On the one hand, the unity of the apostolic Church consists of the allegiance of every baptized person to the successor of St. Peter.
On the other hand, human decency demands: Whenever someone in authority exploits someone vulnerable, that crime must be brought to light and punished justly, to the satisfaction of the victim.
These look like the Twin Towers of September 11, 2018, for any Catholic not living as a hermit.
On the one hand, many good Catholics rightly observe that calling the pope a bad pope can hardly do any good. He is the only pope we have. It’s not for us to judge his badness or goodness; that judgment belongs to God alone. We all have our own personal spiritual and moral lives to work on. We fail in humility, and we damage the unity of the Church, when we do not give our prelates the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, many good Catholics, not to mention the non-Catholics paying attention, hear what Pope Francis has said–and not said–these past few weeks, and they stop short. They reasonably conclude: This man intends to use his untouchable status as the one and only pope to trick his audience. Trick us into doubting our incandescent outrage over a fact that stands undisputed, and painfully in front of our faces. Namely: someone pulled the curtain back to show us the inner-workings of our hierarchy, and we see a pile of stinking garbage.
Who can honestly abandon either fidelity to the successor of St. Peter or Christian solidarity with the victims of abuse?
Will these Twin Towers come crashing down in a colossal mess of lethally toxic debris?
I say No. I say: Jesus Christ. The heavenly Father. The grace of the sacraments. Faith, hope, and charity. St. Augustine. St. Francis. St. Thomas. St. John Vianney. St. Therese. The Catechism. The People of God. Parish churches all over the world with saints on their knees at this very moment.
I say: Your Holiness, I’m not going anywhere. I wish that you would. And I will keep wishing it until you own up to every bit of the truth that you haven’t owned up to yet, and then admit that it’s too much to expect us to continue to believe in your leadership.
But I’m not going anywhere. Maybe this is like taking a knee, a la Colin Kaepernick. But not during the national anthem at a football game. Rather during the prayer for the pope during the canon of the Mass.
Not that I will literally take a knee at that point, since the rubrics call for taking a knee at other particular times.
And I do pray for the pope with love, and pray that he will do the right thing, acknowledging that I certainly do not have a lock on knowing what that right thing is. But seems to me: Replace all the Cardinals by randomly selecting from among the world’s parish priests, then step down.
I don’t have the hair to be Colin Kaepernick. And I’m not as talented or good-looking. I’m just trying to be Catholic right now. Without making myself sick to my stomach when I think about the difference between what this past summer could have been, and what it actually has been.