A lot has happened since Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the grand jury report a month ago on the priest sex abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. The New York attorney general has begun to institute a probe of dioceses in New York. Various politicians in New Jersey have turned up the heat to demand a probe of New Jersey dioceses.
I’ve noticed among the callers to my radio show and on my social media feed that the scandal this time is different. I’ve gotten almost no pushback from anyone who defended the Catholic Church or claimed that this report was part of a persecution against Catholics. This response is much different from previous grand jury reports.
One of the more interesting aspects of all this is that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Philadelphia Diocese has called upon Pope Francis to cancel a bishops conference with young people in October focusing on the role of young people in the church. Furthermore, according to Life Site news, a Catholic website, Chaput told a conference at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, “Right now, the bishops would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic.”
As far as we know, there has been no response from the pope.
Sadly, many in the media have risen to the defense of Pope Francis against Catholic figures such as Chaput and Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio [or Vatican ambassador] to the United States who published an 11-page letter that, among other things, accused the pope of rescinding Pope Benedict XVI’s sanctioning of Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, who has been alleged to have abused teenage seminarians for decades. Vigano accused the pope of covering up the case and demanded that the pope resign.
Mark Hemingway, writing in the Weekly Standard, concludes that there has been widespread media protection of Pope Francis because of liberal leanings on some issues, and the media narrative is that Catholic conservatives are trying to pounce on the pope.
Amid this clear trend to excuse Francis and not involve the Vatican in dealing with widespread abuse have been such headlines as: “Francis Takes High Road as Conservatives Pounce” and “Conservative Media Move to Front Line of Battle to Undermine Pope Francis.”
This defense of Francis has gotten new energy because prominent Catholic Steve Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump, has become involved in trying to ferret out those who have not protected children. Barbie Latza Nadeau, writing at the Daily Beast, even went so far as accusing Bannon of “colluding” with powerful Catholic clergy to force the resignation of Francis.
Bannon has denied this. He recently told Reuters that Francis should not resign, but that he was working on setting up an independent, non-partisan tribunal to investigate decades of scandals.
“We can’t have memos and letters and accusations,” Bannon said. “The pope is an unbroken chain the Vicar of Christ on Earth. You don’t just don’t just sit there and say, ‘I think you should resign.’ ”
I think Bannon is acting out of his faith.
I am not as forgiving toward Pope Francis. On Tuesday, the pope, according to an official Vatican news report report, called upon the hierarchy of the church in a homily to pray and resist the “Great Accuser,” Satan, who the pope argued was exposing the sins of the bishops to divide faithful Catholics. This is an astonishing view but not atypical from this pope.
It’s clear that reform must happen. This could involve both new laws coming out of Harrisburg and other state capitals and the church adopting new safeguards. It could also involve allowing priests to marry to draw more candidates to the priesthood.
As far as past victims, I favor a one-year window rescinding the statue of limitations to allow victims to bring civil cases against their abusers and those involved in the coverup. WHYY’s Newsworks.com reports that Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILDUSA, said this week that the Pennsylvania grand jury report illustrates why the law should change.
“Over 1,000 victims and over 300 priests, and virtually none of [the children] had access to justice,” she said. “That there is no justice for so many victims are intolerable. This is an epidemic of child sex abuse.”
I have a lot of confidence in the way Chaput has handled the sex abuse cases that have come before him.
However, the past victims need their day in court.
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com On Twitter at @DomShow1210