When the Rules Apparently Weren’t the Rules

Francis and Benedict

If you saw any news yesterday, you know that the pope issued new laws about reporting sexual abuse.

They include a procedure for accusations against bishops. Those go to the Archbishop. If someone accuses the Archbishop, you go to the neighboring bishop. Then the bishop who receives the accusation forwards it to the pope’s ambassador to the country, the ‘nuncio.’

Sounds simple enough. So simple, in fact, that we could be forgiven for thinking: Wasn’t that already the law?

And it sounds not only simple, but also familiar. It’s what happened in the case of Theodore McCarrick, over twenty years ago. McCarrick sat as an Archbishop. At least two of his suffering sex-abuse victims told neighboring bishops. The bishops told the nuncio.


That’s right. Nothing.

McCarrick became a Cardinal. Bishops arranged secret settlements with his hurting victims. In 2008, after all the bishops in his former dioceses, and all the high-ranking Cardinals and popes in the Vatican, all knew about McCarrick’s abuses, McCarrick not only continued to carry on as if nothing had happened, he actually preached at the Beatification of a saint.

Pope Francis’ new law also establishes that exploiting your authority in the Church in order to get sex counts as a crime, even if the victim is over 18. And the new law establishes that covering-up for such crimes also counts as a crime.

Again, my beloved, I think we could be forgiven for thinking: Wasn’t all that a crime already? Doesn’t every God-fearing person on the face of the earth know that exploiting your clerical authority to get sex offends God, and the victim—offends them so grievously, that you must be punished for it? Wouldn’t any churchman of sound mind know that, without anyone having to spell it out in a papal motu proprio?

el-grecost-paulToday at Holy Mass we read in the Acts of the Apostles about how evil St. Paul was–before he became good, by God’s gracious mercy. St. Paul never made any secret of the evil he had done. And he never let himself off the hook, simply because he didn’t know any better, when he viciously persecuted the Church. No—he knew perfectly well that he should have known better.

I’m sorry to have to say this, and I’m sorry to have to hammer it out with you, dear reader, ad nauseum—but if I don’t write about it, I will lose my mind.

Pope Francis has done the opposite of accountability. He and his predecessor both broke the very rules he laid out yesterday, in the case of Theodore McCarrick. Now, instead of holding himself accountable, the pope pretends that no one knew the difference between right and wrong before May 9, 2019.

This is the exact same thing that the American bishops (including McCarrick himself, of course) did in 2002. They made rules that any reasonable person would have thought were the rules all along—rules which the bishops themselves had broken for decades. What they didn’t do, and still have never done, is hold themselves accountable for having done great wrong themselves.

They pretended that the rules weren’t the rules when they broke them. Now the pope has done the same thing.

…St. Paul, honest sinner and protector of the Church of Rome, pray for us!

6 thoughts on “When the Rules Apparently Weren’t the Rules

  1. The reading below is from today’s Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF/or TLM). How many of the priests especially Bishops do you know dear reader who fit this description? I can recall a few: for example, the 4 Cardinals responsible for the “Dubia questions” addressed to the Holy Father (HF); some of whom were punished and all of them ignored for speaking out. Archbishop Vigano comes to mind also. He was vilified for reporting the HF’s failures to act in the McCarrick scandals. One could go on and on citing other similar stories.

    The Catholic Church is holy because its head, Jesus Christ, is holy. The human agents entrusted with managing its affairs are sinners. As Fr. White points out the remedial procedures the Pope ordered just now to correct abuses by are what Bishops and others should have been routinely employing already. Actually they seem to have done deliberately the contrary all along. Few are “great priests who in his days pleased God, and was found just; and in the time of wrath he was made a reconciliation.”

    So let us be vigilant and recall President R. Regan’s advice when dealing with Russia (or the Vatican?): “Trust but Verify!”

    Lesson from the book of Ecclesiasticus
    Sir 44:16-27 45:3-20.
    Behold, a great priest, who in his days pleased God, and was found just; and in the time of wrath he was made a reconciliation. There was not found the like to him, who kept the law of the Most High. Therefore, by an oath, the Lord made him to increase among his people. He gave him the blessing of all nations, and confirmed His covenant upon his head. He acknowledged him in His blessings; He preserved for him His mercy; and he found grace before the eyes of the Lord. He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him a crown of glory. He made an everlasting covenant with him, and gave him a great priesthood; and made him blessed in glory. To execute the office of the priesthood, and to have praise in His name, and to offer Him a worthy incense for an odor of sweetness.
    R. Thanks be to God.

  2. I hate to ask, but how much corruption infects some/many of the fallible men of the Vatican? How many skeletons are packed away in closets there that whistleblowers get blown off or re-assigned? How Machiavellian are the politics there, and has it always been that way, but periodically the scandals stink up the world so much that it’s impossible to overlook any longer? How many saints have been called by God through the centuries to clean up the rot? The reforms of Vatican II, properly understood and faithfully carried out (as alluded to by Fr. Mark in his recent post about Fr. Yves Congar, OP) are breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe we need to revisit the conciliar documents themselves to discover the deeper sense of the Council, in the same way we read Sacred Scripture – in a spirit of humility and true reform.

  3. This is such a sham whats going on in the Vatican. You cannot make this up. Plus the churches cover it up too.It makes one wonder what the Heck is going on?

  4. On the TV news this evening, nuns reporting abuse by clerics. It seems sometimes like abuse in some form rules the world, now and has always.
    Judy R.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s