1. Pope Faces Calls to Answer Coverup Claim, By Francis X. Rocca.

The Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2018, Pg. A16

Accusations that Pope Francis helped cover up sexual misconduct, which he has so far declined to answer, reverberated around the Catholic Church on Monday, threatening to undermine his credibility on sexual abuse and to hinder his pontificate more generally.

Now that the pope himself is accused of complicity in a coverup, he must dispel suspicions or risk tainting his efforts at reform across the church, some said.

“The pope’s refusal to confirm or deny these accusations runs the risk of creating greater doubt and confusion,” said the Rev. John Paul Wauck, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. “People could be left lingering in a limbo of uncertainty.”

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, said in a statement that Archbishop Viganò’s letter raised questions that “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence.”

“The proper attitude is to take it seriously but with a large grain of salt,” said John Allen, president of Crux Catholic Media and author of many books on the Vatican.

Pope Francis’ record on the church’s sex-abuse crisis has long been criticized as inadequate by activists, and popular attitudes have reflected such disappointment.


2. Two paths for the Catholic Church, By Michael Gerson.

The Washington Post, August 28, 2018, Pg. A17

The Catholic Church, in many places, is in a scandal of insufficient outrage. Some of its leaders have lost the ability to distinguish between a foible and an abomination. It is also a scandal of lost purpose. It shows what happens when an institution serves itself rather than its defining mission. This is the surest way to destroy what you seek to defend.

But here is some unsolicited advice for pastors and prelates facing similar situations: The most powerful reform that could be made is to involve lay women in every level of examination and judgment. The Catholic Church may retain an all-male clergy but, clearly, an all-male clergy cannot be trusted to regulate and police itself. Can you imagine a meeting including parish mothers and women leaders in which the protection of a predator priest was proposed? I can’t either.

Whether the Vatican and other religious authorities realize it or not, the #MeToo movement may prove the most influential social trend of our time. Institutions that treat women with dignity and welcome them as equals are ultimately more humane and just for everyone. And there is no religious exemption.


3. Catholic opposition to pope erupts into view with letter.

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, August 28, 2018, Pg. A1

A few high-ranking church leaders have questioned him publicly about his teachings. But the simmering opposition has suddenly exploded across the Catholic world, with a former Vatican ambassador accusing the pope of covering up sexual abuse — and demanding that Francis step down.

The accusations came in a 7,000-word letter written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that could be viewed as an act of courage or unprecedented defiance.

Defenders of the pope note that the letter was published at perhaps the most challenging point of Francis’s papacy, when abuse scandals in the United States, Chile, Australia and elsewhere are embroiling members of the church hierarchy.

“We are a step away from schism,” said Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. “I think there is a perception among the pope’s critics that there is vulnerability here — on the part of the pope and in the Vatican generally.”

“A lot of this is homophobia,” said Father James Martin, an American Jesuit who has advocated for the church to welcome LGBT members with more compassion. “I think they’re using abuse to beat up on gays.”

For traditionalists, Martin’s invitation from the Vatican to speak last week in Dublin at a massive World Meeting of Families event was proof of how Francis is gradually eroding church teachings on sexuality.

And in Madison, Wis., responding to the church’s sex abuse crisis, Bishop Robert Morlino wrote in a letter to Catholics in his diocese that “it is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.”


4. American Catholics’ demands for reform intensify after letter implicates Pope Francis in sex abuse coverup.

By Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, August 28, 2018, Pg. A3

In the wake of a summer of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, topped this weekend with an explosive letter alleging that Pope Francis himself covered for an abusive cardinal, American Catholics are agitating for major changes in their church.

Perhaps for the first time, Catholics of all political stripes who protected their hierarchy through what had once seemed the worst of the sexual abuse crisis are training their ire on it. They are calling publicly for bishop resignations, Robert S. Mueller-like investigations, and boycotts of Mass and donations. Even the biggest fans of Francis and his reformist agenda are now questioning whether he is actually part of the problem.

“The hope of reform on this issue: If it can’t be achieved under Pope Francis, who can it be achieved under?” asked Christopher Jolly Hale, who helped lead Catholic outreach for President Barack Obama and has until recently been a prominent supporter of Francis. He added: “No one with good conscience can really defend him with his record on sexual abuse. It’s been an absolute disappointment.”

But even Francis’s most fervent admirers, and Viganò’s most skeptical critics, have been troubled by the letter — by Francis’s handling of recent sexual abuse scandals, including a crisis in Chile, and a massive Pennsylvania grand jury investigation of child abuse by more than 300 priests over 70 years.

Alexandra DeSanctis, a writer in Northern Virginia who attends Mass almost daily, agreed, saying: “There’s not any democratic mechanism. We can’t vote to impeach the pope.” Instead, she said that people she knows are organizing a movement to demand that the American bishops open themselves to an independent investigation. “Ideally someone from outside the church — especially now that the pope hasn’t commented” on Viganò’s letter.

The political process is one that many Catholics have never compared to their church before. Bishops and priests weren’t like presidents and mayors; they were holy men. Now, that respect for church authority is draining away.


5. U.S. Bishops Draw Battle Lines After Jab at Pope.

By Elizabeth Dias and Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, August 28, 2018, Pg. A1

In a remarkable break from the usual decorum among the bishops, American Catholic leaders are in open conflict over the explosive allegations from a former Vatican diplomat that Pope Francis knew about, and ignored, accusations of sexual abuse against a now-disgraced American cleric.

The battle lines were being drawn even before Archbishop Viganò issued his stunning 11-page letter calling for the pope’s resignation over allegations that he covered up an abusive cleric, former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick.

The stakes now are twofold: how the church will address sexual abuse and cover-ups among its ranks, and the power struggle emerging between conservative and progressive factions of the church’s United States leadership. The scandal around sexual abuse has escalated into the biggest test yet of Francis’ papacy, and the resolution will determine the future of the church in the United States.


6. What Did Pope Francis Know?

The Catholic Church needs leaders who can purge corruption even among their own theological allies. The pope is failing that test, By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, August 28, 2018

But at the same time evidence in favor of Viganò’s account is trickling out— including a claim of confirmation from people close to Benedict himself. And given the distracted and ineffectual way that the last pope ran the church, it’s very easy to imagine a distracted and ineffectual attempt to restrict McCarrick being subverted and ignored by the cardinal and his allies in the hierarchy.

In which case it’s also easy to imagine a scenario in which Francis didn’t technically “lift” those sanctions so much as acted in ignorance of them, or of their seriousness. He might have been given some knowledge, by Viganò and others, of the allegations against McCarrick but either assumed they couldn’t be that bad (at this point the cardinal mostly stood accused of imposing himself on seminarians, not teenage minors) or else chose to believe a denial from the accused cardinal himself. Why? In part because of perceived self-interest: Francis needed allies, McCarrick was sympathetic to the pope’s planned liberalizing push, and the pope wanted his help reshaping the ranks of American bishops.

In this scenario Francis would be guilty of self-deception and incuriosity but not as nakedly culpable as Viganò implies. And if it’s easy to imagine this scenario because of the Danneels example, it’s also easy to imagine because that’s how things have proceeded consistently in the church since the sex abuse scandals broke: If a given predator or enabler is “on side” for either conservatives or liberals, he will find defenders and protectors for as long as events and revelations permit.

That’s a major reason John Paul II refused to investigate Father Marcel Maciel, the wicked founder of the Legionaries of Christ — because the Legionaries were conservative, and apparently a great success, and that was all that mattered. It’s why many conservative Catholics unwisely defended John Paul II-appointed prelates like Boston’s Bernard Law in the early 2000s.

Now it’s why certain organs and apostles of liberal Catholicism are running interference for McCarrick’s protectors — because Francis is their pope, the liberalizer they yearned for all through the John Paul and Benedict years, and all’s fair in the Catholic civil war.

But the inevitable, even providential irony is that this sort of team thinking never leads to theological victory, but only to exposure, shame, disaster. Indeed, the lesson of these bitter decades is that any faction hoping to lead Roman Catholicism out of crisis should begin with purges within its own ranks, with intolerance for any hint of corruption.

Francis, alas for everyone, did the opposite.

Now those allies may be the ruin of his pontificate. But this doesn’t mean that the pope should resign — not even if Viganò is fully vindicated. One papal resignation per millennium is more than enough. That cop-out should not be easily available to pontiffs confronted with scandals, including scandals of their own making, any more than it should be available to fathers.

Instead the faithful should press Francis to fulfill the paternal obligations at which he has failed to date, to purge the corruption he has tolerated and to supply Catholicism with what it has lacked these many years: a leader willing to be zealous and uncompromising against what Benedict called the “filth” in the church, no matter how many heads must roll on his own side of the Catholic civil war.

7. Why We Stay and the Vigano Testimony.

By George Weigel, George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, First Things, August 28, 2018

Everlasting life is offered to us sacramentally at every Mass. That is what we believe; that is why we remain in the Church; and that is why we must all bend every effort, from our distinct states of life in the Mystical Body of Christ, to reform what must be reformed so that others may know and love the Lord Jesus and experience the life-giving fruits of friendship with him. The Church’s current crisis is a crisis of fidelity and a crisis of holiness, a crisis of infidelity and a crisis of sin. It is also a crisis of evangelization, for shepherds without credibility impede the proclamation of the Gospel—which, as the other headlines of the day suggest, the world badly needs.

In the immediate aftermath of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s “Testimony,” and its statement that Pope Francis knew of the sins of Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, and lifted the sanctions against McCarrick that had been imposed (but never seriously enforced) by Pope Benedict XVI, the polemics within the Church immediately intensified and ricocheted through the media. In this febrile atmosphere, it is virtually impossible for anyone to say anything without arousing suspicions and accusations. But as I knew Archbishop Viganò well during his service as papal representative in Washington, I feel obliged to speak about him, which I hope will help others consider his very, very serious claims thoughtfully.

First, Archbishop Viganò is a courageous reformer, who was moved out of the Vatican by his immediate superiors because he was determined to confront financial corruption in the Governatorato, the administration of Vatican City State.

Second, Archbishop Viganò is, in my experience, an honest man.

Third, Archbishop Viganò is a loyal churchman of a certain generation and formation, bred to a genuine piety about the papacy. His training in the papal diplomatic service would instinctively lead him to make the defense of the pope his first, second, third, and hundredth priority. If he believes that what he has now said is true, and that the Church needs to learn that truth in order to cleanse itself of what is impeding its evangelical mission, then he is overriding his ingrained instincts for the gravest of reasons.

What Archbishop Viganò testifies to knowing on the basis of direct, personal, and in many cases documentable experiences in Rome and Washington deserves to be taken seriously, not peremptorily dismissed or ignored. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the U.S. bishops’ conference president, evidently agrees, as his August 27 statement makes clear. That is another step toward the purification and reform we need.


8. President of U.S. bishops’ conference seeks papal audience after Viganò letter.

By Christopher White, Crux, August 27, 2018

In response to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s astonishing claims that Pope Francis knew about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s history of sexual abuse and decided to lift sanctions against him supposedly imposed by Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a statement on Monday saying the allegation “brings particular focus and urgency” to the USCCB’s pledge for a full investigation into the former archbishop of Washington.

“The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.