXIII understood shrewdly the advantage of “surprises” to shake the Vatican bureaucrats up. He did this with his dramatic and unexpected call in 1958 for a new ecumenical council and in 1962 with his papal birth control commission that had active women participants who made a real difference. Some women commission members reportedly explained, among other things, to some of the celibate members that thermometers and “natural family planning” were usually not conducive to a happy marriage.
  • Francis should now follow St. Pope John XXIII’s effective “surprise” examples and make some women Cardinals now. His silly and failing strategy of all celibate male Synods on the Family cannot succeed. Indeed, his own favorite theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, boldly said that omitting women as voting Synod participants was an absurd decision.
  • Pope Francis needs help now. His illusory anti-child abuse commission under disgraced Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer, Fr. Robert Oliver, after almost two years as pope, has as of now not even met with all its members in place. This advisory commission is not likely to act decisively while Francis is pope, if ever.
  • Prosecutors will not wait that long. They will begin to dictate detailed and specific child protection procedures to the Vatican, as they did as part of a plea bargain with criminal Bishop of Kansas City, Robert Finn, who is outrageously still sitting on his episcopal throne as he spends a fortune on lawyers. Finn has had, as a result of his criminal conviction plea bargain agreement’s terms, a local district attorney at times as a “de facto” co-adjutor bishop. Is that what Pope Francis really wants? As an experienced lawyer, I think that is where his current policies are clearly leading.
  • The Australian Royal Commission’s investigation will also likely lead to imposing child protection legal requirements on the Vatican as well, long before the “slow walking” Vatican anti-abuse commission makes its “advisory report” to whomever is pope at the time. National investigations also seem inevitable in the UK soon and in the USA in the longer term.
  • 2015 begins with some hopeful related developments that further suggest the prudence and wisdom of adding some women Cardinals now:
  • A prominent woman UK judge and and former head of a national investigation panel has admitted, in effect, that the UK establishment covered up child abuse by members of the establishment’s elite. This adds a powerful impetus to the increasing calls for a thorough and transparent UK investigation, including of the Vatican’s seeming complicity in UK priest child abuse cover-ups.
  • Peter Saunders, a new addition to Pope Francis’ “slow moving” anti-abuse commission, and leader of a UK survivors group, hit back after the UK judge suggested it would be difficult to find a chairperson for a UK  abuse investigation panel who was sufficiently removed from the UK establishment to satisfy victims’ groups. Survivor groups just wanted to get to the truth and for the process to be overseen by an appropriate candidate with no conflicts of interest, Saunders reportedly responded. He said that both this judge and her successor resigned from their leadership role after survivors of abuse objected to their links to senior UK politicians. Saunders reportedly said this judge was wrong to imply survivors were holding the government hostage over the selection of the chair, when it was the UK Home Office that had made two bad choices. It is puzzling why Saunders has not yet objected to the obvious conflicts of interests in the leadership of the pope’s anti-abuse commission, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley and infamous Cardinal Bernard Law’s former canon lawyer, Fr, Robert Oliver, as discussed below. Will Saunders object? When? If not, why not? Indeed, how can Saunders accept this double standard ?
  • The USA’s Minneapolis Archdiocese appears about to explode. It reportedly is seemingly drifting into imminent bankruptcy that will possibly lead to a new bishop being put in charge. This likely could have negative repercussions for a key former official, Fr. Kevin McDonough, brother of President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
  • A Belgian bishop has boldly and squarely called on the Vatican to recognize gay relationships. Will the Vatican respond soon? Will any journalists ask them about this? Are things really about to change for the Vatican and elsewhere?
  • The world’s second largest public television network, ARD, is airing on 1/7/15, “Sins of the Choir Boys”, a documentary on the Regensburg choirboys’  abuse scandal. During some of the period during which alleged abuse occurred, the choir master was ex-Pope Benedict’s brother, George, and Benedict even lived at the time in Regensburg as a professor. When the Regensburg choirboys’ abuse allegations arose publicly in 2010, the ex-Pope mostly avoided addressing them, while Cardinal Sodano dismissed abuse allegations generally as so much “petty gossip”.
  • In a recent compassionate letter to Pope Francis, sex abuse victims from three countries recently told how Catholic Church officials, aware of crimes being committed by priest perpetrators, refused to call police. They want Pope Francis to order bishops to assist police in prosecuting predator priests. They noted that just days before Pope Francis had highlighted the plight of children who experience violence at the hands of “contemporary Herods”, while others remain silent.
  • The leaders of the international abuse survivors group, SNAP, have indicated again that they want the Pope to lead the charge in protecting children by starting in the Catholic Church itself. SNAP wants predators fired from their posts. They want bishops who transfer and/or shield predators punished. SNAP leaders also want the Pope to demand that records about sex crimes should be turned over to police and made public. They also want bishops to encourage their employees and parishioners to assist police in obtaining all evidence so that the perpetrators of sexual violence can be prosecuted and jailed. Victims want the Pope to order bishops around the globe to take these simple steps to immediately make children safer. For more information, please see my remarks below and see:
  • http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/549572/Ex-chairman-VIP-paedophile-inquiry-claims-establishment-covered-child-sex-abuse and 
  • http://canonicalconsultation.com/1/post/2014/12/at-year-end-the-state-of-the-see-of-saint-paul-and-minneapolis.html#comments and
  • http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2014/12/belgian-bishop-calls-on-catholic.html and 
  • http://www.regensburg-digital.de/die-akte-regensburger-domspatzen/30122014/ and
  • http://www.snapnetwork.org/rome_victims_of_clergy_abuse_demand_action_from_pope
  • Significantly, on his present path, Pope Francis will in ten months after his October Synod likely be “flushed out” on changing sexual morality teachings. Thereafter, unless he acts decisively, his folksy public relations spin will probably lose much of its appeal and seem even more contrived, as reality raises its truthful head.
  • The previous “media star” pope, John Paul II, experienced a similar decline in public image among many, as reality overtook his rhetoric. He benefited during much of his papacy, of course, from the absence of the current Internet and the 24/7 cable news cycle, so it took longer for reality to overtake John Paul II’s well performed rhetoric.
  • Interestingly, Pope Francis has had a long ‘honeymoon period” with Catholics. He followed “bad acts” from the era of  “popes can do no evil” — two failed popes about whom we are learning much that is disturbing. They evidently presided over an often immoral, if not at times criminal, operation at the Vatican. Francis could only “go up in the polls” initially after them. For almost two years, his folksy rhetoric, winning smile, symbolic gestures and vague promises have offered faint hope for many of the millions of disgusted, even despairing, Catholics whom he inherited upon his election in early 2013.
  • Of course, it is not inevitable that Pope Francis succeed in 2015. Ultimately, it is really up to him. It will depend on which Pope Francis steps up. Before Pope Francis begins his 80th year in less than twelve months, he still could try to successfully seize the opportunity, follow his conscience and apply his unique status, forceful temperament and popular appeal. And significantly, he could declare “infallibly” key changes in sexual teachings and Church structures so long overdue. By then, he will have received new input from his two advisory Synods of Bishops. He has already been enlightened by his valuable two years of  experience as pope.
  • Positively, Pope Francis is beginning 2015 with a very good public image worldwide, with some help apparently from an ongoing right wing influenced media push. Also, he has twice as many Republican fans as Democratic fans in the USA (although many less than Hillary Clinton, the leading US Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, with whom the pope will likely clash in 2015). Please see here:
  • http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/12/11/pope-francis-image-positive-in-much-of-world/  and
  • http://www.gallup.com/poll/180365/barack-obama-hillary-clinton-extend-run-admired.aspx
  • Meanwhile, the editors at the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) seemingly struggled after twenty one months to name the pope, barely, as Person of the Year. NCR conceded that (1) Francis’ anti-child abuse commission has yet to act, (2) he was tone deaf on women, and (3) he follows an outdated theology and science on human sexuality. NCR also in praising Vatican Bank changes, clearly resulting mainly from outside government regulatory  pressures, also apparently skipped over Francis’ reported failure so far even to appoint independent auditors for the Vatican’s own significant financial operations and assets.
  • So there you have it! Other than with respect to major matters affecting children, women and gay folks, and some major financial matters, Pope Francis seems to be doing a great job in the eyes of some of NCR’s editors. Hello? Perhaps NCR’s multi-million dollar right wing foundation donor nudged a bit here? Will we ever really know? NCR’s current internal management machinations seem as opaque at times as the Vatican’s.
  • Will Pope Francis’ high positive public polling be maintained in 2015? That is very unlikely, for some of the reasons discussed below. Child abuse scandal investigations, especially in Australia, the UK, the Dominican Republic, Guam, Malta, and the USA (e.g., in Minneapolis) and elsewhere will likely boil over in 2015. The October Final Synod on the Family on its current trajectory will likely leave many women, children, couples, gay folks, divorced Catholics and many others in a “merciless lurch”.
  • After nearly two years with much spin and sparse results, the “era of good feelings’” and media adulation for this unexpected pope clearly seems to have crested. The widely read and respected Financial Times (FT) recently even labeled the Vatican after almost two years under Francis as “criminally slow” on curtailing child abuse. FT also viewed the initial Synod on the Family as having been a “victory for conservatives” ! The FT then even added,  “Yet untold millions of Catholics have drifted away from the Church not just because of that but because its obsession with personal morality is so at variance with the lives they live. {My emphasis}
  • Moreover, Vittorio Messori, Italy’s most famous living Catholic writer (according to John Allen), in an article, “Doubts about the turning point of Pope Francis,”, recently speculated negatively that Pope Francis has reached a turning point in his likely brief papacy. Even a seemingly prime papal promoter, like John Allen, apparently had trouble playing down Vittorio Messori’s negative assessment, please see:
  • http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/12/30/italian-writer-stirs-hornets-nest-with-doubts-about-pope-francis/
  • Catholics generally, indoctrinated from at least their catechetical preparation for First Confession at 7 years of age,  are by adulthood prone to blindly follow “infallible popes”. Yet, increasingly with each day’s latest scandal reports, more and more have been seeing the light as sordid disclosures about child abuse, financial corruption  and sexual oppression made it unbearable to accept many in the Catholic hierarchy’s evidently immoral behavior as consistent with Jesus’ Gospel message of love and service.
  • The expanding gap over almost two years, between the pope’s folksy rhetoric and his limited results, will likely only become more evident by the end of 2015. Francis will enter his 80th year faced with the need to act after his Final Synod on the Family in less than ten months. By then reality will likely have begun to atomize the Vatican’s well funded media machine.
  • In his incisive article, Messori suggested that Francis’ unpredictability has caused even “some of the cardinals who were among his electors to have second thoughts.” Messori’s evidence for a turning point include those average Catholics today whom, he believes, are confused  by the pope’s mixed signals about ‘which Pope Francis’ to follow.
  • Messori offers three instances of Francis’ seeming contradictions: (1) The Francis of the morning old fashioned pastoral homilies, with even repeated warnings about not falling into the devil’s snares, versus the Francis who called up, to express his good wishes on his work, the leader of Italy’s Radical Party, reportedly a passionate advocate of legalized abortion and divorce, euthanasia, gay rights, and many other liberal causes; (2) the Francis of his earlier Curia speech, who defined the Church as the mystical body of Christ, versus the Francis of an interview  in which the pope supposedly said “God is not Catholic” — thereby suggesting to some that the Church may be no more than some optional accessory to the Trinity, and (3) the Francis who knows well of the massive losses Catholicism has sustained in Latin America to Pentecostals and Evangelicals, versus the Francis who wished good luck to a pastor of precisely one of the communities which appears to be emptying out the Catholic Church with the very proselytism the pope has so harshly condemned among his own flock.
  • Messori’s fair point about the confusion of ordinary Catholics by current mixed messages will only be amplified in light of a Belgian bishop’s recent advocacy that the Catholic hierarchy recognize gay relationships referred to above..
  • Will Pope Francis begin 2016, in his eightieth year, as positively viewed as he is now? Probably not, for reasons discussed below. The main reasons relate to the ongoing negative scandals that Pope Francis could try to curtail much more effectively and transparently than he has so far. With his present inadequate overall strategy, however, also as discussed below, the pope is unlikely to contain these scandals sufficiently and timely.
  • Additionally, more journalists are increasingly investigating Church scandals more thoroughly, rather than mainly parroting the Vatican’s media machine’s carefully scripted “explanations”, as with the exemplary recent reports on the incredible and continuing saga of the Buenos Aires/Scanton, PA (USA)/ Uruguay priest, Fr. Urrutigoity. shown here at:
  • https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/curious-case-carlos-urrutigoity-viii
  • An good example of the flawed strategy of Pope Francis, a celibate bachelor, is his continuing to push couples to have more children. Francis, in a recent seemingly staged speech to a “large family” advocacy group, even stressed the need to pump up Italy’s low birth rate. Is he serious here?
  • This is reminiscent of what militaristic Mussolini likely did in 1930 when his “ally”, Pope Pius XI, banned birth control apparently out of his fear of the threat in a Depression era presented by atheistic Soviets to a Western Europe with a depleted post-World War I population. More Catholic babies may be a geopolitical solution for some Italian leaders and Catholic hierarchs, but is it what Jesus demands of all families worldwide?
  • The papal ban on contraception appears to have arisen out of, and still to be motivated by, competitive papal geopolitics much more than either by reliable biblical theology or by sound scientific evidence. This kind of papal population politics can harm many people seriously at times. Pope Francis needs to change this, not promote it.
  • Pope Francis even suggests that couples may be having less children due to “egoism”. Francis reportedly said on 12/28/14: “In a world often marked by egoism, a large family is a school of solidarity and of mission that’s of benefit to the entire society, … ” . This is likely insulting and offensive to many sincere and responsible couples, I believe. It is to me.
  • To paraphrase pertinent remarks of former Irish president, Mary McAleese, how many “nappies” has Francis ever changed? Is he really serious here? The pope’s preferred theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, once Hans Kung’s assistant, was right, when he indicated earlier this year in connection with the initial Synod on the Family, that it was “absurd” having only celibate hierarchs address family sexual morality issues! Francis’ speech to this “large family” advocacy group just confirms that once more. Francis may look like a benevolent “grandpa” but he seems too often to think like an “old cleric”.
  • Family size should be the decision of couples and their families and not of their celibate and out of touch priests, no? Of course, it should be left up to each couple to assess and act responsibly and reasonably depending on their circumstance. Please see my related remarks at:
  • http://christiancatholicism.com/pope-francis-old-breeding-policy-fails-kids-women-gay-folks/
  • This papal population push is apparently endorsed by papal promoter, John Allen. He is married, but seemingly is as unaware as Francis is, as to the serious consequences for families of having more children than a family may be able to handle. Children may be good, but more children may or may not be better — for the newest child, as well as for siblings and the parents involved. It just depends on the individual circumstances. Only childless celibates seem to have difficulty understanding this, it seems, no?
  • Pope Francis, noting that the Italian constitution favors large families, said this provision “doesn’t get an adequate response in the facts. They remain just words.” “I hope, therefore, thinking also of the low fertility rate that Italy has had for a long time … 1 percent, almost nothing … there will be greater attention from politics and public administrators at every level to give support to these families,” Francis reportedly said. Will the pope soon be promoting polygamy as well seemingly for similar geo-political considerations? And what if political support for families is not forthcoming, your Holiness? Is contraception in order? Is the Vatican in a worldwide birth rate competition with Muslims? What is really going on here? Please see:
  • http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/12/28/on-the-feast-of-the-holy-family-pope-francis-gives-a-shout-out-to-big-families/
  • Millions of children worldwide still are born to parents who cannot adequately afford to raise them, along with their many siblings. Yet parents are often pressed to have them anyway, thanks often to Vatican lobbying against affordable access to effective contraception for these poor couples, comparable to the contraception options widely available to papal donors’ families.
  • Pope Francis will visit the Philippines in a few weeks and can see for himself the millions of struggling kids there on their own, often abandoned by their destitute parents who were, in effect, denied access to effective and affordable family planning. Catholic bishops for years successfully lobbied and litigated to thwart the will of the people in the Philippines who had voted in favor of affordable access to effective family planning programs.
  • Mandating the harmful “production of unlimited children” by Catholic couples, as evidently this seemingly staged speech and Francis’  all celibate male Family Synod, in effect, recently re-affirmed by a 95 % vote, of course, is geopolitically a “win win” situation for the Vatican. If the children survive, they then become potential donors and voters subject to Vatican indoctrination and influence. If the children struggle, the burden then is mainly on themselves, their parents and their governments.
  • An excessive number of children is only a burden on the celibate Vatican with whatever papal funds remain, if any, after funding the hierarchy’s high lifestyles, political crusades, escalating legal expenses, etc.. Ultimately, children are optional and discretionary costs for the Vatican; but not for parents unfortunately.
  • The man-made papal “Rabbit Rule” (Breed & Breed More!) of Popes Pius XI (1930) and Paul VI (1968) appears still to be the cornerstone of the Vatican’s key moral “doctrine of procreative sex, ONLY”. Corollaries of this Rule include:
  • 1. Catholic “opposite sex couples” must “shoot” for pregnancy in each intimate encounter; and
  • 2. Catholic “same sex couples”, who cannot “shoot” for pregnancy, cannot be intimate ever; otherwise heterosexual couples will also demand “unfruitful non-procreative sex”.
  • The many continuing Vatican scandal setbacks appear to make it strategically paramount for the Vatican, in their eyes anyway, to push for the generation of more Catholic babies, at least to replace millions of younger, and even older, Catholics, who increasingly find the Vatican’s Church  to be neither loving nor infallible. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s main worldwide religious competitor, Muslims, keep producing more babies, at a higher rate than Catholics now do, putting more pressure on the Vatican’s escalating “Baby Crusade”.
  • Pregnant Catholics are always a “win-win” situation for the Catholic hierarchy. If the baby survives and thrives, the “new Catholic” can be expected, after the customary indoctrination that begins at First Confession no later than 7 years old, to donate meekly and often to bishops, and even often to follow obediently Vatican “political instructions”, a key source of the Vatican’s power and wealth.
  • If any “Catholic baby” does not survive or thrive, it is not the hierarchy’s problem in the final analysis. It is the child’s problem, and sometimes the parents’ as well,  but ultimately never the hierarchy’s problem. Indeed, we read too often of stories of Catholic priests, protected by their bishops, who sexually prey with impunity on vulnerable children in dismal and “overpopulated” family situations, as seemingly with Archbishop Wesolowski and Fr. Gil in the Dominican Republic.
  • Pope Francis, then, is only pursuing the Vatican’s centuries’ old population policy — more Catholic babies are good for the Vatican’s purse and power. Logical, yes; but magical and unchristian nonsense nonetheless!
  • Pope Francis’ push for births is directly related to preserving papal power tied to the popes’ seemingly “infallible” opposition to contraception.  The powerful prestige of infallibility has been the keystone of papal power from 1870 until now. Papal infallibility, ironically, has also been the tragic papal flaw. Concerns for preserving a claim to being infallible have, it seems, prevented politically insecure popes from making long overdue changes to erroneous teachings, like the ban on contraception, out of fear of appearing to be fallible and, yes, a mere mortal.
  • Yes, this almost obsessive papal concern has been quite evident in the continuing papal opposition to contraception, mainly based on outdated natural law philosophy and medieval physiology, despite the overwhelming contrary witness in good conscience of the Catholic majority, and the latest strong and contrary evidence from natural science and modern philosophy.
  • Nevertheless, the Vatican’s strong pro-pregnancy opposition to contraception is unlikely to generate at current birthrates enough new Catholic babies to offset the Church’s escalating exodus among the practicing Catholic majority. This ongoing net decline in “practicing Catholics” is further eroding the Vatican’s already declining political influence and financial resources.
  • Ironically, the more that recent popes press their opposition to positive ongoing human advances like pharmaceutical contraception, that enable couples, especially poor women, to plan their families, the less infallible they appear to be to more Catholics. The present crisis, exacerbated by the disarray among the pope and some cardinals and bishops exhibited at the recent Vatican Synod that ironically had been intended to curtail part of this crisis, also has put unsustainable additional weight on the already weak claim to papal infallibility.
  • If Pope Francis plans on re-affirming the papal ban on contraception, he will seriously undercut he efforts to try to save the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is a sports fan, a “football enthusiast”. Recently, he cutely observed reportedly that “oddsmakers” last year had him, in effect, as a “dark horse” candidate for papal election at 25-1. Francis convincingly cleared the papal field, but after almost two years of play, he is falling behind in the “match” to save the Catholic Church.
  • Pope Francis at times seems like the legendary “Dutch Boy” trying to plug the Vatican dikes’ unending leaks with his papal fingers, but ten fingers are woefully inadequate for the task. The child abuse tsunami is too massive. He needs help, real help!
  • Pope Francis needs now to follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It“. The odds against him “Just Doing It” must be even higher, especially given his present losing “gameplan”. He needs at a minimum to add new players as Cardinals in February, especially women like the former Irish president , Mary McAleese, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice, Anne Burke, and some wise men, like Fr. Hans Kung and Fr. Thomas Doyle. The pope must revise his losing “gameplan” now before his papal clock runs out and a new coach takes over, even further behind in the score.
  • Francis needs to be at least as bold as Pope John XXIII was a half century ago. John, in effect, appointed several “dissident” theologians as key experts at the Second Vatican Council and some informed women to advise his major birth control commission.
  • Francis’ recent Christmas “attack move” on Vatican officials was surely an exciting play that thrilled Francis’ many fans, but it is not enough. Pope Francis cannot avoid any longer changing fundamentally the dysfunctional and obsolete top down monarchical management structure, and acting effectively and convincingly to curtail the scandals involving continuing priest child abuse, sexually repressive teachings and hierarchical financial corruption, among others, that evidently thrive in the present structure.
  • The first Catholics consensually managed their leaders; Catholics can and must do so again, as discussed below. Otherwise, the Vatican Titanic will continue to sink. Unless Pope Francis acts promptly, while he yet is still able, to make the worldwide Catholic 0.01% leadership accountable again to the Catholic 99.9% laity, he will likely lose his final match.
  • Like the suddenly disappearing Soviet party leadership in 1989, the top down and coercive Vatican bureaucracy will likely wither on the vine fairly quickly under the pope’s current gameplan. Few “Kremlinologists” saw the rapid demise of the Soviet leadership coming; similarly few “Vaticanista” saw the demise of the ex-Pope and his Vatican clique coming. There have been real parallels in the coercive and top-down leadership structures and styles of both these unaccountable institutions.
  • If Francis fails with his “graduality/mercy” Synod strategy, as the Soviets’ last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, failed with his “glasnost/openness” strategy, many Catholics, including some of the millions of “fans” who follow Francis on Twitter, will likely fairly quickly become convinced that internal Vatican reform any time soon is hopeless. They will then probably either look to restructure their local Church institutions on a consensual basis or just join the tens of millions of others who have already exited the Catholic Church completely. Many will just leave the Vatican’s stadium in disgust and despair.
  • Pope Francis must now move promptly to set up an accountable leadership structure. A consensual structure existed in the early Catholic Church before its Fourth Century near takeover by powerful Roman Emperor Constantine and his imperial successors. Francis can now begin to initiate the needed changes to restore a consensual management structure, if he wants to and at least begins to do so now.
  • If Pope Francis’ merely  continues with his currently proposed changes alone, he cannot and will not salvage from most indications the almost 150 year old top-down papal domination of the Church. Pope Francis must choose — the Vatican must either share power effectively with the Catholic 99.9 %, the so-called People of God, or the Catholic 0.01% leadership will soon lose its power to outside liberal democratic governmental intervention in the person of investigators and prosecutors as openers.
  • Too many ‘ticking bombs” have been generated by the abuse scandal; the Vatican cannot avoid some of them exploding with a “go slow” anti-abuse policy still aimed, it appears, mainly at protecting clerics, especially bishops. Pope Francis must do more now.
  • A good example is in the UK, which presents the latest challenge to Pope Francis’ inadequate approach of having the Vatican itself investigating both priests accused of child sexual abuse and bishops responsible for overseeing them.
  • Experienced UK insurance company defense lawyers recently reported that UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, has indicated that the UK’s forthcoming new wider panel inquiry into historic child abuse will examine churches, as well as the BBC and political parties. The lawyers indicated that the impact that this will have on institutions and organisations that may become involved will not be limited to increased publicity. They indicated that the outcome of any findings of neglect and abuse, be that institutional of otherwise, will undoubtedly, have a direct effect upon future potential prosecutions and civil claims. For these lawyers informed observations, please see:
  •  http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=5255c549-5e67-4f2b-b586-36181063039e
  • The newest addition to Pope Francis’ “go slow” anti-abuse commission, UK’s Peter Saunders, reportedly is a supporter of a broad, thorough and open UK investigation proceeding. Will he take a different position with the Vatican’s commission? Not likely, no?
  • And in Scotland, the Cabinet Education Secretary, a young mother and a social worker, has added her voice for a statutory child abuse investigation with powers to compel testimony that would review child abuse claims, including those involving the Catholic Church. Please see:
  • http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/547548/Angela-Constance-promises-bring-Scotland-s-child-abusers-justice
  • The Catholic Church may yet survive under the pope’s current gameplan as a “catch all label” for many diffused groups of practicing Catholics organized consensually from the bottom up, but the Catholic hierarchy appears to be playing its final game from many indications. In light of the currently seemingly irresolvable “mess”, a diffused Church may be a true blessing and closer to the Catholic Church that Jesus’ disciples, including many women, left behind. God works in unexpected ways, no?
  • This future outcome may seem too pessimistic for a purported “unchangeable 2,000 year old institution”. But is it? For reasons discussed below, this outlook is more likely than not.
  • The Catholic Church has changed, indeed really changed a lot over two millennia, often due to external pressures. For example, in the 19th Century, Pope Pius IX and his Vatican allies were urged by many, including other rulers, to modernize and reform his declining medieval Papal States to save this papal kingdom. The pope, in effect, imprudently refused to do so sufficiently, and instead concentrated on being “declared infallible” by many intimidated bishops he convened in Rome despite a coming invasion. He then quickly militarily lost to Italian troops (including many Catholic troops) a large portion of Italy that popes for centuries had ruled as unaccountable absolute monarchs.
  • So too, a corrupt and imprudent Vatican hierarchy refused to take Martin Luther’s call five hundred years ago for needed reforms sufficiently seriously and lost a major part of the European Catholic Church mainly as a consequence. Many of the sensible reforms that Luther called for still remain unaddressed.
  • The Vatican can, does and will err, claims of infallibility notwithstanding!
  • Pope Francis is quite old and yet is working non-stop. He appears, unfortunately, to be surrounded by some men who seem to be oblivious to the Vatican’s precarious position. Francis faces at least three major scandals involving priest child abuse, sexually repressive teachings and officials’ financial corruption, while his hierarchy debate arcane matters like “graduality” and most of the media focus on counting papal “tweets”.
  • The scandal that has changed everything for the previously “untouchable” Vatican is the child abuse scandal. The pope clearly has not done nearly enough here. And his efforts to change the sexually repressive teachings are facing strong resistance from conservative Cardinals as discussed below. He is almost out of time. While the pope has made a start, in Rome at least, on curtailing his hierarchy’s financial corruption, he still has a long way to go. In New York, for example, even prominent conservative Catholics are complaining about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s very expensive renovation of his NY mansion as discussed below.
  • Pope Francis’ response to date on the most sensational scandal, the abuse cover up, seems to be mostly more of the same half measures used by his failed predecessors. Bishops are still not required under Church rules generally to report child abuse claims to the police, for example, and accused clerics are investigated secretively by other clerics mainly. Francis has not acted to improve priest selection by expanding the selection pool to include married men and women, and he has not acted on predatory priest management oversight by making bishops accountable.
  • Significantly, two recent developments suggest that resistance even to Pope Francis’ insufficient reform efforts is still escalating. These are the continued resistance of conservative Cardinals like Wilfrid Napier and Raymond Burke to changing sexually repressive teachings and the ongoing loss of support, even from prominent conservative Catholics, over the child abuse cover up fallout.
  • Pope Francis’ Synod strategy appears to be to allow open exchanges among bishops, within the narrow limits of bishop appointees of the last two conservative popes, of some differing viewpoints, but reserving for himself as the “guarantor” and “infallible pontiff”, the final words. A recent (12/23/14) interview of South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, one of the presidents of  the final all celibate male Synod on the Family in less than ten months , suggests that Francis may be facing some tough sailing. Cardinal Napier was one of the most high-profile and outspoken critics of some aspects of the recent initial Synod on the Family. In his  email interview with the conservative US National Catholic Register’s Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, Cardinal Napier responded to a question about what disturbed him most about the initial Synod’s proceedings and any developments since then, as follows: ” … Of particular concern was the dressing up in overly positive terms the irregular situations such as cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, single parent families by choice, same-sex relationships. When you are holding up the bar of moral uprightness, you cannot at the same time, sing the praise of the contrary. … “. “Irregular situations” seems to fail even the “graduality test”, no?
  • Later in the interview, Cardinal Napier reportedly added in response to this provocative and loaded question, “How confident are you that the process for the next synod will be fairer and more open, allowing all points of view to be aired and taken forward? ” the following: “I am confident that both the Secretariat of the Synod, its council and those attending the synod session will have learnt the need to give clear teaching by distinguishing it from possible or speculative thinking and proposals. I am also fairly sure that bishops’ conference representatives, as well as individual bishops, will be much more aware of what their people think, feel and want the Church to do and say.”.
  • It sounds like Pope Francis may find it necessary to apply some of his earlier communication skills as a “bouncer” to advance needed changes in teachings at the Final Synod next October. Perhaps, Pope Francis’ Christmas scolding of Vatican officials was intended to send a stern warning to the worldwide hierarchy, as well to Vatican officials.
  • Of course, the conservative US National Catholic Register is aware that “marriage” issues are very important to US right wing political crusades and by next October’s Final Synod, the 2016 US presidential election campaign should be well under way. So it is perhaps hardly surprising that these “burning issues” are already being fanned so much by US Catholic conservatives, no? Given the ambiguous (at best) implications  of Pope Francis’ frequent contacts with his US conservative allies, and his making available Cardinal Raymond Burke to agitate politically (as he did in the 2004 election defeat of Democrat, John Kerry) from Burke’s new Knights of Malta pedestal, where Francis stands on US “flame fanning” is often difficult to assess, perhaps intentionally so in a Jesuitical sense, no? For more, please see:
  • http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-napier-next-years-synod-will-feature-truth-fidelity-and-authentici/
  • And the abuse mess is still causing unexpected problems that Pope Francis seems unable to control. For example. Peggy Noonan, the prominent conservative Republican spokeswoman and President Ronald Reagan’s former top speechwriter, just complained in a very critical column in Rupert Murdoch’s influenced Wall Street Journal about the announced closing by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of her Manhattan church in the middle of the ” … refurbishment of mighty St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which has been extremely expensive. [and] … the cost, the past 20 years, of all the settlements and legal fees associated with the sex scandals. …”.
  • Peggy Noonan uses her sharp Brooklyn Irish American pen to go after the apparent “edifice complex” of her  “friend”, Cardinal Dolan, as she notes here: “The cardinal could sell his grand private mansion in Midtown, just down the street from what has been assessed the most valuable piece of real estate in the city, Saks Fifth Avenue, judged to be worth almost $4 billion. Think of what the cardinal’s mansion would sell or rent for! That would take care of everything. This is what Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley did: sell the cardinal’s estate. He lives now in a small apartment in a modest part of town. “
  • Are the Irish Eyes of “Happy Tim Dolan” Still Smiling? Will Bill Donahue now go after Peggy Noonan? Stay tuned! For Peggy Noonan’s complaints about Cardinal Dolan’s seeming “edifice complex”, please see her column, Cardinal, Please Spare This Church . It is too bad it seems to have taken the potential loss of her local Church structure to get Noonan to talk so forcefully about the 20 years of priest child abuse scandals that she refers to here. Let us hope she keeps complaining. If a “friend” of Cardinal Dolan writes such a strong criticism in the US’s major national newspaper that is likely read by most of Dolan’s main donors, what can Dolan expect from his “enemies”?
  • Pope Francis’ recent Christmas message to the world and his Christmas scolding of Vatican officials indicate the pope’s desperate plight. “May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence … ; children, so many abused children”, so prayed and preached Pope Francis in his well publicized 2014 Christmas greetings to the world. Seemingly on cue, Francis also lamented that many children are ” … never born because of abortion. …”.
  • But Francis seemed to take his most personal tone in his Christmas message when mentioning the many child victims of violence around the world, adding a section to his prepared text to address the issue. Directing listeners to the child Jesus whose birth Christians celebrate on Christmas, Francis said his thoughts “go to all children today killed and mistreated …, … deprived of the generous love of their parents and buried in the selfishness of a culture that doesn’t love life … ” and to “those children displaced because of wars and persecution, abused and exploited under our eyes and our silent complicity.”
  • And let us hope and pray that Jesus does help save all the children. But speaking of complicity under our eyes, what about Pope Francis doing, and not mostly just talking about, more to save some children the pope failed to mention explicitly and that he actually already has some power to save — like those children who still remain at risk of priest sexual abuse or who struggle to recover from the effects of such abuse worldwide, as well as those millions of children whose parents cannot afford to raise them, along with their many siblings adequately, but had them anyway, thanks often to Vatican lobbying against affordable access to effective contraception for these poor couples comparable to the contraception options widely available to papal donors’ families. Pope Francis will visit the Philippines in a few weeks and can see for himself the millions of struggling kids there on their own, often abandoned by their destitute parents who were, in effect, denied access to effective and affordable family planning.
  • An experienced Vatican journalist recently confirmed, in effect, what numerous reports since the pope’s election about his extensive  activities with respect to Vatican financial scandals already suggested clearly. Pope Francis may actually be putting a much higher priority on maximizing Vatican wealth than on protecting Catholic children from priest predators and complicit bishops who protect them. Is that what Jesus would have done?
  • Mandating the harmful production of unlimited children by Catholic couples, as Francis’ recent all celibate male Family Synod, in effect,  recently re-affirmed by a 95 % vote, of course, is geo-politically a “win win” situation for the Vatican. If the children survive, they then become potential donors and voters subject to Vatican indoctrination and influence. If the children struggle, the burden then is mainly on themselves, their parents and their governments. It is only on the Vatican with whatever papal funds remain, if any, after funding the hierarchy’s high lifestyles, political crusades, escalating legal expenses, etc.. Ultimately, children are optional costs for the Vatican.
  • Importantly, Francis recently publicly ambushed his cornered  Vatican staff. The hapless Vatican officials are an easy target for the pope since many of them lack career and financial options like many diocesan bishops have available to them, such as Kansas City’s Bishop Finn, Minneapolis’ Archbishop Nienstedt and even New York City’s Cardinal Dolan. Yet, even so, the pope significantly omitted addressing directly and adequately with the assembled Vatican officials either the child abuse cover up or sexism, two major Vatican “ailments” that he urgently must address more effectively. Why these material omissions?
  • The worldwide clergy sexual abuse crisis — where many thousands of priests have been accused of abusing children over a span of more than a century, at least since popes in 1910 dropped the First Confession age to 7 years old and in 1922 prohibited disclosures to non-clerics relating to priest sexual abuse of children — is arguably the largest problem the Catholic Church now faces. This is likely true as well from a financial perspective, given the billions in direct legal and related costs, plus the billions of lost contributions of the tens of millions of Catholics who have exited the Catholic Church often out of disgust over the hierarchy’s child abuse cover-up. It is also the area where Pope Francis appears to have been lagging noticeably, other than primarily with a few well publicized media events, as discussed in detail below.
  • Many were encouraged well over a month ago when Cardinal Sean O’Malley was interviewed by the CBS News program 60 Minutes. O’Malley is Francis’ pick to lead the Vatican’s new “go-slow” anti-sexual abuse commission, along with the advisory commission’s new chief of staff, Fr. Robert Oliver. He earlier had been the infamous Boston Cardinal Bernard Law’s canon lawyer. And Law is in Rome in case Oliver wants advice from his old boss. Apparently O’Malley is available to Oliver mainly by fax, and also in person only every few months when O’Malley attends Council of Cardinals’ meetings. That doesn’t sound much like a top priority commission as is so sorely needed.
  • When the 60 Minutes’ conversation turned to the criminally convicted Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, Cardinal O’Malley did not mince his words for the multi-million CBS viewers watching:
  • Norah O’Donnell: I want to ask you about Robert Finn, who is the bishop of Kansas City/St. Joseph and, as you know, he pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for not reporting one of his priests to authorities. Bishop Finn wouldn’t be able to teach Sunday school in Boston.
  • Cardinal Seán O’Malley: That’s right.
  • Norah O’Donnell: How is that zero tolerance…
  • Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Well…
  • Norah O’Donnell: …that he’s still in place? What does it say to Catholics?
  • Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Well, it’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently.
  • Norah O’Donnell: And there’s a recognition?
  • Cardinal Seán O’Malley: There’s a recognition of that.
  • Norah O’Donnell: From Francis?
  • Cardinal Seán O’Malley: From Pope Francis. {END}
  • Well Pope Francis, what about it? Enough with O’Malley’s widely publicized “unminced” and urgent words over a month ago. You have been Pope for almost two years and yet you are still letting a criminally convicted bishop continue to sit on his episcopal throne? Why? How does that protect children from abuse? Is their only hope Jesus, or will Pope Francis, as Jesus’ purported “Vicar on Earth”, finally step up as he should have long ago?
  • And Bishop Finn is just one of many problem bishops Francis must act upon. In the highly visible case of Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt and his former Vicar General, Fr. Kevin McDonough, brother of President Obama’s Chief of Staff, the duPont Award winning reporter, Madeleine Baran is reporting  that it appears that the Archdiocese has not yet really put needed procedures in place  to ensure reform and the structure of the chancery remains the same. She reports that Archbishop Nienstedt  still ” …holds all the power, and does not have to follow anyone’s recommendations. The structure that allowed this cover-up to happen is still in place. …”.
  • Madeleine Baran adds: ” … It’s also important to note some context. This isn’t the first time this {Minneapolis} archdiocese has faced a clergy sex abuse cover-up. Each time, the scandal starts with an allegation that church leaders covered up abuse. Then the archdiocese apologizes, announces new policies, meets with victims and stresses the idea of healing and moving on. Bishops in the 1980s and ’90s said the same things that church leaders say now. “.
  • Pope Francis and the Vatican appear to be living on “borrowed time” with respect to the abuse scandal. Minneapolis’ priest abuse mess could boil over out of control at any time, especially given the McDonough relationship. For more on the continuing Minneapolis cover-up, please see:
  • http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/12/24/archdiocese-cover-up
  • Too many ‘ticking bombs” have been generated by the abuse scandal; the Vatican cannot avoid some of them exploding with a “go slow” policy still aimed, it appears, mainly at protecting clerics, especially bishops. Pope Francis must do more now.
  • As to Pope Francis’ seemingly higher priority, money, an experienced Vatican journalist, educated at Rome’s Jesuit Gregorian University, has recently responded to relevant questions about what Francis’ priorities seem to be. He observed: “The three main contributors to the Holy See are the US, the German and the Italian [Catholic] churches. What has changed is that the money management issue has been put on the table of the last conclave. The Americans and Germans pay large amounts of money but what they have been seeing are many scandals, clashes with the Italian central bank and all of these involving mainly Italian cardinals and bishops. …  The big donors that now want to have more weight are the starting point of what has followed after Bergoglio’s [Pope Francis] election, the de-Italianisation of the Roman curia. Now all the top positions are held by non-Italians. At the helm of IOR [the Vatican Bank] … now there is French banker Jean-Baptiste de Franssu. George Pell, who heads the Vatican’s new secretariat for the economy, is an Australian Cardinal. …”. { My emphasis}. Please see:
  • http://www.thenational.ae/business/travel-tourism/pope-francis-man-in-the-middle-spurs-cause-of-change
  • The impact of money on Vatican priorities is also evident on a local basis. For example, a leading expert on the Catholic laity, Paul Lakeland, has recently observed that US  conservative Catholic groups are very well-funded (the Knights of Columbus, Opus Dei, First Things magazine) and have figured out that their struggle is a cultural one, in which old-time religion and “family values” blend into a coherent, if not particularly influential, ideological position. Influential, of course, with a minority of Catholics and, perhaps, a majority of Catholic bishops, but not especially with mainstream Catholics.
  • Lakeland notes that some Catholics believe that this conservative faction will likely fail ultimately to convince a body of Catholic believers suspicious of culture warriors and an ethic of sexual repression.
  • Reform groups, on the other hand, Lakeland adds, are passionate about internal church issues but far less well-funded (FutureChurch, Voice of the Faithful, SNAP) and quite disinclined to connect their various platforms to a wider national political agenda. Significantly, Lakeland notes, “Their cherished causes may find some support among the rank and file of the church, but not enough to inspire real reform. ” {My emphasis}. Again. money matters. For more of Lakeland’s important observations, please see:
  • http://ncronline.org/books/2014/12/author-underplays-reforming-potential-heart-parish-life
  • The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions. Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.
  • This crisis has led to one papal resignation already. Pope Francis appears for many reasons to be the Vatican’s best and last chance to lead on initiating overdue Church changes. Pressures beyond Vatican control can be expected to compel more severe changes if Francis fails to act effectively and transparently. This has already begun to happen with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European governmental investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets.
  • The Vatican no longer even has powerful international protectors comparable to those it had prior to 1945, at the end of the Second World War with Hitler and Mussolini’s defeat. It is mostly on its own now in the international political arena, like Pius XI’s Vatican was generally by 1870. Popes since 1870 have counter culturally tried secretively to rule mainly as “semi-divine infallible” and unaccountable monarchs with tightly controlled subordinate bishops worldwide in an increasingly democratic world now linked by an open Internet and an 24/7 worldwide free media. The Vatican is running out of time to adjust to current reality and may be forced to do so soon.
  • Growing governmental pressures indicate currently that if Vatican does not adopt key changes voluntarily and soon, the Vatican can be expected to be compelled to change involuntarily. This, as mentioned above, has recently already happened repeatedly, for example, in the financial area. Another recent example of increasing governmental pressure is the Australian national investigation into child abuse in religious organizations. It has already led to the Vatican changing both internal policies, and key leadership in Australia, including Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Papal Nuncio, following a massive effort by government investigators. Similar investigations can be expected in other countries as well.
  • Pope Francis faces as the world’s last unaccountable monarch, in an increasingly democratic world, unrelenting and escalating governmental pressures in Australia, the UK, the USA, Germany, China and many countries in between. Yet as his Christmas speech to his Vatican bureaucracy (the Curia) indicated, he is served by some men who are stuck in a Renaissance time warp.
  • As Pope Francis tries to sail through a treacherous tsunami triggered by Curia child abuse cover-ups and financial scandals, he might do well to put down the Catechism for a few days and reflect on one of the best informed analysts of Renaissance-style Curia behavior, Machiavelli. Perhaps, Francis is already doing this. Ten short examples of Machiavelli’s relevant wisdom are set forth below.
  • Interestingly, as alluded to above, the Financial Times (FT) views the initial Synod on the Family as having been a “victory for conservatives” and the Vatican’s response to the priest child abuse scandal as “criminally slow” ! {My emphasis} In pertinent part, FT views include: ” … {Pope Francis’} …  attempt to shift debate away from sexual morality might be seen as tactically astute after the avalanche of evidence of priests sexually abusing children in their care — a scandal the Vatican was criminally slow to address. Yet untold millions of Catholics have drifted away from the Church not just because of that but because its obsession with personal morality is so at variance with the lives they live. …  The conclusions of the recent synod on the family were widely seen as a victory for conservatives, who filibustered change on issues such as divorce and remarriage. Yet he has removed their leader, the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, from two influential positions. For next year’s repeat synod on the family, moreover, he {Francis} just sent out another questionnaire. In the first exercise the questions were open; this time some of them look loaded with the answers he wants. …”
  • FT continues: “Traditionalist hierarchs and reactionaries in the Vatican Curia are unlikely to roll over. Yet this pope is not to be underestimated. He has acquired a vast, almost revivalist following (including 4.8 million on Twitter). His mistrust of free market economics — “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” — resonates within and far beyond the Church. …”. For more. please see FT at:
  • Pope Francis takes on the Catholic bureaucracy – FT.com
  • Importantly, “infallible” Pope Francis is now unhampered by his prior pastoral positions and unfettered by his earlier ideological constraints as an obedient cardinal, bishop and Jesuit. If Francis fails to act effectively soon, the consequences will likely be quite negative for the leadership of the Catholic Church.
  • Pope Francis acts at times like a radicalized realist. His preferred theologian, Cardinal Kasper, describes him as “radical”. Francis is clearly pressing forward relentlessly on a novel path to change. When necessary, he is even bypassing or sidelining fearful and entrenched opponents and factions. His opponents often overlook the many risks that presently exist in the Vatican’s vulnerable predicament. Pope Francis is evidently well aware of these risks. At times, some of his opponents prefer “to play their fruitless fiddles while Rome burns”.
  • Pope Francis can accomplish much if he wants to and finds the wisdom and courage to do so. Equally important, it seems unlikely any of his successors will get a more propitious opportunity in the foreseeable future to adopt long overdue changes. It may be now or never for Pope Francis and the Vatican. Does he realize that? His scolding of the Curia suggests he does.
  • The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions. Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.uncompleted, whether by choice or circumstances, Catholics can then push to complete soon thereafter, with or without full Vatican support. Catholics can be expected to do so, given the current Catholic majority’s momentum and mounting democratic governmental pressures. The Catholic majority can expect help in effecting these changes from powerful forces, outside the Church structure, that are now pressing harder for key Vatican changes, like greater accountability and transparency.
  • Machiavelli advised earlier Renaissance monarchs as follows:
  •  “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”
  • “Men intrinsically do not trust new things that they have not experienced themselves.”
  • “There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”
  • “It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.”
  • “He who becomes a Prince through the favor of the people should always keep on good terms with them; which it is easy for him to do, since all they ask is not to be oppressed.”
  • “Minds are of three kinds: one is capable of thinking for itself; another is able to understand the thinking of others; and a third can neither think for itself nor understand the thinking of others. The first is of the highest excellence, the second is excellent, and the third is worthless.”
  • “For whoever believes that great advancement and new benefits make men forget old injuries is mistaken.”
  • “It is essential that in entering a new province you should have the good will of its inhabitants.”
  • “He who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against.”
  • “Therefore the best fortress is to be found in the love of the people, for although you may have fortresses they will not save you if you are hated by the people.”
  • And, of course, as in Machiavelli’s time, the pope must pay attention to his revenue stream. An experienced Vatican journalist educated at Rome’s Jesuit Gregorian University has responded relevantly  to questions about what Francis is doing as follows: “The three main contributors to the Holy See are the US, the German and the Italian [Catholic] churches. What has changed is that the money management issue has been put on the table of the last conclave. The Americans and Germans pay large amounts of money but what they have been seeing are many scandals, clashes with the Italian central bank and all of these involving mainly Italian cardinals and bishops. …  The big donors that now want to have more weight are the starting point of what has followed after Bergoglio’s [Pope Francis] election, the de-Italianisation of the Roman curia. Now all the top positions are held by non-Italians. At the helm of IOR [the Vatican Bank] … now there is French banker Jean-Baptiste de Franssu. George Pell, who heads the Vatican’s new secretariat for the economy, is an Australian Cardinal. …”. { My emphasis}. Please see:
  • http://www.thenational.ae/business/travel-tourism/pope-francis-man-in-the-middle-spurs-cause-of-change
  • In this almost surreal “Neo-Renaissance” setting, Pope Francis has surprisingly severely scolded and shamed the Vatican’s bureaucracy, gathered publicly this week for pre-Christmas festivities with the boss. Machiavelli likely would have approved of Francis’ approach in my view. Many of the “eminent Princes”, including Boston’s previously shamed Cardinal Bernard Law, seemingly in good standing with the pope still, appeared to be in shock at the pope’s attack, as seen in the PBS video here:
  • http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/pope-francis-uses-christmas-greeting-chide-church-officials-greed-gossip-getting-ahead/
  • Every official was hit — the good, the bad and the ugly. A bit unfair, according to some conservative commentators, who were right on this. The officials may have been expecting good wishes for the season after a tough year. Instead they got a terrible scolding. All manner of immoral actions were cited, they were told, as prevalent in the corridors of Catholic Church power: ruthless careerism, back-biting, narcissism, complacency, although disappointingly, the pope omitted sexism, a widespread Vatican ailment. For an effective discussion of this major omission , please see, “Spiritual Fruit Salad … ” at:
  • http://questionsfromaewe.blogspot.com/2014/12/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html
  • Pope Francis, following Hans Kung’s medical metaphor, clinically diagnosed no less than 15 specific ailments suffered by Church officials, ranging from  a diminishing awareness that the officials’  work had a sacred purpose—to delusions of omnipotence and the terrorism of gossip.  Implicitly, Francis indicated he would act to change things soon, no? Will he? Can he? When? How?
  • What was Pope Francis’ purpose in publicly ambushing and even humiliating the entire Vatican bureaucracy, hardily a “merciful exercise”? The shrewd ex-bouncer seems always to have a point, even if one has to tease it out at times, no? Was he just “roughing up” the cornered bureaucrats for the further “ecclesiastical executions” that he may be planning? Why the papal intimidation and heavy-handedness? We may soon find out.
  • What’s next? Will Pope Francis fire some more officials? Will he act to fix the top down monarchical system that almost inevitably fosters these immoral actions? Francis has not yet “named names” and some of these ailments plague many of his worldwide bishops as well, from many indications. Of course, diocesan bishops apparently present a more difficult challenge for Pope Francis than most Curia officials. Diocesan bishops are generally tougher to remove and are not directly dependent on Francis for their income, as Curia officials usually are.
  • Was this Christmas scolding just another planned media event — a friendly papal rant of a frustrated ex-bouncer, or is it a prelude to a full Vatican housecleaning as openers? After all, criminally convicted Kansas City’s Bishop Finn still remains on his episcopal throne, just one example of Francis’ management omissions so far!
  • Was Pope Francis just trying to let worldwide Catholics through him  “vicariously vent” their built up hostility to their failed Church leaders? This chilling Christmas rebuke was surprising, especially since Francis has been dealing with the Vatican hierarchy for over four decades, and for over two decades as an episcopal insider. What did he expect to find when he volunteered to be pope at 76 years old?
  • Why after almost two years as pope is Francis now lowering the verbal boom? He cannot seriously expect to shame these well positioned old episcopal bachelors, who seem to recklessly snub UN committees and to bait international prosecutors, into changing their unchristian ways, can he? He must understand that well enough by now.
  • Pope Francis must do much more than scold. Implicit in this public scolding as the boss is a promise as absolute monarch that he will try to fix the management mess he described. After all, that is his responsibility. If Francis fails to act boldly now, worldwide Catholics will likely be much worse off. As has been aptly said, ““Broken vows are like broken mirrors. They leave those who held to them bleeding and staring at fractured images of themselves.”
  • Pope Francis  must act promptly to begin to fix the broken management system. He can do this, but he can only do this, and clean up the Catholic Church “mess” in the process, if he moves now to end the top down Church management structure, beginning with its current rigged leadership transition process for electing new popes. Unless he moves now to begin to return to the Church’s earlier consensual management structure with its inherent democratic accountability, this theatrically impressive scolding is likely to be quickly forgotten by Church officials. It will, however, be sadly remembered by Catholics disappointed once more by their popes’ empty promises.
  • Pope Francis cannot avoid any longer changing fundamentally the dysfunctional and obsolete top down monarchical management structure, and curtailing the continuing priest child abuse and financial scandals, among others, that thrive in the present structure. The first Catholics consensually managed their leaders; Catholics can and must do so again, as discussed below. Otherwise, the Vatican Titanic will continue to sink. Unless Pope Francis acts promptly, while he yet is still able, to make the worldwide Catholic 0.01% leadership accountable again to the Catholic 99.9% laity, he will likely fail.
  • And Pope Francis seems stymied on curtailing effectively the all important Catholic Church priest child abuse scandals. This disappointingly should not be very surprising, given Francis’ thin record in Argentina. Well regarded investigative journalist, Jason Berry, recently noted that neither of the two new “Francis friendly” biographies by Austen Ivereigh and Elizabeth Piqué gives any coverage to Francis’ earlier handling of clergy sex abuse cases as a bishop and cardinal. Berry notes: “The websiteBishopAccountability.org has posted an extensive file of media reports and documents on scandals in Argentina to suggest that Bergoglio {Pope Francis} was not a healing pastor to abuse victims. And while as pope he has removed several bishops for child abuse, several prominent cardinals in the Vatican who were grossly negligent in concealing pedophiles, notably the former Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, have suffered no loss of status … “
  • And Bishop Accountability.org. today (12/23/14) reported it had “… published the first database of accused priests in Argentina, the Pope’s home country, in both English and Spanish. In the course of our research, we came to know Argentine victims, including four who unsuccessfully had sought the Pope’s help. We introduced them to each other, and together they wrote a letter to Pope Francis, asking for a meeting…”. Please see:
  • http://www.bishop-accountability.org/2014_Accomplishments/
  • Pope Francis also addressed his Christmas scolding to many others, including “papal representatives scattered throughout the world”. Hopefully, his “prescription” for the 15 ailments infecting papal officials is not too late to lower the temperature of some traditionalists’ tone. Some traditionalists now appear to be insinuating that UK  bishops are making thinly veiled accusations that several of Pope Francis’ top subordinates, Cardinals Mueller, Pell, and Burke and others, are possibly teaching like schismatic “heretics” .  Heavy stuff, no?
  • A conservative Catholic website is currently reporting: “At almost the same moment that Cardinal Raymond Burke said in an interview that those defending Catholic moral teaching – and the practice of barring people in irregular sexual unions from receiving Communion – are being marginalized within the Church, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have issued a document for clergy that all but accuses such Catholics of the ancient Donatist heresy. In a “Reflection Document for Clergy,” the English bishops appear to follow the line of Cardinal Walter Kasper and his followers, saying, ‘It is not for us to make rash or premature conclusions’ about people living in sexual sin. …’ “
  • The website continued: ” … The {UK} bishops go so far as to issue a thinly veiled accusation of heresy against those, like Cardinal Burke, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Cardinal George Pell and others, who have refused to follow the Kasper line … “. Please see for more :
  • https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/english-bishops-accuse-defenders-of-catholic-moral-discipline-of-dontatist
  • Now in his 79th year, Pope Francis has once again raised unexpectedly his mortality, volunteering that he will not “be around” in connection with Rome’s recent Olympic bid. He had also a few months ago publicly broached with reporters the prospect of his own death in “two or three years”, while also not ruling out retirement before then.
  • Pope Francis will be nearing his 80th year in less than ten months when his “all celibate male” Final Synod of Bishops gives their recommendations for Church reforms next October. It appears to be now or never for this pope to make a real difference in Church reform — a difference that is not just a temporary fix that could be readily reversed by his soon to be secretly selected successor, perhaps Cardinal Sodano’s protege, Cardinal Parolin.
  • Pope Francis now has the full power to change the procedures for selecting bishops, including the Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope himself). He needs to begin now to change these procedures promptly, just as he earlier created his Council of Cardinals out of thin air, it appears. Canon law is whatever a pope says it is, in the final analysis.
  • Pope Francis, in a blistering criticism  in which he listed 15 “spiritual illnesses”  , to which he suggested senior Church officials may be especially prone, literally blasted the Vatican’s bureaucracy (12/22/14), saying some among the Church leadership had a lust for power and were indifferent to others. His strong words made my “aggressive remarks” about some Church leaders, that got me banned from the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), at times seem tame by comparison. Will NCR now ban the pope’s future remarks? For Pope Francis’ full speech in English to the Vatican officials, please see:
  • http://www.thebostonpilot.com/opinion/article.asp?ID=172753
  • Pope Francis appeared in his Christmas criticism to have adopted the sickness metaphor from Hans Kung’s recent reform book, “Can We Save the Catholic Church?”, (which the pope thanked Fr. Kung for sending him). Pope Francis used his “Christmas greetings” to cardinals, bishops and priests to list “ailments” plaguing some at the very top and urging a “cure”. Francis said the Vatican bureaucracy was riven with, among other moral shortcomings,  “social exhibitionism” and a lust for power, all of which have led to an “orchestra that plays out of tune”. For more, including some sharp comments from reacting Catholics, please see here:
  • http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-issues-scathing-critique-vatican-bureaucracy-pre-christmas-meeting        and
  • http://ncronline.org/blogs/roman-observer/francis-gives-roman-curia-officials-coal-christmas
  • Pope Francis warned in his “Christmas greetings” against greed, egoism and people who think they are “immortal”. Of course, Francis has not yet “named names” and some of these ailments plague many of his worldwide bishops as well, from many indications. Was this just a planned papal rant or is it a prelude to a full housecleaning, as openers? Was Francis just letting worldwide Catholics “vicariously vent” their built up hostility to their failed Church leaders? Did the pope ever “wink” as he read his “greetings” ? After all, criminally convicted Kansas City’s Bishop Finn still remains on his episcopal throne!
  • This chilling Christmas rebuke was surprising, especially since Francis has been dealing with the Vatican hierarchy for over four decades, and for over two decades as an episcopal insider. What did he expect to find when he volunteered to be pope at 76 years old? He cannot seriously expect to shame these well positioned old episcopal bachelors, who recklessly snub UN committees and international prosecutors, into changing their unchristian ways, can he? He must understand that well enough by now.
  • Prominent Italian church historian, Alberto Melloni, reportedly said in an interview with AP: “This is a speech without historic precedent,… If the pope uses this tone, it’s because he knows it’s necessary.” Melloni reportedly noted that until Pope Francis had been elected, the Vatican bureaucracy largely answered to no one, saying “an entire generation of the Curia ran it as if they were pope. … ” . Melloni apparently added in his AP interview that John Paul II was too busy traveling the world, and later too sick, to pay attention to administrative details, and Benedict left the minutiae of running a government to his deputy {presumably, Cardinal Bertone}, later determined to have been part of the problem. One must wonder why, if these management shortcoming were so obvious to a church history professor in Bologna, more “expert Vatican journalists” in Rome and elsewhere seemingly omitted reporting about them more often?
  • Predictably, Edward Pentin, the Vatican reporter for the conservative US National Catholic Register seemed “underwhelmed” by Pope Francis’ criticism of the Vatican bureaucracy. Pentin reportedly in pertinent part said: “Pope Francis’ list of 15 spiritual “diseases”, given today in his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, is playing well to the secular world that’s been bombarded with media coverage of Vatican scandals over the past few years. After Vatileaks, sex scandals and financial misconduct, it’s no surprise that the media has jumped on the speech, portraying the Holy Father as the outsider who’s come in to clean up the Curia but grown frustrated with a sclerotic and corrupt bureaucracy resistant to change. The danger of this, however, is that it gives credence to such a portrayal of the Curia, that it’s largely a nest of careerists, brimming with sin and intrigue. Veteran Vatican watcher Sandro Magister has called it a “catastrophic diagnosis … “.
  • Pentin added:”The world’s press, of course, will ignore the reality, partly because the Pope didn’t mention it: that the great majority of Vatican officials are virtuous, hardworking, and faithful clergy and laity …. A further risk is that it’s likely to worsen morale in the Vatican. Already, the mood is not generally positive …”, …increasingly one hears complaints of feeling demoralized due to persistent criticism and scrutiny, and uncertainty about the future. To make matters worse is the added concern that a purge of respected veteran officials, appointed under Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is underway. There’s no doubt the Pope’s speech today will have given the few rotten apples in the Curia something to think about as well as further boosted his popular image in the media. It will have done little to lessen the unease or increase the morale of the many good officials who have dedicated their lives to serving the Church in Rome. But perhaps the Pope doesn’t see this, or sees it as a price worth paying.” . Please see for the full column:
  • http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/popes-address-risks-lowering-curial-morale#ixzz3MgGtjryI
  • Pope Francis also addressed other Vatican lay personnel on Monday at a separate session, including with some blue-collar personnel and their families. He made a specific point of praising the Italians who work for the Vatican. This was likely a rebuke to those who have blamed the Italians for the Vatican’s financial and organizational mess, especially Francis’ newly chosen head of the Secretariat of the Economy, Cardinal George Pell, who had angered Italian workers and officials at the Vatican by bluntly insinuating that they lacked transparency and were oblivious to modern accounting methods. One wonders why Francis did not compel Pell to apologize himself for this uncalled for accusation, in effect, against many Italians.
  • Since his election, Pope Francis, under strong outside governmental pressures, has made some well publicized efforts to address corruption and poor management in the Vatican, including the naming of eight cardinals from around the world to advise him on the Curia overhaul. As is clear from Betty Clermont’s recent remarks and the discussion below, Francis’ approach has failed so far and often his actions vary substantially from his words.  Please see Betty Clermont’s exceptional, interesting and disturbing new report at:
  • http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/12/20/1352183/-Duped-by-the-Media-on-Pope-Francis-Progressives-Wonder-How-Republicans-Get-Elected#
  • Pope Francis strategy is failing so far from many indications. He is also running out of time. However well intentioned he may be (how can we ever really know), it is clear, in my view as an experienced 70 year old international lawyer, that he was imprudent to take on this challenge at 76 years of age. Given this, it seems a bit hypocritical for Francis to criticize others for thinking they are “immortal”, no?
  • Nevertheless, Pope Francis must act boldly now on fundamentally changing the Vatican’s top down monarchical structure if he really wants to save the Vatican Titanic from completely sinking. If Francis’ high priced management consultants are not telling him that, he should consider firing them and refusing to pay their full fees! Rearranging the Cardinals’ deckchairs on the Vatican Titanic has evidently failed, with Francis’ changing of some top Cardinal players that often seemed to resemble too much like the flawed men they were replacing.
  • Pope Francis still is getting strong criticism for his foot dragging on the priest child abuse scandal clean-up. An abuse survivor recently (12/22/14) posted a column at Crux stating: “… In the weeks since Pope Francis convened a Synod of Bishops from around the world to discuss issues important to family life, there has been a lot of talk about whether the Church should be more welcoming to gays, allow divorced/civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, or make annulments easier to obtain. In the coming year, bishops are supposed to talk to their congregants and each other about the Church’s stance on these and other issues, all related to keeping families strong and together. Yet the most destructive thing to happen to Catholic families in the history of the RCC is being completely ignored: clergy sexual abuse of children. The Church’s treatment of children is a record of carnage.”
  • The abuse survivor added at Crux: “… Before the Church tries to tell families how they should live in the context of the recent synod and the final one next fall, it must acknowledge its part in destroying families. And there’s another thing that Pope Francis should do: declare that helping clergy abuse victims and their families as well as disengaged Catholics to heal will be on the agenda for the next synod on the family, and bishops must add that to the list of issues to be discussed in the coming year. Only then will the synod truly be addressing the needs of all Catholic families. … “.  Please see at:
  • http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/12/22/abuse-survivor-to-bishops-youre-ignoring-the-greatest-threat-to-the-family/   and 
  • http://christiancatholicism.com/pope-cools-down-abuse-team-no-tom-doyle-as-major-powers-and-us-nuns-issues-heat-up/
  • And in the UK, Peter Saunders, the second abuse survivor on Pope Francis’ new go-slow Vatican anti-abuse commission, is pressing hard apparently for a new UK child sex abuse commission with expanded powers. Dozens of UK child abuse survivors have urged the UK national government to scrap an inquiry into historical abuse and replace it with a more powerful body. Peter Saunders, from National Association for People Abused in Childhood, reportedly said the move would be supported by the majority of survivors.
  • The Financial Times reported today (12/22/14) as follows: “Theresa May {UK home secretary} will next month make a third attempt to propose a suitable person to run an inquiry into the alleged sexual abuse of children by politicians, six months after announcing the probe. The home secretary is likely to choose a judge that would preside over hearings, … This means witnesses could be required to testify …. Ms. May is also poised to scrap a panel that was appointed to look into the sex abuse allegations and replace it with a new system to reflect the new statutory powers that the inquiry will be given.”. This is unlikely to be good news for Pope Francis and his new anti-abuse chief of staff, Fr, Robert Oliver, who initially had served as shamed Boston Cardinal Law’s canon lawyer.
  • Internationally, Pope Francis is hardly doing much better. For example, his recent snub of Tibet’s well respected Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama , apparently mainly to please China, is troubling to many and was evidently also mismanaged, it appears. Please see:
  • http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/dec/15/pope-francis-china-dalai-lama/
  • http://www.sentinelassam.com/op_ed/story.php?sec=33&subsec=0&id=212783&dtP=2014-12-22&ppr=1
  • Pope Francis must now move promptly to setting up an accountable leadership structure. A consensual structure existed in the early Catholic Church before its Fourth Century near takeover by powerful Roman Emperor Constantine and his imperial successors. Francis can initiate the needed changes to restore a consensual management structure, if he wants to and at least begins to do so now.
  • If Pope Francis’ merely  continues with his currently proposed changes alone, he cannot and will not salvage in any event the almost 150 year old top-down papal domination of the Church. Pope Francis must choose — the Vatican must either share power effectively with the Catholic 99.9 %, the so-called People of God, or the Catholic 0.01% leadership will soon lose its power to outside liberal democratic governmental intervention in the person of investigators and prosecutors as openers.
  • This is not 1870 or even 1960. In 1870, Pope Pius IX shrewdly maximized papal control by getting himself, in effect,  declared “infallible” and “semi-divine”. The Vatican lost its Papal States Kingdom in 1870 and all of its earlier outside monarchical masters and allies by 1918, with the end of the First World War. The Vatican then by 1945 lost its strong backing from defeated totalitarian dictators, Hitler and Mussolini.
  • By 1960, Pope John XXIII realized this “Wizard of Oz-like approach” would no longer play in the post-Second World War democratized world and he sought to make key changes. The Vatican bureaucracy stymied some of John’s key power sharing changes for a half century. This bureaucracy has been neutralized recently by unending Vatican scandals. Now, the Vatican will either democratize itself directly and voluntarily or it will most likely be democratized indirectly and involuntarily, sooner rather than later. Yes, the Vatican must either democratize now or face a slow institutional death at the hands of investigators and prosecutors. It is either/or!
  • Many knowledgeable Catholic scholars have addressed the challenges, and sufficient responses to them, to restoring the Catholic Church to a consensual and democratic structure. If a consensual structure is not implemented soon, the mess will just continue until outside governmental forces compel the Vatican to make changes, hardly the better approach, no? For some of these scholars’ advice, please see, for example, the following:
  • Can We Save the Catholic Church? by Hans Kung /Link: http://amzn.com/0007522029  
    Democracy in the Christian Church: An Historical, Theological and Political Case
    by Luca Badini Confalonieri /Link: http://amzn.com/0567449521

    Electing Our Bishops: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders by Joseph O’Callaghan
    Link:  http://amzn.com/0742558207
    Making the Church Our Own: How We Can Reform the Catholic Church from the Ground Up by Leonard Swidler
  • The current Catholic Church crisis, and the several challenges the crisis has provoked, have been occasioned by almost unending scandals. Catholics no longer trust their leaders and it is getting worse, not better.
  • Astute Catholic Church critic, Gary Wills, when asked in a recently reported interview whether he believes Pope Francis will push for real change on key issues facing the Church, responded with his typical directness, “Yes, because he has to. They are overdue and are already occurring throughout the church. ” Ever self confident, Wills added that he believes “the changes, in order of likelihood, are easing off from the condemnations of contraception, divorce, and homosexuality … ” {My emphasis}
  • Gary Wills may be right, but as discussed below, these changes alone cannot and will not be enough. For example, Pope Francis purportedly is trying to “prosecute” secretly his former colleague, disgraced Archbishop Weslowski, while the UK’s Prime Minister Cameron cannot find an investigator who is independent enough to investigate alleged child sex abuse by prominent British insiders. Is the UK Prime Minister, who regularly publicly faces the House of Commons on his actions, less trustworthy than Pope Francis, who faces occasional staged interviews? Why the double standard? Why should Francis investigate his own subordinates?
  • And his new financial czar, Cardinal Pell, recently reported astonishingly that he “found” hundreds of millions of Euros not previously reported on the Vatican’s books.  Will the “miracles and nonsense” ever end? Writing reportedly in the Catholic Herald, Pell, who is now the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy – an entirely new post – says he was recently asked by a member of a British parliamentary delegation: “Why did the authorities allow the situation to lurch along, disregarding modern accounting standards, for so many decades?”
  • Pell’s reported response repays close examination. My emphases in bold. “I began by remarking that this question was one of the first that would come to our minds as English-speakers (lumped together by the rest of the world as ‘Anglos’) but one that might be lower on the list for people in the another culture, such as theItalians “. Pell reportedly added: “Those in the Curia were following long-established patterns. Just as kings had allowed their regional rulers, princes or governors an almost free hand, provided they balanced the books, so too did the popes with the curial cardinals (as they still do with diocesan bishops)”.
  • Thank you, Cardinal Pell for confirming that the Vatican continues to be operated as an absolute monarchy. Who in the royal entourage is responsible for these scandalous irregularities? We can just wait until the prosecutors make the pending  investigation results public or until the Vatican’s independent internationally recognized auditors complete their first audit, if they ever do, I suppose. This is almost 2015 not 1870.
  • Of course, Cardinal Pell, who left Australia as a diocesan bishop, after considerable heat from the ongoing Royal Commission investigation over his seeming waste of a lot of money on, among other things, lawyers to “break” John Ellis, a priest abuse survivor, is hardly, it appears, in a position to cast stones at the “Italians“, no?. Please see:
  • http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/12/cardinal-pell-financial-mess-i-found-in-the-vatican-made-it-seem-easy-pickings-for-thieves/      and
  • http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-26/lawyers-instructed-to-defend-church-to-send-a-message/5346110
  • These scandals involve priest child abuse, bishop misconduct and financial corruption and have no end in sight, it appears. The yet uncontrolled scandals have caused the ongoing crisis, while the insatiable 24/7 media cycle and the Internet are accelerating it non-stop.
  • The scandal fallout is even leading many Catholics to question the previously accepted assumption that “The Holy Father knows best.” Basic questions now arise about infallible papal authority, judgment and integrity, as well as the Vatican’s hierarchical structure and unquestioned control of biblical and moral theology, especially regarding sexual and gender matters.
  • Garry Wills, a one time Jesuit seminarian and a Pulitzer Prize-winner professor of history  and bestselling author (Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit; Why Priests?), has shown for decades some honest insights into the needs and prospects for reforms in the Catholic Church. John Allen reportedly considers Wills to be “perhaps the most distinguished Catholic intellectual in America over the last 50 years” (as of 2008). Perhaps, yes.
  • This recently reported interview related to Wills’ new book due in a few months, entitled “The Future of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis”. Wills indicated in this interview that, while the Church is seemingly immovable, it has in fact remained vital exactly because it has changed over the centuries. As mentioned, asked whether he believes Pope Francis will push for real change on key issues, Wills says, “Yes, because he has to. They are overdue and are already occurring throughout the church.”
  • Asked about how Francis will do that without contradicting core Catholic values, Wills reportedly said , “If he follows the example of {Pope} John XXIII, he will not make changes by his own personal fiat, but will encourage bishops to move in new directions, as John did with the Second Vatican Council.” Wills added, as noted above, that he believes “the changes, in order of likelihood, are easing off from the condemnations of contraception, divorce, and homosexuality.” As with long-ago practices such as “interdicts, indulgences, and the ban on usury,” Wills reportedly predicted that “church authorities [will] rather let practices lapse than end them with formal decrees.”
  • I agree with Wills, at least as far as the changes he sees coming, I think, however, as an experienced international lawyer who once advised Wills’  “intellectual base”, “The New York Review of Books”, that Francis must do more or he will fail. Specifically, Francis must end the top down coercive Church management structure and return to a bottom up consensual structure, in effect, like the structure that flourished for centuries before the Emperor Constantine and his successors commandeered the Church for imperial purposes.
  • On the other hand, both Wills and I may be overly optimistic about Pope Francis, given his continuing mishandling of issues relating protecting children from priest predators, to holding bishops accountable,  to treating women equally and treating gay folks with respect. Please see:
  • http://christiancatholicism.com/the-crisis-pope-francis-faces/
  • http://christiancatholicism.com/pope-cools-down-abuse-team-no-tom-doyle-as-major-powers-and-us-nuns-issues-heat-up/
  • http://ncronline.org/blogs/just-catholic/block-metaphor   and
  • http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/pope-s-rhetoric-women-regretfully-consistent
  • A prominent conservative Catholic priest suggested that in Wills’ mind, when faced with a tension between liberal democracy and Roman Catholicism, Wills’ always believed liberal democracy should prevail. On this score, John Allen reported in 2008, that Wills is happy to concede: “I like liberal democracy, there’’s no doubt about that,” he reportedly said, arguing that so does Catholic tradition. In the councils of the early church, Wills insisted, matters were settled on a “one man, one vote” basis.
  • I will await Wills’ book to see if he presses Pope Francis to act concretely now to democratize the Catholic Church. Again, if Francis, who is in his 79th year, is unwilling or unable to move boldly in this direction very soon, he will fail, I expect. Tinkering with the Vatican bureaucracy, secretive trials for alleged episcopal child abusers and meandering discussions at all celibate male Synods are too little too late.
  • The overarching Vatican “framework” at present, based on current Vatican assumptions, appears to be mainly that (A) Jesus endorsed popes as supreme papal monarchs, (B) who are accountable only to God, (C) who uniquely interpret infallibly matters of “faith and morals”, including New Testament moral themes, and (D) who appoint as unaccountable bishops superior men, exclusively, (E) to implement and enforce unchangeable dogmas and practices mandated by popes. The Vatican currently, in effect, requires a billion plus Catholics to operate within this framework as well. This framework does not stand up well to close scholarly scrutiny.
  • Pope Francis indicated as the new pope at the World Youth Congress in July 2013 that he wanted a “mess” to stimulate change, and now he has one he helped create. He cannot now avoid confronting and attempting to defuse the expanding crisis, since it has unleashed unstoppable international legal and political responses. Previously, modern popes could discuss some pressing issues, while also deferring other important issues, and then sit on or even avoid the implications of these discussions, even for a half century as with some of the key issues discussed in the 1960’s during the Second Vatican Council period, such as married priests, power sharing among bishops and contraception.
  • No more! With the pressure from the current crisis increasing, the Vatican can no longer just table these issues, and must address them now, along with additional significant issues, like (A) holding bishops accountable to the 99.9% faithful majority, (B) ordaining women priests, (C) celebrating gay marriages, (D) welcoming divorced and remarried Catholics at Mass, and (E) protecting children.
  • These scandals in today’s wide open media world have created unprecedented reputational, political, financial and competitive risks and also generated related challenges for the Vatican. One pope has already resigned under pressure, the first to do so in almost 600 years. Many tough questions, rarely asked earlier, are now proliferating rapidly and are being raised constantly and publicly. The days of popes on pedestals are over permanently, notwithstanding the rapid acceleration of Pope Francis’ new pope saint making spree as part of his crisis response.
  • Will Pope Francis be next to resign under similar pressure? Who will succeed him? How many Vatican officials are now being investigated by outside government prosecutors? Could the Vatican financially go broke, as over a dozen US dioceses and religious orders already have, under the weight of rising scandal related legal costs and declining donations and subsidies? Will even more Catholics now leave the Church seeking greener pastures and truer shepherds?
  • Until recently, the Vatican’s decades’ old strategy aimed simultaneously and defensively at protection and preservation. Protecting, as the Vatican’s highest priority, its top leaders from governmental legal accountability, has meant employing media management tactics with help, it appears from billionaire media masters and seeking opportunistic arrangements with powerful political leaders and wealthy financial barons.
  • Preserving Vatican wealth and membership statistics, both to maximize its eroding income worldwide and to reverse declining Catholic birth and retention rates in key countries, has meant continuing to pursue a “pro billionaire” fundraising approach and a “pro-pregnancy” population policy. This population policy had been earlier declared in Pope Pius XI’s 1930 anti-birth control papal encyclical occasioned by both the rising threat of atheistic Soviet communism against a declining Western European birthrate and the military ambitions of Pius XI’s key protector, Mussolini. Today, the Vatican’s pro-baby policy appears directed at the Vatican’s near obsession with the threat of radical Islam and Muslims’ high birth rate.
  • The Vatican’s defensive instruments of power currently include (A) endlessly quoting in Vatican public relations releases from Jesus’ appealing message of brotherly love, while avoiding the message too often in actual Vatican actions,  (B) constantly fronting a smiling  “semi-divine infallible pope”, preferably hugging babies, (C) shrewdly managing a self interested, obedient and self perpetuating hierarchy, (D) carefully applying its significant worldwide wealth advantage,  and (E) tightly controlling its considerable political influence in key countries, like the USA and Germany.
  • Pope Francis faces many daunting challenges, including the following.
  •  A leadership challenge — diminishing papal authority and declining adherents, as millions of older Catholics are leaving the Church, many due the Vatican’s rigid sexual policies and its mismanagement of the scandals, while many younger Catholics are similarly disaffected and are increasingly marrying in non-Church ceremonies, are having and baptizing fewer Catholic babies, and are even avoiding or deferring the early introduction of their children to the Church’s formative indoctrination process associated with First Communion/First Confession.
  • A political challenge — to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to the Vatican’s opportunistic arrangements with plutocratic political promoters.
  •  A financial challenge — declining personal donations and governmental subsidies while facing unending legal expenses and litigation penalties — fewer Catholics are donating, while billions in scandal related expenses are still being incurred, as more dioceses go broke and bankrupt and more Churches and schools are closed and sold off.
  •  A competitive challenge — increasing competition from other faiths and from secularism, ranging from Christian pentecostals, to Islamic converts, to the growing category of “nones”, unaffiliated with any faith group.
  • Many of the world’s billion Catholics worry increasingly about the future of their scandal infected Church. While many millions still support the Catholic Church devoutly, millions of others, including women, children, poor couples, divorced and remarried, gay folks and even non-Catholics, suffer under Vatican policies that often seem unchristian and unnecessary.
  • Pope Francis must currently confront this crisis and these challenges. He needs a comprehensive strategy to do so. His individual actions cannot really be assessed adequately or intelligently, except in the context of his overall strategy.
  • Pope Francis has given many Catholics new hope for a Church cure, for positive changes and for overdue reforms. Recent developments make clear that major changes for the papal monarchy are underway and that more are coming. When and how the newest changes may come surely raise complicated questions that demand responses, even if “final answers” are yet unavailable.
  • Some Catholic Church changes may come voluntarily and others involuntarily, but come soon they will to the current papal monarchy, as they long ago came to other European monarchies. Depending on the specific change, either voluntary consensus among many Catholics or involuntary coercion from outside governments (as has already occurred in the financial area), or both, are driving these changes relentlessly. As a Catholic, I hope the changes come voluntarily. As an international lawyer, I expect the major changes will come involuntarily in any event, if needed voluntary changes are not implemented soon.
  • Of course. the Church’s future options necessarily depend on, and are limited by, its present situation, as influenced by its unique history and traditions. Pope Francis cannot start afresh. He also faces considerable opposition from many sides. In some respects, Pope Francis’ situation today is like that of Pope Pius IX, who lost his large Papal States’ kingdom a century and a half ago to outside Italian governmental forces. Pius XI tried to recover some lost power by being “declared infallible” at the 1870 First Vatican Council. That move, however, may have created more problems for the Church than it solved.
  • Pope Francis appears similarly desperately to be trying, with recent papal saint making spectacles and his Synods of Bishops, to make changes to try to head off some of the likely changes he may anticipate being imposed on the Church by escalating outside government pressure. His fine tuning the rules recently on his power to remove bishops suggests he does not plan on endless debates with the likes of Cardinal Burke.
  • Moreover, Pope Francis must try to follow Jesus’ message closely if he wants to succeed. But traditions about Jesus, especially the all important “Good News” of the four Gospels, have been interpreted in different ways, prophetically, theologically and even politically, by earlier Catholic leaders and thinkers. These influential leaders and thinkers and their specific interpretations have generally dominated Church dogma and practice over much of its 2,000 year history, often in unpredictable ways at times with unanticipated consequences.
  • For much of this long period, popes benefited from considerable protection from powerful monarchs, and at times even tyrants. But this has generally no longer been the case since the end of Fascist hegemony in Germany and Italy by 1945. Since then, the Vatican has had to nimbly weave its web of political protection by trading Vatican support on an ad hoc opportunistic basis for national arrangements. These alliances ranged from close ties since the 1980’s with elected US Republican leaders to alliances with military dictators in Latin America and Africa.
  • Importantly, the Bible, including the Catholic New Testament, has a complex and complicated origin and multiple textual, linguistic, and cultural sources. It is now well known by scholars that the Bible is no straightforward guidebook on many modern problems. Early Church history also is poorly documented, quite diverse and easily manipulated by selective sourcing and quotations.
  • Indeed, millions of words have been written by modern biblical and church history scholars. Nevertheless, in recent years, there has frequently been greater rather than less uncertainty about some important aspects of Jesus’ reported words and deeds and about some of his “clear mandates”, than had sometimes been assumed as beyond question by earlier popes. “The Tradition is …”, is at times much more complicated than modern popes have sometimes suggested in their encyclicals and the Catechism.
  • Modern popes, including Francis, in their key dogmatic and moral pronouncements and proclaimed pastoral policies and practices, rely on many assumptions, occasionally unstated ones, sometimes selectively derived from preferred “in house” Catholic scholarship on scripture, history and theology. There are several assumptions in essential areas that are less certain than at times presented by self interested Vatican officials and their opportunistic apologists.
  • These assumptions are a major part of the foundation for the Vatican’s claims about the Church’s (A) origins and sources, including some key New Testament mandates, (B) structure, leadership and management, and (C) dogma and practice. On closer inspection, these assumptions are more doubtful than modern popes, including Pope Francis, have at times indicated and the propositions popes construct on these assumptions are often more uncertain than not.
  • By acknowledging these uncertainties now, some “unchangeable” dogmas and practices at variance with the lived experiences and informed consciences of hundreds of millions of Catholics can, and will be, changed voluntarily or involuntarily by the Vatican, to conform truthfully and honestly to Catholics’ current knowledge of, and daily experience, with reality. These truthful acknowledgements are often, as well, an essential prerequisite for the Vatican to survive the crisis and challenges it must face to survive.
  • The Vatican can no longer avoid addressing the current relentless questioning of some of its key assumptions, given the growth in the Catholic scholarship community beyond Vatican control, as well as the 24/7 media coverage and Internet revelations that at times undercut Vatican positions. And future papal pronouncements, without ample underlying independent scholarly support, are hardly going to influence many Catholics for long. The Vatican can no longer address modern day “Galileos” solely by placing them under house arrest.
  • Acknowledging honestly the uncertainty of the Vatican’s assumptions is fundamentally important, and also provides additional reasons to hope that positive changes in Church structure and doctrines are likely in the near term. If, as Jesus reportedly said, the truth makes us free, it is  mandatory that the Church’s options for change henceforth be pursued based honestly on truthful assumptions, and not opportunistically on “selective truths”, as at times still occurs and has also occurred in the past.
  • Pope Francis had as a young Jesuit provincial in Argentina direct experience with the outside government power of a military dictatorship. He understands well that the Vatican he inherited from the ex-Pope was and remains in several areas, especially priest child abuse, on a collision course with outside governments armed with a coercive rule of international law. Longtime Vatican players, that had been accustomed until recently to living in a Vatican bubble in an Italy run by a seemingly billionaire swinger, do not yet seem to understand, as Francis appears to, that the days of “The Holy Father says … ” are over. Francis appears to know that either the Vatican reforms itself now or it risks being forced soon to reform, with the chaos and divisions that forced reforms would likely entail.
  • These assumptions, in varying degrees, have shaped much of the Catholic Church’s present. They will also influence significantly its future, no matter what Pope Francis decides to do. Understanding better these often unstated assumptions creates hopeful opportunities for adopting long overdue positive reforms by eliminating non-essential and questionable “certainties” that at times have been impediments to needed changes.
  • The evidence is building that Francis window of opportunity to make essentially needed changes is closing. For example, TIME Magazine led last year’s “Francismania” outbreak by making Pope Francis “2013 Man of the Year”. Perhaps Francis had a little help from his top media adviser who had worked for TIME earlier. In any event, increasingly, many in the media are ending their “see no evil” honeymoon with Pope Francis, ranging from some at the Boston Globe, Reuters, CNN, Washington Post, the UK Tablet, the Christian Science Monitor, and perhaps even ZENIT!
  • The Boston Globe’s editorial board has, in effect, called on Pope Francis to fire his new Vatican “top cop”, American Jesuit, Fr. Robert Geisinger, only recently assigned by Francis to police predatory priests. The Globe also indicated some skepticism about the “zero tolerance” claims of Francis’ new priest child abuse “czar”, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and of Pope Francis.
  • A Reuters’ editor has noted the Catholic hierarchy has in the main dealt badly with the priest child abuse mess.
  • CNN has prominently featured a well respected UK human rights’ lawyer, who called for a massive UK child abuse investigation, like the one underway in Australia, and who observed that Pope Francis has yet to really begin seriously to investigate the abuse scandal.
  • An experienced advocate in a Huffington Post column has called for a special child abuse investigation commission that engages all 28 member states of the European Union, including the Vatican. Meanwhile, a call has also been made by an Australian survivors’ advocate for a similar USA commission to be set up by President Obama.
  • The Washington Post has in an “op ed” column by papal financial supporters described some parallels between the economic policies of the Koch brothers and Pope Francis.
  • The UK Tablet has reported on an address, by a world class economist and expert on helping the poor, that criticizes the economics approach of Pope Francis for lifting the poor out of poverty.
  • The Christian Science Monitor has reported on the failure of Pope Francis’ outreach to Turkey’s Muslim political leaders on the Middle East crises.
  • ZENIT has reported on the Vatican press officer’s ineffective attempt to negate a report by a well connected UK author indicating that, in the days leading to Francis’ election,  Cardinals Murphy O’Connor of the UK, Walter Kasper and Karl Lehmann of Germany and Godfried Daneels of Belgium – “ first secured  Bergoglio’s {Pope Francis} assent” before his eventual election. It also indicates their work on campaigning for his election.
  • The return of the Boston Globe, big time, to reporting and commenting on the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal is significant. The Globe’s earlier Pulitzer Prize winning reporting, of disgraced Boston Cardinal Law’s overseeing seemingly of a priest pedophile paradise, was the break in the secretive Catholic priest abuse dam. In its editorial (12/2/14), the Globe asked pointedly of Pope Francis: “Why put a priest who covered up sexual abuse in charge of policing it?” The Globe then added directly: “That’s exactly what Pope Francis did when he appointed the Rev. Robert J. Geisinger as the Vatican’s ‘promoter of justice.’ While the pope has met with abuse victims and pledged himself to zero tolerance, the appointment of Geisinger is a step backward. To signal his resolve on an issue that has deeply wounded so many, he should rescind the appointment.”
  • The Globe continued: “The job calls for Geisinger, an American Jesuit, to prosecute priests accused of sexually abusing minors. Yet, according to a report by the Globe’s Michael Rezendes, Geisinger was one of several Catholic officials who let the Rev. Donald J. McGuire remain in the ministry for years, despite detailed knowledge of egregious sexual abuse complaints about him…. “.
  • Finally, the Globe noted: “Geisinger was appointed “promoter of justice” in September, at the same time Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley was named president of an anti-abuse advisory commission. During a recent “60 Minutes” interview, O’Malley said the pope is now committed to a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to sexual abuse. If so, Geisinger is the wrong priest for the job. He should be replaced by someone who understands the meaning of “zero.”
  • Please see the below links for the various media reports referred to above:
  • http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2014/12/02/pope-vatican-watchdog-abuse-wrong-priest-for-job/s3dFDN4mjNggk85RkGZprM/story.html#
  • http://blogs.reuters.com/john-lloyd/2014/10/23/pope-francis-and-his-season-of-struggle/n
  • http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/11/19/star-power-bewitches-those-vulnerable-to-abuse-says-human-rights-lawyer/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/felicity-gerry/child-sex-abuse-inquiry_b_6245166.html?utm_hp_ref=uk
  • http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2014/11/aletha-blayses-essay-on-child-abuse-war.html
  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pope-francis-the-kochs-and-how-the-wealthy-can-help-the-poor/2014/11/28/958fbac2-770a-11e4-a755-e32227229e7b_story.html
  • http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/pope-and-koch-brothers
  • http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/koch-brothers-pope-francis
  • http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/1442/0/economist-questions-francis-ideas-on-helping-the-poor
  • http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2014/1130/Pope-Francis-fails-to-find-common-ground-in-Turkey-video
  • http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/vatican-press-director-denies-papal-election-details-in-new-book?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch
  • The media’s awakening from its “Francismania” slumber in not Pope Francis’ only challenge currently. The powerful waves, created especially by the Vatican’s widely publicized mistakes in dealing with the moral, if not criminal, failures of priests and bishops to protect children, are continuing to pound and put pressure on the Vatican to admit its errors in other areas as well. How could popes have been so wrong on protecting children? How can any pope’s judgment now be trusted, even in any other areas? Catholics and others are demanding answers to these crucial questions now. It is not enough for a pope to admit error, in effect, by quitting and hiding in a Vatican convent as the ex-Pope has done. Pope Francis must address the pressing questions openly and honestly now, while he still has some time left.
  • Instead, Francis’ top adviser, the Cardinal from Honduras, which has its own serious situation with suffering children, has recently indicated Pope Francis has other priorities. Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, the coordinator of the “C9,” the committee helping Francis restructure Vatican offices, said that the reform of Vatican finances had been the Pope’s first priority. Now that the process is seriously underway, attention is turning to the reform of the Vatican government. What about the kids, Cardinal? Please see:
  • http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/12/02/Pope-to-Shrink-Papal-Cabinet-Fewer-Cardinals-in-Rome
  • Francis is running out of time to make needed changes as he and his C9 temporize by rearranging the curial deck chairs on the sinking Vatican Titanic. Interestingly, only one pope, Pius XII, has expressly claimed to speak infallibly since a desperate Pope Pius IX seemingly invented “papal infallibility” less than 150 years ago. The last two popes tried slickly to apply a “creeping infallibility” to many issues, such as ordaining women priests and blessing homosexual relationships. Significantly, Pope Francis in recent remarks about Pius XII said: “I am not saying he did not make mistakes. He made a few. I get things wrong often too”. At last we have in Francis a pope who admits popes are fallible, at least on some matters. But what exactly will Francis actually do to correct these mistakes? So far, Pope Francis’ words far outstrip his deeds here, no?
  • Perhaps Pope Francis has been paying attention to the recent pointed and relevant remarks of world renowned Catholic moralist, Fr. Charles Curran. Ex-Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II had failed to intimidate or silence Curran over a quarter of a century ago. Curran recently, in an interview, “Papacy Should Admit Some of its Teachings Are Wrong”, in effect, called on Pope Francis to admit squarely that popes have been wrong. Please see:
  • http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/some-kind-gradualism-curran-says-papacy-should-admit-some-its-teachings-are
  • In this important interview, Curran  indicated: ” … I think it is necessary for the papacy to admit that some of its present teachings on sexuality are wrong. But that is going to be a very difficult task to do. When Paul VI came out with his encyclicalHumanae Vitae, condemning artificial contraception, he recognized there were some significant arguments in favor of accepting contraception, but he could not accept them because they went against the traditional authoritative teaching of the church.”
  • Curran added: “Without doubt, it will be very difficult for papal teaching to admit that its teaching in the past has been wrong. Catholics believe that the papal office is guided by the Holy Spirit. Could the Spirit ever allow the papal teaching to be wrong? On the other hand, history has shown that such teachings have been wrong. Perhaps the problem has been that the papacy has claimed too much certitude for its own teaching. …”
  • Curran also noted in pertinent part: “The problem with the Catholic approach is …. {o}ne can never see the power or faculty of sexuality apart from the human person and the human person apart from one’s relationship to other persons. Thus, for example, for the good of the person or the good of the marriage, one could and should at times interfere with the procreative purpose of the sexual faculty. In the same manner then, one could justify homosexual relations and unions on the basis of what is good for the human person and the human person’s relationships.”
  • Curran added: “It is interesting that in other areas, the papal teaching has accepted the criterion of the human person and given more importance to it. Thus, for example, Pope Leo XIII condemned all the modern freedoms, but the Second Vatican Council accepted religious freedom. The decree on religious liberty of Vatican II … says that contemporary human beings are becoming increasingly conscious of the dignity of the human person and demanding that human beings should exercise fully their own judgment and responsible freedom, not subject to the pressure of coercion, but inspired by a sense of duty…  Thus, this document accepts the criterion of the dignity of the human person. If one were to accept the moral criterion of the good of the person and the person’s relationships, one would come to a very different approach to sexuality than that found in papal documents at the present time.”
  • Pope Francis’ candid remarks about Pius XII’s mistakes were part of Pope Francis’ weak effort to rationalize, to an Israeli reporter in an interview, the Vatican’s continuing and unjustifiable failure to release fully Pius XII’s important records over a half century after his death. Please see: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/vatican-to-reveal-truth-about-hitler-s-pope-1-36207710
  • Pope Francis evasiveness about releasing Pius XII’s records is especially significant in light of a recent scholarly book, “The Pope and Mussolini” by David I. Kertzer, a Brown University scholar (see at:   http://amzn.com/0812993462 ). Kertzer makes clear, from other recently released earlier papal and other records, the shameful acceptance, if not support, of both Popes Pius XII and Pius XI of Mussolini’s disgraceful efforts to mimic some of Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies.
  • Kertzer also helps in this excellent book to explain the context for Pius XI’s shameful secrecy order in 1922 prohibiting disclosure of confessional child abuse by priests. Kertzer’s book also gives some helpful context for Pius XI’s disastrous 1930 ban on contraception, apparently issued mainly out of Pius XI’s seemingly obsessive fear of the rising population pressure on Western Europe from Stalin’s atheistic Soviet communism. Pius XI had personally witnessed a decade earlier in Poland how the Soviets were trying to destroy the Catholic Church there.. Pius XI and Pius XII appeared to conclude that they could do business with the likes of Mussolini and Hitler, but not Stalin, who seemed to hate priests, especially Catholic ones.
  • Of course, to his permanent discredit, Pope John XXIII in 1962 doubled down on Pius XI’s confessional secrecy order, likely to keep consideration of  the priest sex abuse scandal away from public discussion by the 2,500+ bishops soon to arrive to begin the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
  • Of course, Pope Francis will likely also be concerned, as his last two recent predecessors were, to preserve his claim to personal infallibility and to its associated symbolic power. Professor John F. Pollard, a leading Cambridge University authority on the modern papacy, has recently noted: “{I}nfallibility gave the Roman pontiffs an enormous moral and spiritual authority over the worldwide Church and created the basis for the practice of increasingly frequent papal pronouncements on a wide variety of subjects of significance to the laity”.
  • Yes, papal infallibility is about power, plain and simple.
  •  Please see Pollard’s extensive and important new history of a critical period for the modern papacy, to be released later this month, entitled, “The Papacy in the Age of Totalitarianism (1914-1958)” at:   http://amzn.com/0199208565
  • This papal authority over the laity and others is rapidly diminishing. Pope Francis likely realized this again after his recent failed effort to engage Turkey’s top leaders to buy into Francis’ approach to the Middle East crisis, see:
  • http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2014/1130/Pope-Francis-fails-to-find-common-ground-in-Turkey-video
  • The waves, as indicated, of public indignation against the Vatican’s mistakes and cover-ups of scandals are still rising and pounding even more. Pope Francis, a modern media master, has mostly garnered public adulation for almost two years. That may be changing, for example, with an important new Hollywood film, “Spotlight”, about the Boston Globe’s massive investigation of the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal. The Boston Globe’s award winning efforts to investigate clerical child abuse had led to the current critical juncture in the Catholic Church’s, and even in world religious, history.
  • The Globe began documenting extensive child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the related cover-up by Catholic bishops, especially Cardinal Bernard Law, in January 2002. Law and Pope Francis have an extended history, including serving together on a standing papal commission on the family after Law fled Boston.
  • Since 2002, this abuse story has sadly exploded, first in Boston, then nationally and now in many countries around the world. The escalating disclosures continue, and have shaken the very foundation of the Catholic Church, even leading last year to the first papal resignation in 600 years.
  • As Pope Francis struggles to contain this explosion through secretive Vatican proceedings, Francis is currently facing, as discussed below, an ongoing and thorough governmental investigation in Australia and will likely soon face a similar investigation in the UK. Now Hollywood will soon amplify and likely exacerbate Pope Francis’ child abuse scandal woes.
  • In September, a cast of Hollywood stars, including Film Critics’ Best Actor award winner Michael Keaton (who reportedly was raised in Pennsylvania as an Irish American Catholic), Liev Schreiber,Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Stanley Tucci, began shooting the movie titled “Spotlight,’’ about the Globe’s earlier Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of Boston Cardinal Law’s massive priest child abuse cover-up. Keaton, famous for his Batman role, had been raised in Pennsylvania, a state with a reportedly high incidence of priest child abuse of children. Will Batman tame the Catholic hierarchy?
  • The film is scheduled for release late next year. See here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/movies/2014/11/29/spotlightfilm-intro/d8Tp3MQ4Y0OQA3JZgABkeO/story.html
  • As the world will soon be celebrating Martin Luther’s 500th reformation anniversary, perhaps it may also see by then an Academy Award for Best Picture for “Spotlight”, and savor the modern reformation it will likely help foster. “All the President’s Men” got that award for its story about the Watergate cover-up scandal involving US President Nixon. The Vatican’s “cover-up plot” in Boston is more riveting and historically consequential, it seems, so who knows? 
  • “Spotlight’s” scheduled release timing seems just right. Pope Francis will be finished with his US tour and his Final Vatican Synod by the end of next year, as he then begins his 80th year in December. He will have to decide “infallibly” in 2016 if he is serious, or just delirious like recent popes, about effecting real reforms.
  • All this is a prelude to the 2016 US presidential elections, which likely will have major implications for the Vatican’s continuing efforts to “back burner” the abuse scandal. This will be especially so, given the international UN, and national Australian and UK, scandal investigative pressures, discussed below, that will likely heat up to the boiling point by the time the movie is released. A US national investigation will not likely be far behind. “Spotlight” will surely add to that pressure for a US national investigation.
  • Pope Francis goes back a long way with Cardinal Law, including having served together on a Vatican Commission on the Family after Law fled Boston. Law may know a lot about families, especially shattered ones. Hopefully, Pope Francis is not still getting advice from Law, but who knows? Francis’ present key Vatican canon lawyer on abuse matters, Fr. Robert Oliver, had reportedly been working for Law in Boston when the Globe was initially reporting on the scandal. Coincidence? Please!! Perhaps Fr. Oliver can play himself in Spotlight!
  • I personally still have some fond memories of the Boston Catholic Church (St. Paul’s in Cambridge) from 50 years ago when I attended Harvard Law School, where I had the good fortune to have worked as a law student for Archibald Cox, later the Watergate prosecutor. Of course, the Globe expose was almost four decades later, so who knew then what was really happening behind rectory doors?
  • The Vatican has run out of diversions to distract and places to hide, thanks considerably to the aftermath of Globe’s remarkable efforts, including its recent fine investigative report on Pope Francis’ new Vatican “top cop”, Jesuit Fr, Robert Geisinger. For Geisinger’s troubling prior record on seemingly facilitating a notorious Jesuit abuser , please see the discussion below. A dozen years later and the Vatican and its current Boston showpiece, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, seem still to be lip-synching “zero tolerance”, and not much more.
  • “Spotlight” appears likely to cause even more grief for the Vatican than the earlier documentaries on the Vatican’s internal sex and other scandals (PBS/Frontline) and the abuse of over 200 deaf boys by a Milwaukee priest (HBO). Please see:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/secrets-of-the-vatican/
  • http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/mea-maxima-culpa/video/mea-maxima-culpa-promo.html#/

Hollywood is not Pope Francis’ only current challenge on the child abuse scandal. On Tuesday (11/25), Pope Francis rebuked legislators in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as follows: “As the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful …” Ironically, his remarks reminded some of criticisms of the Vatican.

And Francis’ negative allusion in his address, to Europe as an old grandmother, did not go over well with some women who are keeping score on Pope Francis’ unsatisfactory approach so far to women. Please see:

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/508/what-is-francis-problem-with-grandmothers-

On the papal return flight from France, Francis responded as follows to a reporter’s question about a newly reported ongoing priest abuse scandal in Grenada, Spain:

“I received this news with great pain, very great pain, but the truth is the truth and we should not hide it.”

But, of course, unless Pope Francis is committed to an independent and transparent abuse investigation process, which he does not appear to be yet, he and his Vatican staff are, in effect, “hiding it”, at least in some respects, no?

Three days after the pope’s nice sounding “no hiding” remark, in a report issued in Geneva on Friday (11/28), the United Nations Committee Against Torture reportedly directed that the Australian national government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott should take on the Vatican over documents, requested by the Australian Royal Commission into institutional child abuse, that the Vatican has refused to produce.

The documents relate to, among other matters, the cases of several priests who allegedly abused over 100 Australian children. The UN Committee, acting under the so-called Torture Treaty that both the Vatican and Australia have agreed to follow, indicated that the Australian government should take “all appropriate measures” to get “all evidence” from the Vatican to ensure meaningful investigations can be carried out.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, who was called to Rome and promoted in February to be Pope Francis’ economic czar,  had earlier told the Royal Commission that such a document production request was unreasonable because some documents are private and internal to a sovereign state – the Vatican. The Vatican’s local ambassador to Australia, UK Archbishop Paul Gallagher, had then refused to produce these documents when requested to do so by the Royal Commission. Gallagher was called to Rome also and was promoted earlier this month to be the Vatican’s new foreign minister.

Pell and Gallagher, seemingly, may both now claim sovereign immunity status now as senior Vatican officials if Australia presses them..  Coincidental promotions? Perhaps. Surely, an odd way to fill the Catholic Church’s top financial and foreign affairs positions, no? Apparently, neither Pell nor Gallagher have heard about Pope Francis’ “no hiding” approach?

The international legal pressure on the Vatican over the priest child abuse scandal seems to be escalating rapidly. Last week (11/19), Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the world renowned no-nonsense Australian/UK international human rights lawyer, in a Christiane Amanpour CNN interview, boldly called for a massive UK national investigation, in effect,  of all sexual abusers, in both church and state institutions, like the extraordinary Royal Commission one currently underway in Australia. This call by a prominent international lawyer on a prime international cable network for a UK national investigation is a major event. His call, in principle, applies to the USA as well. Perhaps, more US lawyers also will now call on President Obama to act as well.

Both the UK and the USA have agreed to the Torture Treaty, as well.

Earlier in November, a delegation from the national government under Prime Minister Abbott  had indicated to the UN Committee that the Royal Commission was legally independent and it was up to it to pursue the Vatican. Abbott is an ex-Catholic seminarian, who is reportedly personally close to Pell and to Australian media magnate and seemingly strong Vatican ally, Rupert Murdoch.

However, the UN Committee reportedly has now responded that Australia “has the responsibility to ensure that all reports of breaches of the convention (the Torture Treaty} are promptly and impartially investigated”.

The UN Committee also indicated that it “remains concerned as to whether the outcome of its (the Royal Commission’s) work will result in criminal investigations, prosecutions and redress and compensation for victims”. It also urged Australia to ensure that the work of the Royal Ccommission supplemented criminal prosecutions and court proceedings and “is not a substitute for them”. . Please see:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/united-nations-says-the-abbott-government-should-push-vatican-on-child-sex-abuse/story-e6freuy9-1227138998923?nk=48aeda47aeddf866e4263f459d5e34e7

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828462/British-archbishop-claimed-diplomatic-immunity-avoid-handing-documents-paedophile-investigators-promoted-highest-role-Vatican-Pope.html

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic has stepped up his efforts in the abuse case of Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Wesolowski. And the call for a broader and stronger UK investigation keep growing. Please see:

http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2014/11/28/53474/Top-prosecutor-off-to-Europe-in-Catholic-prelates-pedophilia-cases

http://theconversation.com/abuse-survivors-are-showing-theresa-mays-inquiry-the-way-34222

Meanwhile, many Catholics worldwide have now tempered with caution their earlier almost blind hope for Pope Francis. After 20 months with this cryptic pope, many Catholics are becoming less optimistic. They are beginning to doubt that Pope Francis will make a real difference, either in updating the Catholic Church’s teaching in light of new scholarship and data or in cleaning up the “holy mess”, especially the child abuse scandal.

Many Catholics realize Pope Francis’ papacy faces a unique challenge in the Vatican’s desperate struggle to survive as the last absolute monarchy in Europe no longer protected by other powerful rulers. Pope Francis faces both an unprecedented crisis and an unexpected opportunity as he tries to change a top down and unaccountable Church structure against resistance from its entrenched and self interested management. These managers’ power appears to be tied to their historically indefensible claim of being part of an  an “unchanging and unchangeable” institution. So almost any change presents some risks of undercutting these managers’ power. Ironically, as discussed below, they will likely lose even more power if they fail to change by sharing their power, sooner not later!

This crisis (A) erodes Catholics’ trust in light of the widely reported and longstanding gap between the Vatican’s words and deeds, (B) invites outside governmental intervention at a time when the Vatican lacks powerful international protectors like it had for centuries, and (C) underscores the urgent need for key changes in the Church’s unworkable top down structure and misinformed moral teachings. The crisis has also contributed, as indicated below, to one pope’s unanticipated resignation and to the replacement pope’s unpredictable revolution.

Significantly, the Catholic majority appears intuitively to understand that these risks generated by the present crisis, especially from rapidly escalating governmental pressures on the Vatican, have paradoxically also generated an unprecedented opportunity to restore the Church to an earlier condition — to a Church that Jesus’ first disciples would have recognized as completely consistent with Jesus’ Gospel message of love of God and of neighbors, even of enemies. This is an opportunity for a welcoming Church again that satisfies the needs of both conservative and progressive Catholics.

Before his 80th birthday in barely two years, Pope Francis can successfully seize the opportunity, follow his conscience and apply his unique status, forceful temperament and popular appeal. Most importantly, he can declare “infallibly” key changes. By then, he will have received new input from his two advisory Synods of Bishops. He has already been enlightened by his valuable almost two years of  experience as pope. He now also is unhampered by his prior pastoral positions and unfettered by his earlier ideological constraints as an obedient cardinal, bishop and Jesuit.

If Pope Francis fails to act effectively soon, the consequences will likely be quite negative for the leadership of the Catholic Church. Some senior Church officials are increasingly facing risks of governmental, even criminal, investigations that the Vatican currently lacks the political power to  prevent.

Pope Francis can accomplish much if he wants to and finds the wisdom and courage to do so. Equally important, it seems unlikely any of his successors will get a more propitious opportunity in the foreseeable future to adopt long overdue changes. It may be now or never for Pope Francis and the Vatican.

At a minimum, Pope Francis could change Canon Law almost instantly if he chooses to do so. For a recent “inside” view on the current “mess” on holding bishop accountable under the current Canon Law Code by a former Minneapolis’ Archdiocesean Chancellor, whistle blower Jennifer Haselberger, please see her insightful “Judging and Firing Bishops” at :

http://canonicalconsultation.com/blog.html

Any needed changes that Pope Francis leaves uncompleted, whether by choice or circumstances, Catholics can then push to complete soon thereafter, with or without Vatican support. Catholics can really be expected to do so, given the current Catholic majority’s momentum for change and mounting democratic governmental pressures. The Catholic majority can expect help in effecting these changes from powerful forces, outside the Church structure, that are now pressing harder for key Vatican changes, like greater accountability and transparency.

The Catholic Church is in the throes of its worst crisis since the Reformation. Vatican leaders in the 16th Century, aided by powerful outside military protectors, had mainly evaded making overdue structural changes, and their successors also managed with outside protection to avoid such changes mostly during the four centuries since.

Nevertheless, changes to the Catholic Church’s misinformed moral teachings and unworkable top down structure are badly needed now. Importantly, the Vatican no longer has any dominant outside national protectors like emperors or dictators willing to help it avoid the changes.

The changes cannot be deferred much longer if the Vatican wants to avoid both (1) further Catholic Church membership decline, accompanied by splintering into competing factions, and (2) constant interference  and unrelenting pressure from outside governments, like Australia’s Royal Commission.

Pope Francis’ confident and bold approach, and the Vatican’s evident need to avoid further negative repercussions from the current crisis, are both generating some hope now, as well as creating what appears to be the best opportunity since the Reformation for the worldwide Catholic majority to press the Vatican successfully for key overdue changes.

There are now hopeful indications (A) that the Catholic Church may restore some of its management structure to its earliest consensual, bottom up and distributed form, from its current coercive, top down and hierarchical form, and (B) that some questionable traditional Church teachings may change to fit mercifully the actual lived experience of sincere Catholics and to conform honestly to current biblical, historical and scientific scholarship, all with or without the Vatican’s affirmative assistance.

The scandals underlying the crisis have deeply discouraged millions of concerned Catholics, yet many of them now also see a new ray of hope. This hope springs less from Pope Francis’ skillful public relations efforts than from the likelihood that the present crisis will necessarily help accelerate Church changes. Moreover, some of these changes are ones that the usually silent Catholic majority can and likely will play a key role in bringing about. This would be a refreshing change in itself for the Catholic majority, a change from only being able to react passively to misguided and even misinformed top down Vatican decisions dictated by a celibate, aging, conflicted and self perpetuating all male leadership.

It appears likely now that the Pope Francis will soon make, or be induced by outside pressures to make, major structural, teaching and other changes — changes that the Vatican had been able to resist making for centuries under earlier better positioned popes. Powerful governmental, legal and media forces are now pressing from the outside for changes, whether the presently permanently weakened Vatican wants changes or not.

While Pope Francis mostly can only play the bad cards that ex-Pope Benedict dealt him, he can use both his powerful papal authority over bishops and the Catholic majority and this mounting outside governmental pressure, enhanced by the power of his personal popularity and his strong will, to help convince his entrenched Vatican opposition that voluntary Church changes are more in their interest than the otherwise inevitable involuntary changes could be expected to be.

Paradoxically, these anticipated changes can also help restore the Catholic Church to one that is much closer, in essential structure and compassionate spirit, than the current Church is to the Church that Jesus’ earliest disciples, including prominently some women, left behind for over three centuries.

The tempering of enthusiasm currently about Pope Francis stems from his lack of concrete progress on key scandals, especially the scandal of priests who abuse children and bishops who with impunity protect these predatory priests. This decline of enthusiasm will only increase as long as Pope Francis fails to address this scandal effectively and transparently, while more in the media shed their Francis’ blinders.

In assessing Francis’ disappointing record on addressing the child abuse scandal, parents should consider carefully the following horrible hypothetical scenario. Your find out that your child has been raped by a government employee in the course of his work activities. You call the employee’s boss, say, UK Prime Minister Cameron or USA President Obama and tell him this. He tells you he is unhappy to hear that and for you to report it to his senior staff. He does NOT tell you to report this alleged crime to, or to cooperate with, appropriate law enforcement who are trained to deal with such allegations, independently and transparently.

In modern constitutional democracies worldwide, for over a century now, even top leaders generally are subject to the independent rule of law. So this scenario, that lacked even the semblance of an independent investigation and effective accountability, is very unlikely to occur. Indeed, right now the UK’s Cameron faces a crisis over finding an independent and transparent investigator of government employees’ alleged sex abuse of children. And even President Obama is facing threats of public impeachment proceedings over some of his executive actions. The few accountability exceptions among world leaders today include popes. It seems that popes purport to be above any oversight, even though their powerful European imperial protectors, with their earlier limited oversight of popes, have been gone for a century now.

A similar scenario, to the above hypothetical one, recently happened according to Pope Francis. He indicated with his Jesuit press agent, Fr. Lombardi, to a group of reporters on the papal plane on Tuesday (11/25) that Francis told an abuse survivor he had called in Grenada, Spain to tell his bishop about the alleged crimes against the survivor. Three alleged Grenada priest perpetrators had been arrested the day before by Spanish police, so a Spanish reporter asked him about this in the plane press conference. Apparently, Francis omitted telling the abuse victim to contact, and to cooperate with, Spanish police. Interestingly, Lombardi had less than 48 hours earlier tried to spin past other reporters’ troubling related questions about the Vatican’s new “top cop”, Jesuit Fr. Robert Geisinger, who would likely review these allegations.

Of course, the local Spanish bishop under the Vatican’s current procedures is, in effect, subject to two Francis’ staffers, Fr. Geisinger, and Fr. Robert Oliver. Fr. Oliver had earlier been infamous Boston Cardinal Law’s canon lawyer. These two Americans reportedly have questionable records on diligently assisting past, and protecting potential, priest abuse survivors, especially when the interests of protecting accused priest predators are also involved.

Pope Francis and Lombardi obviously cannot hide from what the media is already reporting, but the real test is whether these new Grenada allegations will be pursued by independent prosecutors who transparently follow effective modern criminal procedures. Too often popes have failed to follow this essential approach and Francis’ recent key Vatican appointments suggest little has really changed.

Please see:

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2014/11/26/pope-francis-says-orders-investigation-into-clergy-sexual-abuse-in-spain/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2846700/Theresa-warns-worse-come-Westminster-child-abuse-claims.htm

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/11/22/vatican-new-top-prosecutor-abusive-priests-implicated-past-failure-stop-notorious-abuser-donald-mcguire/gPaBPJUdvuTy5PSTl1j5sM/story.html

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/sex-abuse-different-pope-same-strategy/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/11/24/the-vaticans-new-sex-abuse-prosecutor-previously-failed-to-report-abusive-u-s-priest/

And now former US President Carter, long a human rights’ advocate, has called on Catholics to push for real Church changes, while renowned UK international human rights’ lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has on CNN boldly called for the UK to set up a comprehensive national sex abuse investigation commission like Australia has already done. Will the UK do so? Very likely, in my view. Will the USA follow? Time will soon tell, but likely in my view.

These modern constitutional oversight provisions developed in response to centuries of lawless behavior from unaccountable absolute monarchs, which sometimes included popes. So far, however, popes have successfully evaded constitutional oversight. It is unlikely that popes will be able to evade these constitutional controls much longer. The Vatican’s financial misdeeds are now already being subjected to the compulsory rules of international law and its pervasively reported facilitation of priest child abusers will likely soon be as well.

And why should popes continue to be exempt from the rule of law? Surely any honest review of reliably reported earlier and recent papal misdeeds makes clear that popes can be as prone to evil as some of the worst of other world leaders, no?

Pope Francis said on Tuesday he had personally ordered an investigation into a case of sexual abuse of a minor by priests in Spain because he felt the church should not hide the truth. Significantly, a recent new report indicates Pope Francis may have been contacted by the alleged abuse survivor a half year ago. For Francis to address publicly this serious new scandal six months later in response to a reporter’s direct question is hardly prompt disclosure of the truth, no?

Three Spanish Catholic priests and a lay person were arrested in Granada on Monday. The case emerged after a man wrote to the pope, reportedly a half year ago, telling him of how he had been molested when he was an altar boy.

“I read it. I called the person and I told him ‘go to the bishop tomorrow’ and then I wrote to the bishop and told him to start an investigation,” Francis said in response to a question by a Spanish reporter on his plane from Strasbourg, France, where he had addressed the European Parliament.

“I received this news with great pain, very great pain, but the truth is the truth and we should not hide it.” But unless the pope is committed to an independent and transparent investigation process, which he does not appear to be yet, he and his staff are, in effect, hiding it in some respects, no?

Pope Francis has promised a policy of zero tolerance for sexual abuse of minors by clerics, after church scandals in many countries over many years, but many say he has not done enough. His latest reported actions on the Grenada scandal are especially troubling, as Francis publicly reports under questioning that his approach was evidently to keep the alleged abuse claims under his bishop’s wraps. Francis missed a big opportunity, it seems, to have told the alleged abuse survivor to contact police authorities. If Francis did tell him that, it seems odd this has not been disclosed by Francis.

Francis’ approach here seems to be quite similar to what many other bishops, including Bishop Robert Finn have for so long been denounced for doing, with no effective response from the Vatican so far. And now this.

Interestingly, with respect to Finn, the prominent US Jesuit journalist, Tom Reese, has recently reported: ” Bishops who lose the support of their brother bishops … are in trouble. One observer noticed that during the breaks at this month’s USCCB {US Bishops’ semi-annual} meeting in Baltimore, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., was standing alone while other bishops were in clusters talking. Finn was convicted of not reporting to the police a priest who had child pornography on his computer. “

Of course, Pope Francis is planning to visit the US in a matter of months and needs to deal with Finn before then. That now seems to signal to US bishops that their boss, Francis, is closing in on Finn, so it is now permissible to shun Finn. What hypocrisy!

It does not appear, however, that Finn’s actual cover-up differed much from cover-up misdeeds that have been reported about many bishops worldwide, including in Argentina, or even differs much from Pope Francis’ current seemingly secretive approach to alleged priest abusers. The difference, of course,  is the specific and uncommon local reporting law applicable to Finn, which hardly morally excuses other clerics who are not subject to that local law.

And predictably, the reporters on the papal plane failed to follow up on the pope’s response about the Grenada scandal, it appears, with the obvious questions here that they should have asked Pope Francis. These questions likely would have been asked of other national leaders in similar circumstances. Why the different media standard for popes? Vatican reporters seemingly are more interested in preserving their seats on the pope’s plane on future trips by pulling their punches, no?

As far as we know, Jesus said clearly he wanted children to be protected and, in major matters, Jesus obeyed Roman laws. It is thus both pro-Jesus and pro-children for Pope Francis and his subordinates to be held accountable under legitimate and reasonable laws intended to protect children, no? It is neither anti-Catholic nor anti-papist to demand that. Hopefully, more reporters will understand that over time and begin to apply to Pope Francis the same reporting standards as are applied to other leaders .

Meanwhile, the controversy over Pope Francis’ anti-child abuse team remains on-going. “It’s astonishing …”, was the reaction of well respected Philip F. Lawler,  a top conservative Catholic journalist, formerly the Director of Studies at the US right wing Heritage Foundation, to Pope Francis’ recent appointment of Chicago Jesuit, Robert Geisinger, as the Vatican’s new “top cop” on child abuse crimes.

The Boston Globe, which over a decade ago won a Pulitzer Prize for thoroughly exposing Cardinal Law’s seeming oversight of a priest pedophile paradise in Boston, has now reported (11/23):  “It’s astonishing that, for such a high-profile, sensitive position, the Vatican wouldn’t want someone whose background is unassailable, in the sense that there shouldn’t even be questions raised,” that Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, candidly said of Geisinger.

Pressures beyond Vatican control, as I discuss in detail below, can be expected soon to compel much more severe changes if Francis fails to act now effectively and transparently both to curtail child abuse and to make the hierarchy, including himself,  accountable to independent Catholic oversight.

This governmental pressure has already begun to be applied with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets, as well as with respect to the investigation of the child abuse scandal by the remarkable Australian Royal Commission thoroughly investigating child abuse in organizations, including the Catholic Church.

Prospects worldwide for criminal prosecutions of Catholic Church officials have seemingly caused the Vatican to focus on overdue reforms in ways that earlier financial penalties and even shameful publicity had rarely done, but have Pope Francis and his advisers yet gotten enough of the message? One must be skeptical here.

The UK child abuse cover-up crisis, in particular, is reaching a boiling point, as the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, has recently indicated that the “star power” child abuse scandal and cover-up are still ongoing and that the horrific public revelations to date are only the “tip of the iceberg”. Please see her visible angst in the video in the Daily Mail link about her above.

The Vatican and its protected UK prelates will likely all get scalded when the UK pot boils over, no?

Moreover, relating to the  Lawler reaction, the Boston Globe news team has recently reported, based on legal documents the Globe examined, that Pope Francis’ choice to replace Fr. Robert Oliver as the Vatican’s top prosecutor of clerics accused of child abuse, a prominent American Jesuit, was himself one of several Catholic officials who allowed a notorious abusive priest to remain in ministry for years after learning of his long history of sexual abuses.

Fr. Geisinger, named in September as the Vatican’s “promoter of justice,’’ was the second-highest-ranking official among the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s when leaders were facing multiple abuse complaints against Jesuit Donald J. McGuire.

Of course, Francis’ key US Jesuit appointment here also must be considered in the context of the US Jesuits’ western US province’s $166 million settlement in 2011 of child abuse claims against other US Jesuits, described at the time as “the largest settlement between a religious order and abuse victims in the history of the United States.”

Many of Francis’ US Jesuits must be a disappointment to him as a former Jesuit provincial earlier in Argentina. But why didn’t Francis see this criticism coming of his US Jesuit appointment of someone with such troublesome baggage? Is Pope Francis getting good advice? One must wonder if he is getting any advice here.

And, as the Globe further reported, the Chicago Jesuits failed to notify police or take effective steps to prevent McGuire from continuing to molest minors. 

Documents examined by the Globe reportedly show that Geisinger had detailed knowledge of the complaints against McGuire as early as 1995, and advised officials in Chicago on how to discipline McGuire as late as August 2002. McGuire was finally convicted in 2006 by a Wisconsin jury of molesting two boys who had notified civil authorities. He was also convicted on federal charges in 2008 and is serving a 25-year-prison sentence.

Yes, it is astonishing that this Chicago Jesuit, with questionable credentials, has joined Fr. Robert Oliver, who apparently early learned how to handle abusive priests as Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer, as Pope Francis’ main two man Vatican priest/bishop child abuse response team. Could Francis not have found, among the world’s 400,000+ priests, two competent priests with “cleaner hands”? It would almost seem more appropriate that Fr. Geisinger and Fr. Oliver be subjects of independent Vatican investigations, rather than to be the Vatican’s purported independent investigators, no?

After a year and a half as pope, is this the best Pope Francis can do to curtail the worst scandal facing the Catholic Church since the Reformation?  The current papal approach seems almost impossible to conceive, yet it is happening, as Pope Francis’ meager efforts after 20 months to curtail child abuse suggest a real “papal blind spot”. Pope Francis needs to address this scandal effectively now, while he still has time. He can do better and he must, very soon!

Predictably, Pope Francis’ new “papal protector of children”,  Cardinal Sean O’Malley, when contacted by the Globe, declined to answer questions about Geisinger’s failure, along with his Jesuit colleagues, to report McGuire to civil authorities.

Cardinal O’Malley had been featured recently on the USA’s CBS’s 60 Minutes’ mostly “photo op” look at the  the Vatican’s  “go slow” approach to curtailing priest child abuse and making complicit bishops accountable.

Please see the recent detailed, and documented, information, from Anne Barrett Doyle, the excellent researcher at BishopAccountabillity.org, on Cardinal O’Malley’s poor history on child abuse prevention efforts, described in her “Six Ways Cardinal Sean O’Malley Has Mishandled the Abuse Crisis” at:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/OMalley_Fact_Sheet.htm

To date, after a well publicized announcement almost a year ago, O’Malley has mainly had only a few photo ops with Pope Francis and some perfunctory meetings of his inchoate priest child abuse commission, usually timed to deflect negative publicity from UN committee condemnations of the Vatican’s priest child abuse cover-ups and the like.

Now in his CBS interview, O’Malley has indicated he will visit the Vatican every two months apparently to check in for the latest photo ops, presumably when he attends the more important Council of Cardinals meetings. It appears the abuse commission will be run by Fr. Robert Oliver, who as mentioned learned the ropes early as a canon lawyer under Boston’s  infamous Cardinal Law. It seems O’Malley will in the interim communicate with Oliver by FAX ! Are children any safer now? Please!

A year after first announcing this advisory commission, O’Malley amazingly stated on 60 Minutes that the go-slow commission was working on some “protocols”, which his subsequent statements seem to suggest will focus more on protecting bishops than children. And CBS did not press him on the commission’s inexplicable and unacceptable organizational delays. It appears to be another instance of a media “pass” for the Vatican’s conflicted approach to holding clerics accountable for harming defenseless children.

It seems quite clear that Pope Francis is intentionally pursuing effective child protection reform measures very slowly, at best,  and almost secretly with this new advisory committee (A) headed by Cardinal Law’s successor, Cardinal O’Malley, who is well experienced with “handling” abuse investigations secretively and slowly, and (B) aided now, as top staffer, by Fr. Robert Oliver, who has been successively Cardinals Law’s, O’Malley’s  and Mueller’s predictable and seemingly pliable longtime canon lawyer. Fr. Geisenger now is serving now as the Vatican’s “top cop”, succeeding Fr. Oliver in that position. Priests presumably will like this “priest friendly” lineup more than innocent children and their parents will, I suspect.

Twelve years after the Boston Globe Catholic priest child abuse revelations and almost 30 years after Father Thomas  Doyle’s abuse report to Cardinals Law, Levada, Bevilacqua, Laghi, et al. and Pope John Paul II, for  O’Malley to say on CBS we are looking into “protocols” is evidently a farce. And he seems to have gotten away with it!
                                                                                                                                                       I have to wonder, as an international lawyer, if O’Malley, Oliver and Geisinger, all presumably US citizens, were picked to work on the latest papal public relations ploys to “do little or nothing” to really curtail clerical  abuse also because the US has not ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty.                                                                                                                                                                                        Since the ex-pope had already been a subject of a complaint filed with the ICC, it must have occurred to the Vatican and its lawyers that whomever handles these matters can expect to face a further complaint at the ICC, a very serious matter. It might be more difficult to prosecute them under the ICC Treaty as US citizens if they had returned to the USA when the ICC prosecutor finally pursues the Vatican again, as I am confident as an international lawyer she will.

For the current “big picture” on the Vatican’s continuing failures here, please see the recent report by Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., the world’s leading expert on curtailing priest child sexual abuse, at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/how-survivors-have-changed-history-by-thomas-p-doyle-o-p/

Pope Francis seems, for over a year and a half now, to have made as his highest priority, protecting Catholic cardinals and bishops from prosecution, especially related to allegations of child abuse and/or related cover-ups, and of financial corruption, (A) by easing out, quietly and with minimal recriminations, controversial hierarchs by comfortable retirements, demotions or transfers (O’Brien, Brady, Conry, Tebartz-van Elst (Bling Bishop), Liveries, Burke, Rigali, even Wesolowski so far, et al.), and (B) by trying to co-opt completely all independent government investigations of hierarchs with Vatican controlled and secretive proceedings (especially Archbishop Wesolowski), that conveniently also protect against disclosures about other hierarchs that may have been implicated.

The USA situation seems increasingly bleak for the Vatican. Minneapolis whistleblower and former top diocesan official, Jennifer Haselberger, is reporting on her blog some unusual current Vatican attention possibly  to Archbishop Nienstedt’s status  and to his seeking diocesean bankruptcy protection.
 
Meanwhile, Minneapolis media are also currently reporting about child porn video evidence that allegedly may have been destroyed, with a Vatican official’s involvement, by Obama’s Chief of Staff’s brother, Fr, Kevin McDonough. Child porn, and related evidence destruction, appear to involve Federal crimes as well as state crimes, which raise sensitive issues for Obama’s US Justice Department and his new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, a no-nonsense prosecutor.
 
Who knows what is really going on with Obama? Concerned citizens need to demand much more Federal law enforcement involvement, including a national commission investigation as an opener, like the one that Geoffrey Robertson just called for in the UK and that Australian advocate, Aletha Blayse, has called for in the USA. A US national commission is likely the one “fix” that could really make a long term difference in the USA, as the civil litigation process enters its fourth decade, with some good results but not enough. Now that respected lawyer Geoffrey Robertson is calling for a UK national commission, hopefully some US lawyers will likewise now step up and call forcefully for a similar US commission.
 
It is unclear what impact the investigation of Fr. Kevin McDonough, the brother of President Obama’s Chief of Staff , Denis McDonough, has had on Obama’s apparent failure to step up here with a US national presidential commission, but it is troubling, to me at least. And of course, the media as far as I know has not raised the matter with the White House, as I think they should. Again, the Vatican seems to benefit here from another media pass.
 
For a current news report on the Minneapolis situation, please see:
 
 

Please see also my related remarks at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/popes-child-abuse-commission-crawls-while-his-family-synod-slips/

http://christiancatholicism.com/crisis-pope-francis-and-the-synod-face-a-mess-in-the-house-of-cards/

It is good to see the Boston Globe’s news team back in action so strongly, as its associated new group at Crux has too often so far seemed to be more like the Vatican’s US media promoter under John Allen, in my view. Nevertheless, even the Globe and CBS are failing in my view to assess straightforwardly the Vatican’s conflicted and inadequate approach to dealing with priest child abusers and with complicit bishops’ lack of sufficient accountability and serious consequences.

Reuters’ respected editor, John Lloyd, who is also a La Repubblica of Rome columnist and an Oxford journalism scholar, candidly observed about the Vatican’s recent Synod huddle: ” …  these ageing men did — and still do — have a serious sex scandal within their ranks – one which they have, in the main, dealt with badly.” Fair enough, but are journalists now doing much better, “in the main”, in covering Pope Francis’ failure after 20 months to take decisive action to curtail the clerical sex abuse scandal? No, with only rare exceptions.

CNN is a prime example. It appears, in effect, still to be giving Pope Francis and UK clerics a continuing pass on Vatican controlled secretive investigations, while pressing for an independent and transparent UK investigation of sex abuse allegations involving UK political leaders and celebrities.

A double standard, no? Do UK politicians’ opposition parties have more media clout than Pope Francis’ disorganized opposition that evidently is too often overwhelmed by Pope Francis’  media machine and his seeming support from opportunistic multi-billionaire media magnates in the UK/Australia/USA/Latin America and elsewhere? It appears so.

Pope Francis is clearly running out of time, as he seemingly is only going through some public relations motions on curtailing priest sex abuse. He must now either act decisively and transparently or he can expect to face more governmental investigations that he will most likely be unable to control. He no longer enjoys the support of major international powers that have protected the Vatican for centuries.

I discuss in detail Pope Francis’ dire overall predicament in my recent analysis also included below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” . My analysis relies heavily on my study of the work of Fr. Hans Kung. He is a leading world authority on Catholic theology,  history and interreligious dialogue, a former mentor to Cardinal Walter Kasper (Pope Francis’ preferred theologian), and an occasional confidante to world leaders, including the former longtime UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Fr. Kung has over a five year period generously given me by constant example and occasional e-mail some encouragement, including with respect to my recent  analysis. Of course, I am an international lawyer, not a professional scholar, and Fr. Kung is not responsible for my judgments.

I have also benefited from the courageous work of Fr. Charles Curran, a worldwide authority on moral theology. Fr. Curran, like Hans Kung, also felt the Vatican’s inquisitorial whip for thinking freely and openly. Fr. Curran significantly has just boldly called on Pope Francis to admit that the Vatican has made mistakes in the area of its sexual morality teachings.

Who present the bigger threat to those vulnerable to sex abusers — a limited number of celebrities and politicians or an indeterminate number of potential predators from among 4,000+ bishops and 400,000+ priests. Catholic clerics mainly are unaccountable to any independent and transparent oversight. They also have literally unlimited access to vulnerable victims. And, sadly, they have already shown a disproportionate tendency to abuse, no? Why the disparate journalistic treatment? It makes no sense.

As mentioned above, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the world renowned no-nonsense UK/Australian international human rights lawyer, unexpectedly in a  recent Christiane Amanpour CNN interview, seriously undercut CNN’s seemingly  papal “star power” exception. Robertson boldly, in effect, called for a massive UK national investigation of all sexual abusers, in both church and state institutions, like the extraordinary one currently underway in Australia. This call by a prominent international lawyer on a prime international cable network for a UK national investigation is a major event. His call, in principle, applies to the USA as well. Perhaps, more US lawyers also will now call on President Obama to act as well.

Another bold Australian human rights advocate, Aletha Blayse, had already similarly called on President Obama to do likewise with a comparable national investigation commission in the US modeled on the Australian Royal Commission. The need for a US national investigation commission appears even greater than the UK’s need.

Indeed, even former US President Jimmy Carter is getting on the expanding bandwagon. As reported by the National Catholic Reporter, he recently addressed by video, the Call To Action at a large convention of Catholic seeking change. Carter, a prominent evangelical Christian, in surprisingly direct and prophetic words, told the Catholic attendees that they faced “a church that models our society in marginalizing many of its women, its people of color and, in fact, all those who question any interpretation by male leaders of Jesus’ mission.” Carter added: “I urge you to give witness to the possibilities that society will change. You are agents of that change. And I stand with you in the valued struggle to move our faith, our country and our planet forward … “.  Does Carter have President Obama’s ear on these matters? He may.

As to evident journalistic double standards, CNN in an important segment on sexual abuse looked at  the fundamental subject of equal justice under the law, in the context of a “Tale of Two Cities” — Rome/Vatican versus London/Philadelphia, as shown here:

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/11/19/star-power-bewitches-those-vulnerable-to-abuse-says-human-rights-lawyer/

CNN’s segment involves implicitly two interrelated questions: (1) whether alleged sex abusers should receive special treatment if they are famous and powerful, and (2) should the independence of the related criminal investigation vary if it is conducted in Rome at the Vatican as opposed to places like London or Philadelphia?  CNN, in effect, answered “No” to the first question, yet made an exception for Pope Francis’ investigation of accused clerical sex abusers,  and skipped past the second question, which, of course, should have also been asked squarely and answered “No”.

Occasioned by unfolding multiple sex abuse allegations involving several  political leaders, celebrities and Catholic clerics, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour  raised the hot topic of “star power” — whether the famous and powerful were beyond independent investigation and above  laws that cover sexual abuse that apply to everyday people.

Amanpour referred to the escalating tsunami of allegations of sex abuse  involving men ranging from celebrities like TV’s most famous “father figure”, Bill Cosby,  to UK political leaders and celebrities and to worldwide Catholic clerics who have preyed on innocent victims, mostly children. Her informed guest was Geoffrey Robertson, QC.

Robertson has written a classic and fair case study of the Vatican’s conduct in the priest abuse scandal, “The Case of the Popes: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse” (2010). He may also have personal insights here as well, as he describes his wife as having been “once a Catholic”.

When Amanapour, who reportedly had been instructed as a child at a UK convent school, gratuitously and revealingly volunteered that Pope Francis wanted to address priest child abuse, Robertson seemingly snickered and interjected, “He hasn’t yet”. This lead Amanpour to amend her statement about Francis quickly to: “He {Pope Francis} says he will, we’ll see and we’ll have to hold him accountable”. She did not reveal how Pope Francis would be held by CNN or anyone else to account if he fails to address the abuse scandal independently and transparently, as he and his predecessors have mostly failed to address it effectively for over a century or more. No one has held a pope accountable for anything significant during that time.

Amanpour, a mother, to her credit, directly asked Robertson what specifically needs to be done in the future to protect those most vulnerable. He replied significantly and pointedly: “I would think the Australian experience of a Royal Commission, which has got total powers to reveal what’s gone wrong and to make recommendations, that’s a very good start,” He added,  “Here {UK} we haven’t got started.”

Robertson, in the short interview, did not have the opportunity to elaborate on the subject of the extent to which a UK commission should investigate the Vatican’s conduct, as the Australian commission is trying to do. Pope Francis is currently trying, as his predecessors had, in effect, to investigate and judge his own bishops and priests secretively, clearly neither an independent nor transparent process like the Australian Royal Commission or even the standard UK, Australian or US criminal process.

As it stands now, alleged clerical sex abusers enjoy favorable treatment from a conflicted Vatican process. This cannot, and in my judgment as an international lawyer, will not stand much longer, for the reasons I discuss under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” below. Famous performers, powerful politicians and protected priests should, under modern jurisprudence, be subject to the same basic laws and comparable criminal procedures as the people whose lives are destroyed by their crimes. That is referred to worldwide as equal justice under the law for all.

Of course, from Robertson’s statements in his book, his considerable experience and simple logic, he would have to concur, I submit, that priests, bishops and even popes, should not be entitled to legal exemptions or special treatment when charged with serious crimes, especially against children. Even US Presidents Nixon and Clinton were not above the law.

Both Amanpour and Robertson also focused on the UK’s Home Secretary’s widely reported difficulties finding an chief investigator who satisfied the public’s desire for an independent and transparent sex abuse investigation. What is worth observing here is how the media, even a highly regarded and experienced TV commentator like CNN’s Amanpour, just accepted at face value the pope’s statement he would investigate, without even trying to consider discussing how to assess whether it would be an independent and transparent investigation. Given the Vatican’s poor record to date, it seems unacceptable to rely so much on Vatican’s bald statements. Pope Francis surprisingly still seems to get a free media pass after 20 months as pope, with little to show on curtailing clerical child abuse. That will not continue indefinitely, for the reasons as I discuss below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”.

Robertson’s clear call on CNN for a broad national Australian style investigation commission is, as mentioned, a major development. Hopefully, he will be personally involved, given his fine record and unusual ability. Indeed, after his considerable work on famous legal cases involving, for example, holding Chilean ex-president General Pinochet to account, to defending WikiLeak’s  Julian Assange, Robertson has some star power of his own.

Indeed, Robertson’s chambers’ own  “star power ” has just been greatly enhanced by the marriage of actor/activist, George Clooney to Robertson’s able colleague, Alam Alamuddin, who earlier practiced at Sullivan & Cromwell, where I also earlier practiced.

Who knows? Perhaps, George Clooney, a strong advocate for Africa’s poor and for gay rights worldwide, might even decide to add his own considerable star power to secure protection for more children by calling for full accountability under the law for Catholic clerics of all ranks.

Raised reportedly a traditional Irish American Catholic family, Clooney would likely be knowledgeable about the Vatican’s shameful record on protecting children and its anti-contraception and anti-marriage  equality crusades.

These crusades have added to the miseries of many Africans, among others. including many children. Now that Pope Francis has appointed conservative South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier as one of the four leaders of Francis’ Final Synod for next October, Clooney’s advocacy here could be especially important for desperate Africans and others.

As “star power” sex abuse scandals are being revealed continually in the UK, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently and significantly said: “We are at an early stage of a reckoning with our past that is on a scale and gravity that just a few months ago might have seemed unimaginable and almost too horrific to contemplate. The task is to peel back the layers of deception that appear to have happened in the past.”

It seem clear that major “star power” sex abuse investigations in the UK are only in their infancy, which should concern Pope Francis. It is unclear whether the recent alleged sex scandals involving, among other matters, exploiting their position of power, that led to the resignations of two of the UK’s Catholic Church’s highest officials, Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the UK’s Bishop Kieran Conry, will be included in any UK public investigation. Given their key national positions, they should be included. They would likely be if Geoffrey Robertson’s call for a national commission is heeded.

 Incidentally, Pope Francis thanked Fr. Hans Kung for sending him his important new book on how to reform of the Catholic Church, “Can We Save the Catholic Church” (2013). Here is an excerpt from his book:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/07/save-the-catholic-church-_n_4740030.html

For more, see:

http://amzn.com/0007522029

Hans Kung, a Swiss priest, has for over a half century been a world recognized Catholic scholar, a best selling author on church history and theology and even an occasional adviser to top political leaders. As mentioned, Pope Francis’ preferred theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, served as a younger scholar as an assistant to Fr. Kung at Tuebingen University, Germany’s foremost theological faculty.

Hans Kung has for more than a half century engaged with, or influenced, several popes, including his former university colleague, Joseph Ratzinger (ex-Pope Benedict XVI), as well as John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and even during his student years at the Jesuits’ Gregorian University in Rome, Pope Pius XII. Cardinals and bishops have sought his advice, at least as early as his time serving as a key theological expert with Joseph Ratzinger and Jesuit Karl Rahner at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Fr. Kung has for decades offered to many interested Catholics worldwide, including Cardinals Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Kasper, his own well articulated and scholarly supported alternative vision to that of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

For Hans Kung’s full warning to the effect that letting the ex-Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, stick around the Vatican would be a real mistake, please see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/hans-kung-pope-benedict-will-be-a-shadow-pope_n_2781248.html

For Charles Curran’s important, informative and insightful new call for Pope Francis to acknowledge the the Vatican has made some mistakes, at least in the are of sexual morality, please :

http://ncronline.org//news/accountability/some-kind-gradualism-curran-says-papacy-should-admit-some-its-teachings-are

For former US President Carter’s address to Call To Action, a large Catholic reform group, supporting a reform agenda for the Catholic Church, please see:

http://ncronline.org/news/censured-priest-carter-support-cta

For Australian human rights activist, Aletha Blayse’s recent call on President Obama, to set up a US national presidential commission to investigate institutional child abuse, like the Australian Royal Commission, please see:

http://christiancatholicism.com/post-elections-obama-kids-the-catholic-church-the-salvation-army-et-al-child-abuse-war-and-the-need-for-a-national-commission-of-inquiry-into-child-abuse-by-aletha-blayse/

My remarks, “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”, follows:

  1.  A Ray of Hope In A Crisis of Trust — A Holy Mess: Pope Francis says Catholics should “create a mess” to help him promote changes in the Catholic Church. The Catholic majority are pleased for now; although many are skeptical. Some see a bright ray of hope shining through the crisis of trust triggered by Church scandals. Others think the window of opportunity for hopeful light from Pope Francis will close soon if he is not prophetic and transparent. Indeed, some even think the Vatican’s current “holy mess” will be its final mess.
  2. Yet, Francis has so far offered few indications about concrete changes he really wants. Many Church leaders seem fearful of any changes. Yet, many Catholics and others are finally pressing for permanent changes. They have by now seen Vatican misconduct up close and too often. They now also understand better that many of the Vatican’s frequently ambiguous, if not vague, basic biblical and historical sources supporting papal power have too often been overplayed, if not misused, in encyclicals and a Catechism, to justify supreme papal power . Significantly, these permanent changes, that the Catholic majority seeks in good conscience and good faith, may differ ultimately from what many in the Vatican now want. As the “infallible Supreme Pontiff” for millions of Catholics, Pope Francis has the best papal opportunity in many years, if not centuries, to fix the broken Catholic Church. This may also be the final papal opportunity to clean up the “holy mess”. Time will soon tell.
  3. This crisis has led to one papal resignation already. Pope Francis appears for many reasons to be the Vatican’s best and last chance to lead on initiating overdue Church changes. Pressures beyond Vatican control can be expected to compel more severe changes if Francis fails to act effectively and transparently. This has already begun to happen with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European governmental investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets. Prospects for criminal prosecutions of Catholic Church officials have seemingly caused the Vatican to focus on overdue reforms in ways that earlier financial penalties and shameful publicity had rarely done before. As with corporate criminal executives worldwide, prosecution risk is generally a uniquely effective deterrent to future crimes by senior leaders.
  4. Almost 150 years ago, facing a similar crisis, Pope Pius IX refused to initiate overdue changes to his arbitrary and ineffective leadership of his Kingdom of the Papal States in central Italy. His key misguided “fix” was to push to be declared “infallible” in July 1870. Two months later, he militarily lost the Kingdom completely to Italian nationalists. Traditional papal protectors like France and Austria-Hungary stood by and passively watched, unwilling to support further papal mismanagement and capriciousness. Will Pope Francis make a similar mistake like Pius IX did by misjudging his precarious position?
  5.  The Vatican no longer even has comparable powerful protectors. It is mostly on its own now in the international political arena, like Pius XI’s Vatican was by 1870. Popes since 1870 have counter culturally tried secretively to rule mainly as “semi-divine infallible” absolute monarchs with tightly controlled subordinate bishops worldwide in an increasingly democratic world now linked by an open Internet and an 24/7 worldwide free media. The Vatican is running out of time to adjust to current reality and may be forced to do so soon.
  6. Building governmental pressures indicate currently that if the Vatican does not adopt key changes voluntarily and soon, the Vatican can be expected to be compelled to change involuntarily. This has recently already happened repeatedly, for example, in the financial area. Another recent example of increasing governmental pressure is the Australian national investigation into child abuse in religious organizations. It has already led to the Vatican changing both internal policies, and key leadership in Australia, including Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Papal Nuncio, following a massive effort by government investigators. Similar investigations can be expected in other countries as well.
  7. The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions. Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.
  8. Significantly, the Vatican no longer benefits from the powerful international protection that had enabled the Vatican to avoid overdue changes for centuries. In the current world of democracies and a free press and Internet, the secretive Vatican is vulnerable. Neither the Vatican’s high priced consultants, lawyers and lobbyists, nor the Vatican’s opportunistic financial elite allies, who seek Vatican backing to protect the income inequality status quo that benefits them so disproportionately, are hardly comparable substitutes for the earlier military backing of the Holy Roman Emperor and other powers. These powers had effectively protected the Vatican for centuries from demands for change. No more.
  9. Meanwhile, Pope Francis’ Synod strategy has pulled back the curtain on the Vatican’s fallible and incoherent management structure and helped explain why ex-Pope Benedict had no real choice but to resign. In our 24/7 media world, as the Church’s scandal and mismanagement dominoes fall, a further domino effect will likely take over beyond the Vatican’s power to control it. Fear of this effect has likely contributed to provoking some of the strong opposition that Pope Francis is facing among many in the Church’s leadership.
  10. Pope Francis acts at times like a radicalized realist. He is pressing forward relentlessly on a novel path to change. When necessary, he is even bypassing or sidelining fearful and entrenched opponents and factions. His opponents often overlook the many risks that presently exist in the Vatican’s vulnerable predicament. Pope Francis is evidently well aware of these risks. At times, some of his opponents prefer “to play their fruitless fiddles while Rome burns”.
  11. And of course, money is usually lurking in these factions’  approaches to changes. For example, the German and US bishops seem to have basically different approaches to changes like permitting communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. German bishops depend mainly on a per capita government subsidy, presently totally more than $6 billion a year, that pays the bishops more if more Catholics remain on the government registry; hence the German bishops’ inclusive approach to divorced and remarried Catholics and their families. US bishops, on the other hand, depend significantly on fewer major donors who reward the bishops’ ability to draw out fundamentalists to vote for low-tax right wing US political candidates. These fundamentalists oppose most changes, especially those relating to traditional marriage. Not surprisingly, US bishops tend to oppose changes to traditional marriage sacramental rules. As with understanding approaches to other changes, sometimes it pays to follow the money.
  12. Significantly, the Catholic majority intuitively understands that these risks generated by the present crisis, especially from building governmental pressures on the Vatican, have paradoxically also generated an unprecedented opportunity to restore the Church to an earlier condition — to a Church that Jesus’ first disciples would have recognized as completely consistent with Jesus’ Gospel message of love of God and of neighbors, even of enemies. This will be a welcoming Church again that satisfies the needs of both conservative and progressive Catholics.
  13. Well publicized Catholic Church scandals have triggered a unique situation — both an unprecedented crisis and an unexpected opportunity. This crisis (A) erodes Catholic trust in light of the longstanding gap between the Vatican’s words and deeds, (B) invites outside governmental intervention at a time when the Vatican lacks powerful international protectors like it had for centuries, and (C) underscores the urgent need for key changes in Church structure and doctrine. The crisis has also contributed, as indicated, to one pope’s unanticipated resignation and to the replacement pope’s unpredictable revolution.
  14. Before his 80th birthday in barely two years, Pope Francis can successfully seize the opportunity, follow his conscience and apply his unique status, forceful temperament and popular appeal. Most importantly, he can declare “infallibly” key changes. By then, he will have received new input from his two advisory Synods of Bishops. He has already been enlightened by his valuable almost two years of  experience as pope. He now also is unhampered by his prior pastoral positions and unfettered by his earlier ideological constraints as an obedient cardinal, bishop and Jesuit. If Francis fails to act effectively soon, the consequences will likely be quite negative for the leadership of the Catholic Church.
  15. Pope Francis can accomplish much if he wants to and finds the wisdom and courage to do so. Equally important, it seems unlikely any of his successors will get a more propitious opportunity in the foreseeable future to adopt long overdue changes. It may be now or never for Pope Francis and the Vatican.
  16. Any needed changes that Pope Francis leaves uncompleted, whether by choice or circumstances, Catholics can then push to complete soon thereafter, with or without Vatican support. Catholics can be expected to do so, given the current Catholic majority’s momentum and mounting democratic governmental pressures. The Catholic majority can expect help in effecting these changes from powerful forces, outside the Church structure, that are now pressing harder for key Vatican changes, like greater accountability and transparency.
  17.  The Making of the Unique Present Crisis: The Catholic Church is in the throes of its worst crisis since the Reformation. Vatican leaders in the 16th Century, aided by powerful outside military protectors, had mainly evaded making overdue structural changes, and their successors also managed with outside protection to avoid such changes mostly during the four centuries since.
  18. Nevertheless, Church changes are badly needed now and the Vatican no longer has any dominant outside protectors willing to help it avoid the changes. The changes cannot be deferred much longer if the Vatican wants to avoid both further Church decline and splintering into competing factions and constant interference from outside governments. Pope Francis’ confident and bold approach, and the Vatican’s evident need to avoid further negative repercussions from the current crisis, are both generating some hope now, as well as creating what appears to be the best opportunity since the Reformation for the worldwide Catholic majority to press the Vatican successfully for key overdue changes.
  19. According to Augustine: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to suffer no evil to exist.” Catholics are now pondering whether God will soon bring some good changes out of this evil crisis, likely with some help from either Pope Francis or the worldwide Catholic majority or some international investigators or some combination of all three.
  20. There are now hopeful indications (A) that the Catholic Church may restore some of its management structure to its earliest consensual, bottom up and distributed form, from its current coercive, top down and hierarchical form, and (B) that some questionable traditional Church teachings may change to fit mercifully the actual lived experience of sincere Catholics and to conform honestly to current biblical, historical and scientific scholarship, all with or without the Vatican’s affirmative assistance.
  21. The scandals underlying the crisis have deeply discouraged millions of concerned Catholics, yet many of them now also see a new ray of hope. This hope springs less from Pope Francis’ skillful public relations efforts than from the likelihood that the present crisis will necessarily help accelerate Church changes. Moreover, some of these changes are ones that the usually silent Catholic majority can and likely will play a key role in bringing about. This would be a refreshing change in itself for the Catholic majority, a change from only being able to react passively to misguided top down Vatican decisions dictated by a celibate, aging, conflicted and self perpetuating all male leadership.
  22. It appears likely now that the Pope Francis will soon make, or be induced by outside pressures to make, major structural and other changes — changes that the Vatican had been able to resist making for centuries under earlier better positioned popes. Powerful governmental, legal and media forces are now pressing from the outside for changes, whether the presently weakened Vatican wants changes or not.
  23. While Pope Francis mostly can only play the bad cards that ex-Pope Benedict dealt him, he can use both his papal authority over bishops and the Catholic majority and this mounting outside pressure, enhanced by the power of his personal popularity and his strong will, to help convince his entrenched Vatican opposition that voluntary Church changes are more in their interest than the otherwise inevitable involuntary changes could be expected to be.
  24. Paradoxically, these anticipated changes can also help restore the Catholic Church to one that is much closer, in essential structure and compassionate spirit, than the current Church is to the Church that Jesus’ earliest disciples, including prominently some women, left behind for over three centuries.
  25. Pope Francis has brought fresh hopes after centuries of papal evasions. Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, by 1520 had sought similar changes to an earlier Vatican bureaucracy then slithering through major scandals. Only military protection initially from the Holy Roman Emperor ultimately saved, for another 350 years until 1870, the Vatican’s centuries old Kingdom of the Papal States from many of the religious wars, internal divisions and radical reforms that followed Luther’s revolt. But Vatican scandals and structural shortcomings continued mostly as unresolved problems.
  26. The usually well positioned papacy generally remained unchanged structurally after the Reformation until the popes’ imperial protectors faded by 1870 and then finally disappeared in the First World War. This was almost 1,600 years after the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century first sought, often in practice by threats and bribes, to redirect the early Catholic Church leadership to become part of his imperial bureaucracy. Constantine’s and his successor’s imperial designs still infuse the current Vatican’s coercive and top down leadership structure.
  27. In 1870, Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) lost his last major monarchical protector due to the Franco-Prussian War. Pius IX then, without a strong outside protector, promptly lost the Kingdom of the Papal States finally on September 20, 1870 to a direct military assault on the Vatican by Italian nationalists. Both the Vatican and the Italians suffered fatalities. Two months prior to this assault, Pius IX had desperately tried to offset some of the projected negative effects of the Vatican’s expected military and political defeats. He sought to salvage some papal prestige on July 18, 1870, by being declared infallible at the First Vatican Council (Vatican I) that then soon ended prematurely due mainly to the military risks.
  28. A new era of “semi-divine Supreme Pontiffs”  thus began in 1870 and still continues under Pope Francis today, as he presses to solidify, at least temporarily, his extensive power over the Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia, as well as over the world’s bishops.
  29. The powerful prestige of infallibility has been the keystone of papal power from 1870 until now. Papal infallibility, ironically, has also been the tragic papal flaw. Concerns for preserving a claim to being infallible have, it seems, prevented politically insecure popes from making long overdue changes out of fear of appearing to be fallible and, yes, a mere mortal.
  30. This almost obsessive papal concern has been quite evident, for example, in the continuing papal opposition to contraception, mainly based on outdated natural law philosophy and medieval physiology, despite the overwhelming contrary witness in good conscience of the Catholic majority, and the latest strong and contrary evidence from natural science and modern philosophy.
  31. Incidentally, the Vatican’s opposition to family planning seems to be  a “win win” proposition for the Catholic leadership and a “lose lose” situation for couples. especially with other children, who cannot afford more children financially or emotionally.  From the Vatican’s perspective, if Catholic babies survive and thrive, they can then become potential future Church donors and docile voters to enhance the Vatican’s position in bargains with desperate vote seeking political forces. If the babies do not thrive, they become their parents’ or society’s problems, not the Vatican’s to be sure.
  32. Nevertheless, the Vatican’s strong pro-pregnancy opposition to contraception is unlikely to generate at current birthrates enough new Catholic babies to offset the Church’s escalating exodus among the practicing Catholic majority. This ongoing net decline in practicing Catholics is further eroding the Vatican’s already declining political influence and financial resources.
  33. Ironically, the more that recent popes press their opposition to positive ongoing human advances like pharmaceutical contraception, that enable couples, especially poor women, to plan their families, the less infallible they appear to be to more Catholics. The present crisis, exacerbated by the disarray among the pope and some cardinals and bishops exhibited at the recent Vatican Synod that ironically had been intended to curtail part of this crisis, also has put unsustainable additional weight on the already weak claim to papal infallibility.
  34. For almost 150 years until now, popes have been shrewdly able, despite the loss by 1870 of their actual Kingdom in central Italy, to maneuver politically, diplomatically and financially to retain some of their international influence, operational independence, considerable wealth and legal immunity, free of international laws and foreign restraints. Are the Vatican’s unique international status and contrived legal immunity claim both now about to collapse in the present crisis? Yes, it appears that the Vatican’s unique status and legal immunity are both likely facing collapse soon enough, no matter what Pope Francis now does.
  35. Many of the problems Luther initially noted in 1517 remained unresolved even after Vatican I in 1870, and still remain unresolved. These include Luther’s issues with the Vatican’s top down, coercive and unaccountable Renaissance structure and with recent popes’ historically and biblically questionable, if not idolatrous, claim of unaccountable absolute papal power. Vatican I was terminated abruptly and prematurely due mainly to the military risks, before the relationship of bishops and the Catholic majority to the newly proclaimed infallible popes could be addressed fully. Pius XI and many of his successors, through Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013), have at times used this uncompleted and unexpected result for almost 150 years to extend papal power over bishops and the Catholic majority.
  36. These continuing problems remain after (A) unsuccessful Vatican efforts prior to 1945 to seek favorable and special political arrangements with powerful leaders, such as with the Fascist dictators of Italy, Germany and Spain, (B) numerous Vatican efforts since 1945 to solidify in many countries favorable arrangements with various powerful political, financial and media elites, and (C) significant and still uncompleted and frustrated reform efforts from 1962 to 1965 at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).
  37. Most significantly, there are no longer any Holy Roman Emperors, or any other powerful monarchs, dictators or even democratically elected leaders, who appear willing to save the Vatican from facing the international legal and political consequences of its seeming sins and harmful policies. On the contrary, outside governments are already currently and forcefully pressing the Vatican firmly on its financial misconduct. Moreover, these outside forces are now also pressing hard, including through UN committees and national investigation commissions, on other Vatican misconduct, including facilitating priest child abuse.
  38. The current crisis paradoxically presents all Catholics worldwide with an unprecedented, even hopeful, opportunity to resolve longstanding problems, some that even predate Luther. Whether the Vatican will on its own initiative seize this opportunity positively or will imprudently wait, like Pius IX did in 1870, (A) to be invaded, now by Italian, Australian and other government investigators and prosecutors, and (B) to be forced to accept the latest geopolitical reality, remains to be seen.
  39. Catholics believe that God providentially guides their Church in mysterious ways. Some even wonder if God is not using this crisis as an opening for Church structural reforms overdue for centuries. Catholics increasingly are losing trust in their top leadership and want effective changes now. Many Catholics are curtailing their donations or just leaving the Church. Others are remaining nominally, but opting out of many Church rituals and doctrines for themselves and their children. And many younger Catholics are at best just indifferent about participation in a seemingly out of touch organization run, in effect from all appearances, as an all male absolute monarchy for the benefit of a few.
  40. The well publicized Church scandals include clerical sexual misconduct and widespread child abuse, as well as financial corruption and excesses — some longstanding and pervasive. As mentioned above, this crisis paradoxically may offer Catholics some hope and the best opportunity since the Reformation to restore the Church to the consensual, bottom up and distributed management structure that Jesus’ first disciples, prominently including women, originally left behind for centuries.
  41. Catholics overwhelmingly want leaders they can trust, which essentially means leaders who are accountable, not absolute, and who act transparently, not secretively. Given the Catholic Church’s pervasive worldwide influence and its universal potential as a strong public force, and counterweight to non-religious leaders, for either good or evil, the issue of how the Catholic Church is structured matters to all the world’s citizens, and to their political leaders as well.
  42. Governments worldwide are responding more actively to citizen complaints and media pressure about these Church scandals by investigating and prosecuting clerical crimes being revealed. Catholics elect and influence their political leaders, who in turn can influence Church leaders, who currently remain completely free of any democratic oversight by the Catholic majority.
  43. At present, the pope is still the last word on almost all matters concerning the Church and its leadership and laws, even on matters that impact the overall society like access to contraception and protection of children. The pope, as Supreme Pontiff, is purportedly accountable to nobody else, which is at the heart of the present crisis. Making sure no man is above the law is the modern antidote to the ailment of modern popes who seek to be, and to operate as, Supreme Pontiff without accountability.
  44. Citizens worldwide can be expected steadily and increasingly to encourage their political leaders to press the Vatican for major Church structural reforms, especially by these leaders enacting and enforcing vigorously civil laws against Catholic leaders who commit crimes. This legal process, especially prosecutions of alleged crimes, will very likely, if not inevitably, lead to the outside imposition of Church structural reforms in the near term if the Vatican fails to adopt the reforms on its own initiative.
  45. Continually hard pressed Vatican leaders really have no alternative, as earlier European absolute monarchs in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere painfully learned, other than to submit to independent oversight by the Catholic majority.
  46. Meanwhile, the Vatican is risking the division of the Church into numerous splinter cults and the incarceration of some of its leaders for crimes related to the sexual and financial scandals, as the Catholic hierarchy wastes precious time at Synods debating arcane theological topics like graduality.
  47. This crisis for the “99.99% Catholic faithful majority” appears to be mainly about TRUST. For many of them, it is mostly about losing trust in the “0.01% Catholic leadership minority”, given the leadership’s frequently flawed and unaccountable management and the scandalous and repetitive misbehavior of too many of them.
  48. By contrast, the crisis for the leadership minority appears to be mainly about SURVIVAL. For many cardinals, bishops and priests, this crisis seems too often to be largely about trying to save at all costs the current top down and coercive Church structure that has supported and rewarded many of them so handsomely.
  49. The present crisis has already led to unintended negative consequences — even to unprecedented and growing challenges to worldwide Catholicism, including: (A) a leadership challenge, to the Pope’s ethical authority and doctrinal infallibility as the “last word”; (B) a political challenge, to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to its opportunistic support of plutocratic political promoters;(C) a financial challenge, to the Vatican’s long term financial viability and to its self interested arrangements with selective financial, oil and media moguls; and (D) a competitive challenge, to the Catholic Church’s prospects in its continuing competition with other Christian and world religions, especially Islam, and even with non-religious secularism.
  50. These accelerating challenges surely have influenced, if not at times dictated, the Vatican’s recent tactics, and even its public style on many issues. This historically is almost a new papal experience, since modern popes mostly had operated secretly as near absolute monarchs for centuries. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that popular popes alone are insufficient to resolve the crisis — the Vatican can no longer defer confronting these challenges fully, honestly, transparently and promptly, even if they would rather defer them as recent popes often have. Both internal Church political factions, and external governmental legal forces, are increasingly pressing for greater papal accountability, sooner rather than later. Deferral is no longer a viable papal alternative.
  51. Jesus left a short, simple and revolutionary oral message of “Good News” about a caring and trustworthy God. Jesus, it appears, thought this message could be passed on by word of mouth by his usually uneducated disciples. 2,000 years later the oral message has been buried seemingly under millions of written words by thousands of scribes that have obscured Jesus’ direct simplicity, often to advance the personal agenda of those overseeing the scribes with their countless and opportunistic “explications” of what Jesus really meant.
  52. Was Jesus naive or foolish? And is his originally oral message essentially that simple? Even a quick perusal of the New Testament indicates Jesus’ core message is simple and direct, especially when stripped of some of the heavily philosophical and selectively imposed explications in Latin and Greek. This often stultifying and self serving explication process was most recently illustrated amply by the Catechism of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  53. Will the Vatican now finally begin to try to remove the self serving papal gloss and counterproductive clerical crust that have for many centuries obscured Jesus’ radical and revolutionary Good News —  to trust in a caring God and to love one’s neighbors, even enemies, as oneself? Or will the the Catholic leadership minority once again futilely try to contain the current crisis within its latest hierarchical structure?
  54. Will the Church leadership minority now restore its management structure to the early Church’s consensual and distributed network of bishops accountable to the faithful majority from the current coercive, top down and unaccountable model? And will the leadership minority now restore its general Church-state policy to Jesus’ earliest approach of peaceful coexistence with political leaders and prophetic witness for the poor and disadvantaged from the current Vatican approach that seeks opportunistic financial, legal and other leadership preferences in exchange for papal political support?
  55. Hopefully, the coercive and top down Vatican will finally soon restore, or be required to restore, some meaningful consensual and bottom up power to the Catholic faithful majority. Anything less will merely be at best a temporary glue on a crumbling structure. 500 years after Luther had been more than enough time to fix the structure, but the Vatican has failed, and is continuing to fail, to do so. It will continue to fail unless and until it submits to effective and transparent oversight by the Catholic majority, as almost all other absolute monarchies in history have already learned, often the hard way following violent revolutions.
  56. A consensual and bottom up Church management approach had been a common norm in the Church that Jesus’ disciples, including women, left behind for the first three centuries. That was before the decisive top down takeover, in effect, of the Church hierarchy that began under the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine and his imperial successors. Constantine’s top down and coercive Fourth Century legacy has survived in Rome in key respects, and still fundamentally overshadows Vatican decision making and operations. This must and will change, perhaps much sooner than the Vatican presently anticipates.
  57. As indicated with Pius IX’s underestimation of Italian nationalists, and Pius XI’s and Pius XII’s overestimation of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s protections, whatever else infallibility encompasses, international politics is evidently excluded. Time will soon tell if the current Vatican leaders are any wiser than their modern predecessors were.
  58. Millions of disrespected couples, women, children, divorced and gay persons and other innocent and marginalized victims of the Vatican’s current unchristian policies deserve the initiation of positive Church changes, as soon as practicable. Moreover, the beneficial worldwide potential for Jesus’ simple message of loving God and one’s neighbor, including enemies, needs to be freed of the blinders and constraints that too many popes have opportunistically and selectively imposed on it for centuries. Not only were modern popes “Prisoners of the Vatican” unnecessarily. So was Jesus.
  59. It is important in my judgment that citizens of the world, especially Catholics, weigh in now strongly and often, and try to influence the potential Vatican outcomes. Since the Vatican operates mostly secretively and often covers its real objectives with frequent and well funded media diversions, I have at times tried to draw my best inferences and projected what seemed to me to be likely outcomes, in light of the evidence available to me and my long legal experience. Some, of course, will object, but this appears necessary to assess the actions of an organization that still too often is shown to be dissembling considerably.
  60. My approach is intended to assist concerned readers in acting timely and proactively to advance structural and other reforms, and not just reacting defensively, after the fact, to papal faits accomplis. It is the Church of all Catholics, including the 99.99% faithful majority, and not just of the 0,01% leadership minority, and all need to weigh in now as their situations permit.
  61. The present crisis presents major risks for the Catholic Church’s leadership minority. Providentially, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for the Catholic majority to recover their Church from the clerical clique that centuries ago hijacked Jesus’ message. By recovering their Church, Catholics can then re-direct it and unleash the full potential of Jesus’ simple message of love of God and neighbor to a world that at times seems eager to hear that needed message of hope and peace.
  62. The Current Unprecedented Situation:A free media in a steadily more accountable world is pulling back the Vatican’s dark curtain letting all see the scandals, up close and personal. Luther, as mentioned above, had complained loudly about similar scandals as early as 1517. Yet, it took 500 years for the many misdeeds of Pope Alexander VI and other Renaissance clerics to be featured in several “Borgia TV Series”. Today, the latest “Secrets of the Vatican” are widely reported almost simultaneously, as in a recent PBS documentary by that name covering several current Vatican scandals.
  63. Moreover, Renaissance popes were protected by a powerful Holy Roman Emperor whose last successor lost power a century ago. Politically and militarily, popes since the end of the Second World War in 1945 have been dependent for protection and support mainly on Western democratically elected leaders.
  64. Even now after 1700 years, however, Constantine’s Fourth Century legacy of an imperial top down and coercive leadership structure remains influential in Rome, centuries after most of the world had rejected unaccountable monarchs. European monarchical protection of the Vatican diminished after 1850 and disappeared completely by 1918, replaced soon thereafter with de facto alliances with Fascist dictators in Italy and Germany and Spain until Italy and Germany’s defeat by 1945.
  65. As late as 1903, significantly, the Austria-Hungary Emperor reportedly vetoed a top contender in a papal election leading to the election of Pope Pius X. That was the last election prior to the start of World War I, in which the Austria Hungary Empire was dismembered, in effect, ending imperial veto power in papal elections. That veto power, however, had sometimes worked positively to restrain elections of some less dependable papal candidates.
  66. The defeat of the Fascist powers by 1945 has contributed to popes subsequently having almost to scramble opportunistically at times to make arrangements on a local basis with many countries for political protection and financial advantage for the Vatican and its bishops and priests. These papal arrangements have often been negotiated with local dictators and wealthy elites, as well as with some democratically elected leaders seeking local papal political support as opportunities arose in particular countries, most noticeably Pope John Paul II’s close ties with US President Ronald Reagan and his right wing Republican successors, including President George W. Bush.
  67. Popes Benedict XVI and Pope Francis continued to maintain close ties with right wing US Republicans and continue to provide them with political support through the US bishops and otherwise.  This is reportedly already underway for the 2016 US presidential election. Popes tend to be more pragmatic than ideological when under considerable pressures as in the present crisis.
  68. With the unrelenting spotlight that the 24/7 modern media now shines, the timeless “philosopher king” leadership question of Plato’s Republic now arises in Rome publicly and dramatically: Can any man, even a popular pope, be trusted honestly to face a major crisis of trust like the Vatican is facing, and to set important policies for over a billion people, unless he is truly accountable to others and also decides key issues transparently?
  69. Given the current pope’s age, the further question arises, are his successors also to be trusted without accountability? What have Catholics learned from the sordid history of bad popes, as well as from the revelations of current scandals that seem at times to be as sordid as the earlier scandals? Given the present crisis, the Vatican’s procedures and processes, now and in the future, in evaluating and adopting reforms are almost as important as the potential substantive reforms themselves.
  70. Pope Francis had little choice, it appears, but to try to contain this crisis of trust, after suddenly, in the midst of this crisis, unexpectedly succeeding the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. Francis’ Synods of Bishops strategy, his ongoing sophisticated and well funded media campaign, and his efforts to shore up favorable arrangements with some powerful world leaders of government, finance and media, all appear to be key parts of his strategy to contain this crisis.
  71. The Vatican under the current pope and his successor surely must soon either “lead and act”, or they will most likely be compelled, by internal and external pressure, to “follow and react”. Neither this present crisis of trust, nor the resulting challenges, can be avoided much longer to any significant extent.
  72. Some Relevant Recent History: The Vatican under Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) had aligned itself in the Second World War (1939-1945) with the once seemingly invincible, but losing Fascist dictators, Hitler and Mussolini and their “neutral” ally, Franco. Pius XII had been born into a Roman family that had been immersed earlier in the monarchical Papal States. He served for almost two decades under the autocratic Pope Pius XI (1921-1939). A top down coercive leadership must have seemed natural to Pius XII.
  73. Nevertheless, it had become increasingly clear by Mussolini’s removal in July 1943 that Western autocratic structures were losing to Western democratic structures and that major Catholic Church reforms were sorely needed, if not inevitable. By September 1943, Pius XII was endorsing modern biblical scholarship, which eventually planted the seeds that undermine some papal claims as Supreme Pontiff.
  74. Pius XII’s less well born immediate successor, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), an experienced diplomat and church historian, knew change was inevitable in the postwar situation populated by powerful Western democracies and decided boldly in early 1959, after only a short time as pope, that major Church reforms were badly needed and even overdue. This was clearly evident, especially after the defeat of the Vatican’s powerful European allies, Italy and Germany, and the takeover by 1950 of Eastern European Catholic countries like Poland, Hungary, Croatia and the Baltic States, by the Soviets.
  75. John XXIII must have also understood that as an “infallible pope” that he could ultimately control the key outcomes of the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965), or “Vatican II”. He called for the Council in 1959 less than a decade after Pius XII had in 1950 exercised the ultimate papal “infallibility power” in declaring Mary’s Assumption. That dramatic papal exercise appears to have been a desperate attempt to flex his “semi-divine infallibility” power after suffering the defeat of his Fascist allies and in the face at the time of the rise of Soviet power under Stalin.
  76. So John XXIII could risk letting the 2,500 plus Vatican II bishops talk with some freedom at Vatican II. As Pope, he would still have the last say.  Pope Francis seems to have a similar understanding that he has the last word no matter what his current Synods may decide or however the Synod bishops may vote. For modern popes since the 1870’s declaration of papal infallibility, councils like Vatican II and  Synods of Bishops are ultimately only advisory. This positions Francis to act decisively on Synod Bishops’ advice and otherwise.
  77. Unfortunately, John XXIII died in 1963 before he could implement many essential reforms as he may have planned to do. John had served in key diplomatic posts directly under two autocratic popes, Pius XI and Pius XII. These popes had enjoyed until 1945 powerful Fascist protection and support. John XXIII evidently understood well that the days of unaccountable autocratic popes protected by conservative European monarchs or Fascist dictators were over, especially with the postwar expansion of democratically accountable governments in many Catholic countries, including Italy and Germany.
  78. John XXIII in January 1959 had suddenly, unexpectedly and almost haphazardly announced publicly his reform intentions and initiated the preparation for the massive 2,500 plus bishops’ Second Vatican Council. His old friend, Paul VI, who was an experienced Vatican bureaucrat and his successor, reportedly thought in 1959 that John was stirring up a “hornets’ nest”. Similarly, Pope Francis appears intentionally now to be “creating a mess” with his unusual Synods. Undeterred, however, by John XXIII’s unexpected boldness and realizing that a retrenchment opportunity had been presented by John’s death early in the Council’s proceedings, the Vatican’s “hornets” reacted, specifically some of its entrenched bureaucrats like powerful Cardinal Ottaviani (1890-1979), and their preferred choices of subsequent Curial accommodating Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  79. These Vatican bureaucrats like Ottaviani and their successors, in effect, sidelined several key Vatican II era reforms for a half century with their “reform of the reform”, generally, a rhetorical euphemism for obstruction. These sidelined reforms included those relating to papal power sharing, married priests, contraception and even priest child abuse.
  80. These and other inevitable reforms can no longer be sidelined by the Vatican without risking dire consequences, given the escalating internal and external pressures at present on the Vatican. Maintaining, at times, the almost medieval Vatican status quo is no longer a papal option, as it may earlier have been for Pope Francis’ predecessors.
  81. This current crisis is now forcing the Vatican to try harder (A) to defend its exclusive doctrinal authority, (B) to maximize its wealth and solidify its allies among powerful national elites, and (C) to counter its religious competitors, as it tries try to survive reasonably intact.
  82. After a half century of frequent papal resistance and Vatican bureaucratic diversions that thwarted key elements of John XXIII’s and Vatican II’s reform approach, Pope Francis appears to be seeking to resume some of what John XXIII had tried to initiate. But Francis may not be doing enough, soon enough, as he approaches his eightieth birthday in two years.
  83. Many Catholics’ mistrust has now even led some of the Catholic 99.99% publicly to question the Vatican’s selective interpretation and application of Jesus’ simple Gospel message of love of God and neighbor. The Vatican’s opportunistic approach to the Gospels had earlier been at least widely tolerated, if not accepted by many Catholics. Now even at the initial Vatican Synod of the Family in October 2014, a significant number of bishops selected by  prior conservative popes even voted against several traditional Vatican positions. Such episcopal independence had been scarce since 1980 under the prior two popes.
  84. The Vatican dam has burst under the pressure of the current scandals and the the floods being released will not likely by contained by anything short of a return to the consensual, bottom up approach that prevailed in the Church and that Jesus’ disciples, including some women, left behind for over three centuries. The current coercive and top down papal management structure is not likely to contain the floods much longer, without major reforms, including especially power sharing with an independent Catholic majority. Cardinals and bishops who resist this pressure will likely be swept away by the flood of reforms, as happened with Cardinal Raymond Burke even before Pope Francis strengthened his authority to remove bishops.
  85. Strategic Alternatives and Assumptions: Any serious and objective assessment of this current Church crisis must consider at the outset several key questions. How is Pope Francis, after almost two years as pope, addressing this current crisis, as well as the related challenges to the Pope’s moral leadership and doctrinal authority, to the Vatican’s political and financial positions, and to the Catholic Church’s competitive advantage that this crisis has dramatically and unexpectedly provoked? What are Francis’ strategic options to resolve the crisis and which strategy has he selected? Is his selected strategy based on valid assumptions and truthful analysis? What are the likely outcomes from this crisis for the Vatican?
  86. The Expanding Crisis and Interplay of Related Challenges: The current Catholic Church crisis, and the four challenges the crisis has provoked, have been occasioned by almost unending scandals These scandals involve priest child abuse, bishop misconduct and financial corruption. The yet uncontrolled scandals have caused the ongoing crisis, while the insatiable 24/7 media cycle and the Internet are accelerating it non-stop.
  87. The scandal fallout is even leading many Catholics to question the previously accepted assumption that “The Holy Father knows best.” Basic questions now arise about infallible papal authority, as well as the Vatican’s hierarchical structure and unquestioned control of biblical and moral theology, especially regarding sexual and gender matters.
  88. Pope Francis indicated as the new pope at the World Youth Congress in July 2013 that he wanted a “mess” to stimulate change, and now he has one he helped create. He cannot now avoid confronting and attempting to defuse the expanding crisis, since it has unleashed unstoppable international legal and political responses. Previously, modern popes could discuss some pressing issues, while also deferring other important issues, and then sit on or even avoid the implications of these discussions, even for a half century as with some of the key issues discussed in the 1960’s during the Second Vatican Council period, such as married priests, power sharing among bishops and contraception.
  89. No more! With the pressure from the current crisis increasing, the Vatican can no longer just table these issues, and must address them now, along with additional significant issues, like (A) holding bishops accountable to the 99.9% faithful majority, (B) ordaining women priests, (C) celebrating gay marriages, (D) welcoming divorced and remarried Catholics at Mass, and (E) protecting children.
  90. These scandals in today’s wide open media world have created unprecedented reputational, political, financial and competitive risks and also generated related challenges for the Vatican. One pope has already resigned under pressure, the first to do so in almost 600 years. Many tough questions, rarely asked earlier, are now proliferating rapidly and are being raised constantly and publicly. The days of popes on pedestals are over permanently, notwithstanding the rapid acceleration of Pope Francis’ new pope saint making spree as part of his crisis response.
  91. Will Pope Francis be next to resign under similar pressure? Who will succeed him? How many Vatican officials are now being investigated by outside government prosecutors? Could the Vatican financially go broke, as over a dozen US dioceses and religious orders already have, under the weight of rising scandal related legal costs and declining donations and subsidies? Will even more Catholics now leave the Church seeking greener pastures and truer shepherds?
  92. Until recently, the Vatican’s decades’ old strategy aimed simultaneously and defensively at protection and preservation. Protecting, as the Vatican’s highest priority, its top leaders from governmental legal accountability, has meant employing media management tactics with help, it appears from billionaire media masters and seeking opportunistic arrangements with powerful political leaders and wealthy financial barons.
  93. Preserving Vatican wealth and membership statistics, both to maximize its eroding income worldwide and to reverse declining Catholic birth and retention rates in key countries, has meant continuing to pursue a “pro billionaire” fundraising approach and a “pro-pregnancy” population policy. This population policy had been earlier declared in Pope Pius XI’s 1930 anti-birth control papal encyclical occasioned by both the rising threat of atheistic Soviet communism against a declining Western European birthrate and the military ambitions of Pius XI’s key protector, Mussolini. Today, the Vatican’s pro-baby policy appears directed at the Vatican’s near obsession with the threat of radical Islam and Muslims’ high birth rate.
  94. The Vatican’s defensive instruments of power currently include (A) endlessly quoting in Vatican public relations releases from Jesus’ appealing message of brotherly love, while avoiding the message too often in actual Vatican actions,  (B) constantly fronting a smiling  “semi-divine infallible pope”, preferably hugging babies, (C) shrewdly managing a self interested, obedient and self perpetuating hierarchy, (D) carefully applying its significant worldwide wealth advantage,  and (E) tightly controlling its considerable political influence in key countries, like the USA and Germany.
  95. The major current Church challenges, on top of the present scandal crisis, are:
  96. (A) A leadership challenge — diminishing papal authority and declining adherents, as millions of older Catholics are leaving the Church, many due the Vatican’s rigid sexual policies and its mismanagement of the scandals, while many younger Catholics are similarly disaffected and are increasingly marrying in non-Church ceremonies, are having and baptizing fewer Catholic babies, and are even avoiding or deferring the early introduction of their children to the Church’s formative indoctrination process associated with First Communion/First Confession;
  97. (B) A political challenge — to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to the Vatican’s opportunistic arrangements with plutocratic political promoters ;
  98. (C) A financial challenge — declining personal donations and governmental subsidies while facing unending legal expenses and litigation penalties — fewer Catholics are donating, while billions in scandal related expenses are still being incurred, as more dioceses go broke and bankrupt and more Churches and schools are closed and sold off; and
  99. (D) A competitive challenge — increasing competition from other faiths and from secularism, ranging from Christian pentecostals, to Islamic converts, to the growing category of “nones”, unaffiliated with any faith group.
  100. Many of the world’s billion Catholics worry increasingly about the future of their scandal infected Church. While many millions still support the Catholic Church devoutly, millions of others, including women, children, poor couples, divorced and remarried, gay folks and even non-Catholics, suffer under Vatican policies that often seem unchristian and unnecessary.
  101. Pope Francis must currently confront this crisis and these challenges. He needs a comprehensive strategy to do so. His individual actions cannot really be assessed adequately or intelligently, except in the context of his overall strategy.
  102. Strategic Alternatives Presently Available to the Vatican: Pope Francis has given many Catholics new hope for a Church cure, for positive changes and for overdue reforms. Recent developments make clear that major changes for the papal monarchy are underway and that more are coming. When and how the newest changes may come surely raise complicated questions that demand responses, even if “final answers” are yet unavailable.
  103. Some Catholic Church changes may come voluntarily and others involuntarily, but come soon they will to the current papal monarchy, as they long ago came to other European monarchies. Depending on the specific change, either voluntary consensus among many Catholics or involuntary coercion from outside governments (as has already occurred in the financial area), or both, are driving these changes relentlessly. As a Catholic, I hope the changes come voluntarily. As an international lawyer, I expect the major changes will come involuntarily in any event, if needed voluntary changes are not implemented soon.
  104. Of course. the Church’s future options necessarily depend on, and are limited by, its present situation, as influenced by its unique history and traditions. Pope Francis cannot start afresh. He also faces considerable opposition from many sides. In some respects, Pope Francis’ situation today is like that of Pope Pius IX, who lost his large Papal States’ kingdom a century and a half ago to outside Italian governmental forces. Pius XI tried to recover some lost power by being “declared infallible” at the 1870 First Vatican Council. That move, however, may have created more problems for the Church than it solved.
  105. Pope Francis appears similarly desperately to be trying, with recent papal saint making spectacles and his Synods of Bishops, to make changes to try to head off some of the likely changes he may anticipate being imposed on the Church by escalating outside government pressure. His fine tuning the rules recently on his power to remove bishops suggests he does not plan on endless debates with the likes of Cardinal Burke.
  106. Moreover, Pope Francis must try to follow Jesus’ message closely if he wants to succeed. But traditions about Jesus, especially the all important “Good News” of the four Gospels, have been interpreted in different ways, prophetically, theologically and even politically, by earlier Catholic leaders and thinkers. These influential leaders and thinkers and their specific interpretations have generally dominated Church dogma and practice over much of its 2,000 year history, often in unpredictable ways at times with unanticipated consequences.
  107. For much of this long period, popes benefited from considerable protection from powerful monarchs, and at times even tyrants. But this has generally no longer been the case since the end of Fascist hegemony in Germany and Italy by 1945. Since then, the Vatican has had to nimbly weave its web of political protection by trading Vatican support on an ad hoc opportunistic basis for national arrangements. These alliances ranged from close ties since the 1980’s with elected US Republican leaders to alliances with military dictators in Latin America and Africa.
  108. Importantly, the Bible, including the Catholic New Testament, has a complex and complicated origin and multiple textual, linguistic, and cultural sources. It is now well known by scholars that the Bible is no straightforward guidebook on many modern problems. Early Church history also is poorly documented, quite diverse and easily manipulated by selective sourcing and quotations.
  109. Indeed, millions of words have been written by modern biblical and church history scholars. Nevertheless, in recent years, there has frequently been greater rather than less uncertainty about some important aspects of Jesus’ reported words and deeds and about some of his “clear mandates”, than had sometimes been assumed as beyond question by earlier popes. “The Tradition is …”, is at times much more complicated than modern popes have sometimes suggested in their encyclicals and the Catechism.
  110. The Vatican’s Current Strategy and Strategic Assumptions: Modern popes, including Francis, in their key dogmatic and moral pronouncements and proclaimed pastoral policies and practices, rely on many assumptions, occasionally unstated ones, sometimes selectively derived from preferred “in house” Catholic scholarship on scripture, history and theology. There are several assumptions in essential areas that are less certain than at times presented by self interested Vatican officials and their opportunistic apologists.
  111. These assumptions are a major part of the foundation for the Vatican’s claims about the Church’s (A) origins and sources, including some key New Testament mandates, (B) structure, leadership and management, and (C) dogma and practice. On closer inspection, these assumptions are more doubtful than modern popes, including Pope Francis, have at times indicated and the propositions popes construct on these assumptions are often more uncertain than not.
  112. By acknowledging these uncertainties now, some “unchangeable” dogmas and practices at variance with the lived experiences and informed consciences of hundreds of millions of Catholics can, and will be, changed voluntarily or involuntarily by the Vatican, to conform truthfully and honestly to Catholics’ current knowledge of, and daily experience, with reality. These truthful acknowledgements are often, as well, an essential prerequisite for the Vatican to survive the crisis and challenges it must face to survive.
  113. The Vatican can no longer avoid addressing the current relentless questioning of some of its key assumptions, given the growth in the Catholic scholarship community beyond Vatican control, as well as the 24/7 media coverage and Internet revelations that at times undercut Vatican positions. And future papal pronouncements, without ample underlying independent scholarly support, are hardly going to influence many Catholics for long. The Vatican can no longer address modern day “Galileos” solely by placing them under house arrest.
  114. Acknowledging honestly the uncertainty of the Vatican’s assumptions is fundamentally important, and also provides additional reasons to hope that positive changes in Church structure and doctrines are likely in the near term. If, as Jesus reportedly said, the truth makes us free, it is  mandatory that the Church’s options for change henceforth be pursued based honestly on truthful assumptions, and not opportunistically on “selective truths”, as at times still occurs and has also occurred in the past.
  115. Pope Francis had as a young Jesuit provincial in Argentina direct experience with the outside government power of a military dictatorship. He understands well that the Vatican he inherited from the ex-Pope was and remains in several areas, especially priest child abuse, on a collision course with outside governments armed with a coercive rule of international law. Longtime Vatican players, that had been accustomed until recently to living in a Vatican bubble in an Italy run by a seemingly billionaire swinger, do not yet seem to understand, as Francis appears to, that the days of “The Holy Father says … ” are over. Francis appears to know that either the Vatican reforms itself now or it risks being forced soon to reform, with the chaos and divisions that forced reforms would likely entail.
  116. These assumptions, in varying degrees, have shaped much of the Catholic Church’s present. They will also influence significantly its future, no matter what Pope Francis decides to do. Understanding better these often unstated assumptions creates hopeful opportunities for adopting long overdue positive reforms by eliminating non-essential and questionable “certainties” that at times have been impediments to needed changes.
  117. The overarching Vatican “framework” at present, based on current Vatican assumptions, appears to be mainly that (A) Jesus endorsed popes as supreme papal monarchs, (B) who are accountable only to God, (C) who uniquely interpret infallibly matters of “faith and morals”, including New Testament moral themes, and (D) who appoint as unaccountable bishops superior men, exclusively, (E) to implement and enforce unchangeable dogmas and practices mandated by popes. The Vatican currently, in effect, requires a billion plus Catholics to operate within this framework as well. This framework does not stand up well to close scholarly scrutiny.
  118. Complicating Pope Francis’ difficult tasks are many opportunists, including several very wealthy and powerful Church donors, who appear to be seeking, for their own personal agendas, to exploit the considerable “spiritual power” possessed by the modern papacy and to benefit from the political prestige and financial assets that popes control. For more than the last three quarters of the Catholic Church’s  2,000 year history, popes have at times been important “players”, sometimes a major player, in the international political economy; hence, the age old objective of wealthy donors to influence both papal decision making and wealth management.
  119. These opportunistic donors at times rely implicitly and selectively on several present weak papal assumptions, as do many in the Catholic hierarchy of cardinals and bishops. Of course, some of these Catholic religious leaders, with over 1,500 year years of accumulated political and economic traditions behind them, often also share some of their wealthy donors’ primary goals of maximizing their personal wealth, while also minimizing their individual accountability.
  120. Neither Pope Francis, nor any of his potential successors, can make many of the needed positive changes, without at a minimum revising key elements of his weak assumptions. Pope Francis and his successors, of course, may be unwilling voluntarily to make these revisions. That may matter significantly for the 0.01% minority leadership who may then not survive. It may not matter much, however, to the 99.9% faithful majority, who may still get to see these reforms imposed on the leadership majority by outside governments.
  121. The current likelihood is that Francis or his successor will, nevertheless, be compelled soon enough to make many of these changes, by pressure from outside governments accountable to their constituents, many of whom are Catholic. This is not the 1960’s, with the Second Vatican Council, when a collusive Vatican bureaucracy and their selected popes can stymie for a half century needed reforms agreed to by almost all of the world’s bishops at the Council.
  122. European governments are already beginning to apply considerable pressure in the financial area with mandated reforms for the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own asset management operation. This pressure has included so far a Vatican Bank asset seizure, a Vatican City credit card facility freeze and criminal investigations, even an arrest of a key Vatican financial official by the Italian government. The Vatican has been, in effect, required to hire some of the world’s most influential and expensive financial and banking consultants, lawyers and auditors and that may still not be enough to keep all Vatican officials out of prosecutors’ reach.
  123. While Francis bobs and weaves and seeks political allies like anti-gay American fundamentalists, Catholics need to cover their bets by continuing to press their leaders, including President Obama to act. Papal promises of change are no longer a safe bet without concrete papal actions fulfilling the promises. Insufficient papal action to date suggests a need for more caution and prudence, and less cheerleading and wishful thinking.

http://christiancatholicism.com/new-cardinals-by-sunday-how-about-some-women-pope-francis/

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s