I am writing to voice my concern over the recent attacks and blame Pope Francis has received by some Catholic theologians and members of the hierarchy. These criticisms are false, in some cases self serving, and destructive to implementing the renewals called for in Vatican II.
Presently, the church faces scandals and cover-ups it has kept secret too long. It took an outside secular source, a grand jury report, to bring attention, to the child sexual abuse in the church. As stated by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro: “They protected their institution at all costs … the church showed a complete disdain for victims,” and the cover-up “stretched in some cases all the way up to the Vatican.”
Whether due to a willful desire to protect the status quo or some other reason, cover-ups are problematic for all large institutions. In light of structural constraints against change, institutional reform can, however come from individuals (e.g. Gandhi, Martin Luther King), guided by the Spirit, and willing to take the right path towards change.
Steps already taken by Pope Francis model the actions that need to be taken. He has shown an open mind in listening to credible evidence from abuse victims, as well as inputs from clerics within the church. This change from reliance solely on institutional paradigms of the past to one of seeing Christ in the victim is a necessary step forward.
Next, he has demonstrated action in swiftly dealing with clerics, who not only abuse their victims, but their very office. Besides defrocking some bishops, he has pushed others to resign.
Then there is Pope Francis’s summons to bishop’s from around the world to an unprecedented meeting next February focused on protecting minors and preventing clergy sex abuse.
Certainly Francis cannot be blamed for inaction over the offenses that have reportedly occurred over the past 70 years and were perpetrated under previous Popes. Rather than continuing to support the institutional structures that hid these sins, he has brought them to light. He supports Vatican II norms, which were the consensus of the largest body of religious leaders ever assembled, has advocated for the poor and underprivileged, spoken out about the dangers of climate change, welcomed interaction with leaders from other faiths, and engendered respect and admiration among many sincere believers who hope for reform.
This pope should be supported rather than reviled.
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