Media Double Standard On Pope Francis & Clerics v. UK Pols/Celebs & Bill Cosby ?


Media Double Standard On Pope Francis & Clerics v. UK Pols/Celebs & Bill Cosby ?

Views of Jerry Slevin, a Harvard and Catholic “schooled” retired international lawyer

From the Link: http://christiancatholicism.com/media-double-standard-on-pope-francis-clerics-v-uk-polscelebs-bill-cosby/

Reuters’ respected editor, John Lloyd, who is also a La Repubblica of Rome columnist and an Oxford journalism scholar, candidly observed about the Vatican’s recent Synod huddle: ” …  these ageing men did — and still do — have a serious sex scandal within their ranks – one which they have, in the main, dealt with badly.” Fair enough, but are journalists now doing much better, “in the main”, in covering Pope Francis’ failure after 20 months to take decisive action to curtail the clerical sex abuse scandal? No, with only rare exceptions.

CNN is a prime example. It appears, in effect, still to be giving Pope Francis and UK clerics a continuing pass on Vatican controlled secretive investigations, while pressing for an independent and transparent UK investigation of sex abuse allegations involving UK political leaders and celebrities.

A double standard, no? Do UK politicians’ opposition parties have more media clout than Pope Francis’ disorganized opposition that evidently is too often overwhelmed by Pope Francis’  media machine and his seeming support from opportunistic multi-billionaire media magnates in the UK/Australia/USA/Latin America and elsewhere? It appears so.

Pope Francis is clearly running out of time, as he seemingly is only going through some public relations motions on curtailing priest sex abuse. He must now either act decisively and transparently or he can expect to face more governmental investigations that he will most likely be unable to control. He no longer enjoys the support of major international powers that have protected the Vatican for centuries.

I discuss in detail Pope Francis’ dire overall predicament in my recent analysis also included below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” . My analysis relies heavily on my study of the work of Fr. Hans Kung. He is a leading world authority on Catholic theology,  history and interreligious dialogue, a former mentor to Cardinal Walter Kasper (Pope Francis’ preferred theologian), and an occasional confidante to world leaders, including the former longtime UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Fr. Kung has over a five year period generously given me by constant example and occasional e-mail some encouragement, including with respect to my recent  analysis. Of course, I am an international lawyer, not a professional scholar, and Fr. Kung is not responsible for my judgments.

I have also benefited from the courageous work of Fr. Charles Curran, a worldwide authority on moral theology. Fr. Curran, like Hans Kung, also felt the Vatican’s inquisitorial whip for thinking freely and openly. Fr. Curran significantly has just boldly called on Pope Francis to admit that the Vatican has made mistakes in the area of its sexual morality teachings.

Who present the bigger threat to those vulnerable to sex abusers — a limited number of celebrities and politicians or an indeterminate number of potential predators from among 4,000+ bishops and 400,000+ priests. Catholic clerics mainly are unaccountable to any independent and transparent oversight. They also have literally unlimited access to vulnerable victims. And, sadly, they have already shown a disproportionate tendency to abuse, no? Why the disparate journalistic treatment? It makes no sense.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the world renowned no-nonsense UK/Australian international human rights lawyer, unexpectedly in a  recent Christiane Amanpour CNN interview, seriously undercut CNN’s seemingly  papal “star power” exception. Robertson boldly, in effect, called for a massive UK national investigation of all sexual abusers, in both church and state institutions, like the extraordinary one currently underway in Australia. This call by a prominent international lawyer on a prime international cable network for a UK national investigation is a major event. His call, in principle, applies to the USA as well. Perhaps, more US lawyers also will now call on President Obama to act as well.

Another bold Australian human rights advocate, Aletha Blayse, had already similarly called on President Obama to do likewise with a comparable national investigation commission in the US modeled on the Australian Royal Commission. The need for a US national investigation commission appears even greater than the UK’s need.

Indeed, even former US President Jimmy Carter is getting on the expanding bandwagon. As reported by the National Catholic Reporter, he recently addressed by video, the Call To Action at a large convention of Catholic seeking change. Carter, a prominent evangelical Christian, in surprisingly direct and prophetic words, told the Catholic attendees that they faced “a church that models our society in marginalizing many of its women, its people of color and, in fact, all those who question any interpretation by male leaders of Jesus’ mission.” Carter added: “I urge you to give witness to the possibilities that society will change. You are agents of that change. And I stand with you in the valued struggle to move our faith, our country and our planet forward … “.  Does Carter have President Obama’s ear on these matters? He may.

As to evident journalistic double standards, CNN in an important segment on sexual abuse looked at  the fundamental subject of equal justice under the law, in the context of a “Tale of Two Cities” — Rome/Vatican versus London/Philadelphia, as shown here:

http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/11/19/star-power-bewitches-those-vulnerable-to-abuse-says-human-rights-lawyer/

CNN’s segment involves implicitly two interrelated questions: (1) whether alleged sex abusers should receive special treatment if they are famous and powerful, and (2) should the independence of the related criminal investigation vary if it is conducted in Rome at the Vatican as opposed to places like London or Philadelphia?  CNN, in effect, answered “No” to the first question, yet made an exception for Pope Francis’ investigation of accused clerical sex abusers,  and skipped past the second question, which, of course, should have also been asked squarely and answered “No”.

Occasioned by unfolding multiple sex abuse allegations involving several  political leaders, celebrities and Catholic clerics, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour  raised the hot topic of “star power” — whether the famous and powerful were beyond independent investigation and above  laws that cover sexual abuse that apply to everyday people.

Amanpour referred to the escalating tsunami of allegations of sex abuse  involving men ranging from celebrities like TV’s most famous “father figure”, Bill Cosby,  to UK political leaders and celebrities and to worldwide Catholic clerics who have preyed on innocent victims, mostly children. Her informed guest was Geoffrey Robertson, QC.

Robertson has written a classic and fair case study of the Vatican’s conduct in the priest abuse scandal, “The Case of the Popes: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse” (2010). He may also have personal insights here as well, as he describes his wife as having been “once a Catholic”.

When Amanapour, who reportedly had been instructed as a child at a UK convent school, gratuitously and revealingly volunteered that Pope Francis wanted to address priest child abuse, Robertson seemingly snickered and interjected, “He hasn’t yet”. This lead Amanpour to amend her statement about Francis quickly to: “He {Pope Francis} says he will, we’ll see and we’ll have to hold him accountable”. She did not reveal how Pope Francis would be held by CNN or anyone else to account if he fails to address the abuse scandal independently and transparently, as he and his predecessors have mostly failed to address it effectively for over a century or more. No one has held a pope accountable for anything significant during that time.

Amanpour, a mother, to her credit, directly asked Robertson what specifically needs to be done in the future to protect those most vulnerable. He replied significantly and pointedly: “I would think the Australian experience of a Royal Commission, which has got total powers to reveal what’s gone wrong and to make recommendations, that’s a very good start,” He added,  “Here {UK} we haven’t got started.”

Robertson, in the short interview, did not have the opportunity to elaborate on the subject of the extent to which a UK commission should investigate the Vatican’s conduct, as the Australian commission is trying to do. Pope Francis is currently trying, as his predecessors had, in effect, to investigate and judge his own bishops and priests secretively, clearly neither an independent nor transparent process like the Australian Royal Commission or even the standard UK, Australian or US criminal process.

As it stands now, alleged clerical sex abusers enjoy favorable treatment from a conflicted Vatican process. This cannot, and in my judgment as an international lawyer, will not stand much longer, for the reasons I discuss under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces” below. Famous performers, powerful politicians and protected priests should, under modern jurisprudence, be subject to the same basic laws and comparable criminal procedures as the people whose lives are destroyed by their crimes. That is referred to worldwide as equal justice under the law for all.

Of course, from Robertson’s statements in his book, his considerable experience and simple logic, he would have to concur, I submit, that priests, bishops and even popes, should not be entitled to legal exemptions or special treatment when charged with serious crimes, especially against children. Even US Presidents Nixon and Clinton were not above the law.

Both Amanpour and Robertson also focused on the UK’s Home Secretary’s widely reported difficulties finding an chief investigator who satisfied the public’s desire for an independent and transparent sex abuse investigation. What is worth observing here is how the media, even a highly regarded and experienced TV commentator like CNN’s Amanpour, just accepted at face value the pope’s statement he would investigate, without even trying to consider discussing how to assess whether it would be an independent and transparent investigation. Given the Vatican’s poor record to date, it seems unacceptable to rely so much on Vatican’s bald statements. Pope Francis surprisingly still seems to get a free media pass after 20 months as pope, with little to show on curtailing clerical child abuse. That will not continue indefinitely, for the reasons as I discuss below under “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”.

Robertson’s clear call on CNN for a broad national Australian style investigation commission is, as mentioned, a major development. Hopefully, he will be personally involved, given his fine record and unusual ability. Indeed, after his considerable work on famous legal cases involving, for example, holding Chilean ex-president General Pinochet to account, to defending WikiLeak’s  Julian Assange, Robertson has some star power of his own.

Indeed, Robertson’s chambers’ own  “star power ” has just been greatly enhanced by the marriage of actor/activist, George Clooney to Robertson’s able colleague, Alam Alamuddin, who earlier practiced at Sullivan & Cromwell, where I also earlier practiced.

Who knows? Perhaps, George Clooney, a strong advocate for Africa’s poor and for gay rights worldwide, might even decide to add his own considerable star power to secure protection for more children by calling for full accountability under the law for Catholic clerics of all ranks.

Raised reportedly a traditional Irish American Catholic family, Clooney would likely be knowledgeable about the Vatican’s shameful record on protecting children and its anti-contraception and anti-marriage  equality crusades.

These crusades have added to the miseries of many Africans, among others. including many children. Now that Pope Francis has appointed conservative South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier as one of the four leaders of Francis’ Final Synod for next October, Clooney’s advocacy here could be especially important for desperate Africans and others.

As “star power” sex abuse scandals are being revealed continually in the UK, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently and significantly said: “We are at an early stage of a reckoning with our past that is on a scale and gravity that just a few months ago might have seemed unimaginable and almost too horrific to contemplate. The task is to peel back the layers of deception that appear to have happened in the past.”

It seem clear that major “star power” sex abuse investigations in the UK are only in their infancy, which should concern Pope Francis. It is unclear whether the recent alleged sex scandals involving, among other matters, exploiting their position of power, that led to the resignations of two of the UK’s Catholic Church’s highest officials, Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the UK’s Bishop Kieran Conry, will be included in any UK public investigation. Given their key national positions, they should be included. They would likely be if Geoffrey Robertson’s call for a national commission is heeded.

As to Pope Francis’ new “papal protector of children”,  Cardinal Sean O’Malley, recently featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, please see the recent detailed, and documented, information, from Anne Barrett Doyle, the excellent researcher at BishopAccountabillity.org, on Cardinal O’Malley’s poor history on child abuse prevention efforts, described in her “Six Ways Cardinal Sean O’Malley Has Mishandled the Abuse Crisis” at:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/OMalley_Fact_Sheet.htm

To date, after a well publicized announcement almost a year ago, O’Malley has mainly had only a few photo ops with Pope Francis and some perfunctory meetings of his inchoate priest child abuse commission, usually timed to deflect negative publicity from UN committee condemnations of the Vatican’s priest child abuse cover-ups and the like. Now in his CBS interview, O’Malley has indicated he will visit the Vatican every two months apparently to check in for the latest photo ops, presumably when he attends the more important Council of Cardinals meetings. It appears the abuse commission will be run by Fr. Robert Oliver, who learned the ropes early as a canon lawyer under Boston’s  infamous Cardinal Law. It seems O’Malley will in the interim communicate with Oliver by FAX ! Are children any safer now? Please!

A year after first announcing this commission, O’Malley amazingly stated on 60 Minutes that the go-slow commission was working on some “protocols”, which his subsequent statements seem to suggest will focus more on protecting bishops than children. And CBS did not press him on the commission’s inexplicable and unacceptable organizational delays. It appears to be another instance of a media “pass” for the Vatican.

It seems quite clear that Pope Francis is intentionally pursuing effective child protection reform measures very slowly and almost secretly with this new advisory committee (A) headed by Cardinal Law’s successor, Cardinal O’Malley, who is experienced with “handling” abuse investigations confidentially and slowly, and (B) assisted now, as top assistant, by Cardinals Law’s, O’Malley’s  and Mueller’s predictable and pliable longtime canon lawyer, Fr. Robert Oliver.

Twelve years after the Boston Globe Catholic priest child abuse revelations and almost 30 years after Father Thomas  Doyle’s abuse report to Cardinals Law, Levada, Bevilacqua, Laghi, et al. and Pope John Paul II, for  O’Malley to say on CBS we are looking into “protocols” is a farce. And he seems to have gotten away with it!

Moreover, the Boston Globe has recently reported, based on legal documents the Globe examined, that Pope Francis’ choice to replace Fr. Oliver as the Vatican’s top prosecutor of clerics accused of child abuse, a prominent American Jesuit, was himself one of several Catholic officials who allowed a notorious abusive priest to remain in ministry for years after learning of his long history of sexual abuses. Fr. Robert Geisinger, named in September as the Vatican’s “promoter of justice,’’ was the second-highest-ranking official among the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s when leaders were facing multiple abuse complaints against the Rev. Donald J. McGuire..

But, the Globe reported, the Jesuits failed to notify police or take effective steps to prevent McGuire from continuing to molest minors. Documents examined by the Globe show that Geisinger had detailed knowledge of the complaints against McGuire as early as 1995 and advised officials in Chicago on how to discipline McGuire as late as August 2002. McGuire was finally convicted in 2006 by a Wisconsin jury of molesting two boys who had notified civil authorities. He was also convicted on federal charges in 2008 and is serving a 25-year-prison sentence.

The Globe also reported: “It’s astonishing that, for such a high-profile, sensitive position, the Vatican wouldn’t want someone whose background is unassailable, in the sense that there shouldn’t even be questions raised,” Philip F. Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, said of Geisinger.

Yes, it is astonishing that this Jesuit, with questionable credentials, has joined Fr. Oliver, Cardinal Law’s former canon lawyer, as Pope Francis’ two man priest abuse response team. After a year and a half as pope, is this the best Pope Francis can do to curtail the worst scandal facing the Catholic Church since the Reformation?  That seems impossible to conceive. Pope Francis needs to address this scandal effectively now while he still has time.

It would seem more appropriate that Fr. Geisinger and Fr. Oliver be subjects of Vatican investigations, rather than to be the investigators!

I have to wonder, as an international lawyer, if O’Malley, Oliver and Geisinger, all presumably US citizens, were picked to work on the latest papal public relations ploys to “do little or nothing” to really curtail clerical  abuse also because the US has not ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty. Since the ex-pope had already been a subject of a complaint filed with the ICC, it must have occurred to the Vatican and its lawyers that whomever handles these matters can expect to face a further complaint at the ICC, a very serious matter. It might be more difficult to prosecute them under the ICC Treaty as US citizens if they had returned to the USA when the ICC prosecutor finally pursues the Vatican again, as I am confident as an international lawyer she will.

For the current “big picture” on the Vatican’s continuing failures here, please see the recent report by Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., the world’s leading expert on curtailing priest child sexual abuse, at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/how-survivors-have-changed-history-by-thomas-p-doyle-o-p/

Pope Francis seems, for over a year and a half now, to have made as his highest priority, protecting Catholic cardinals and bishops from prosecution, especially related to allegations of child abuse and/or related cover-ups, and of financial corruption, (A) by easing out, quietly and with minimal recriminations, controversial hierarchs by comfortable retirements, demotions or transfers (O’Brien, Brady, Conry, Tebartz-van Elst (Bling Bishop), Liveries, Burke, Rigali, even Wesolowski so far, et al.), and (B) by trying to co-opt completely all independent government investigations of hierarchs with Vatican controlled and secretive proceedings (especially Archbishop Wesolowski), that conveniently also protect against disclosures about other hierarchs that may have been implicated.

The USA situation seems equally bleak as the UK situation for the Vatican. Minneapolis whistleblower and former top diocesan official, Jennifer Haselberger, is reporting on her blog some unusual current Vatican attention possibly  to Archbishop Nienstedt’s status  and seeking diocesean bankruptcy protection. Meanwhile, Minneapolis media are also currently reporting about child porn video evidence that allegedly may have been destroyed, with a Vatican official’s involvement, by Obama’s Chief of Staff’s brother, Fr, Kevin McDonough. Child porn, and related evidence destruction, appear to involve Federal crimes as well as state crimes, which raise sensitive issues for Obama’s US Justice Department and his new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, a no-nonsense prosecutor.
Who knows what is really going on with Obama, but if concerned citizens don’t demand much more Federal law enforcement involvement, including a national commission investigation as openers, like the one that Geoffrey Robertson just called for in the UK and Aletha Blayse has called for in the USA,  the USA is likely missing the one “fix” that could really make a long term difference, as the civil litigation process enters its fourth decade, with some good results but not enough.
It is unclear what impact the investigation of the brother of President Obama’s Chief of Staff has had on Obama’s apparent failure to step up here with a national commission, but it is troubling, to me at least. And of course, the media as far as I know has not raised the matter with the White House, as I think they should. Again, the Vatican seems to benefit here from another media pass.

Please see also my related remarks at:

http://christiancatholicism.com/popes-child-abuse-commission-crawls-while-his-family-synod-slips/

http://christiancatholicism.com/crisis-pope-francis-and-the-synod-face-a-mess-in-the-house-of-cards/

Incidentally, Pope Francis thanked Fr. Hans Kung for sending him his important new book on how to reform of the Catholic Church, “Can We Save the Catholic Church” (2013). Here is an excerpt from his book:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/07/save-the-catholic-church-_n_4740030.html

For more, see:

http://amzn.com/0007522029

Hans Kung, a Swiss priest, has for over a half century been a world recognized Catholic scholar, a best selling author on church history and theology and even an occasional adviser to top political leaders. As mentioned, Pope Francis’ preferred theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, served as a younger scholar as an assistant to Fr. Kung at Tuebingen University, Germany’s foremost theological faculty.

Hans Kung has for more than a half century engaged with, or influenced, several popes, including his former university colleague, Joseph Ratzinger (ex-Pope Benedict XVI), as well as John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and even during his student years at the Jesuits’ Gregorian University in Rome, Pope Pius XII. Cardinals and bishops have sought his advice, at least as early as his time serving as a key theological expert with Joseph Ratzinger and Jesuit Karl Rahner at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Fr. Kung has for decades offered to many interested Catholics worldwide, including Cardinals Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Kasper, his own well articulated and scholarly supported alternative vision to that of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

For Hans Kung’s full warning to the effect that letting the ex-Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, stick around the Vatican would be a real mistake, please see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/hans-kung-pope-benedict-will-be-a-shadow-pope_n_2781248.html

For Charles Curran’s important, informative and insightful new call for Pope Francis to acknowledge the the Vatican has made some mistakes, at least in the are of sexual morality, please :

http://ncronline.org//news/accountability/some-kind-gradualism-curran-says-papacy-should-admit-some-its-teachings-are

For former US President Carter’s address to Call To Action, a large Catholic reform group, supporting a reform agenda for the Catholic Church, please see:

http://ncronline.org/news/censured-priest-carter-support-cta

For Australian human rights activist, Aletha Blayse’s recent call on President Obama, to set up a US national presidential commission to investigate institutional child abuse, like the Australian Royal Commission, please see:

http://christiancatholicism.com/post-elections-obama-kids-the-catholic-church-the-salvation-army-et-al-child-abuse-war-and-the-need-for-a-national-commission-of-inquiry-into-child-abuse-by-aletha-blayse/

My remarks, “The Crisis Pope Francis Faces”, follows:

  1.  A Ray of Hope In A Crisis of Trust — A Holy Mess: Pope Francis says Catholics should “create a mess” to help him promote changes in the Catholic Church. The Catholic majority are pleased for now; although many are skeptical. Some see a bright ray of hope shining through the crisis of trust triggered by Church scandals. Others think the window of opportunity for hopeful light from Pope Francis will close soon if he is not prophetic and transparent. Indeed, some even think the Vatican’s current “holy mess” will be its final mess.
  2. Yet, Francis has so far offered few indications about concrete changes he really wants. Many Church leaders seem fearful of any changes. Yet, many Catholics and others are finally pressing for permanent changes. They have by now seen Vatican misconduct up close and too often. They now also understand better that many of the Vatican’s frequently ambiguous, if not vague, basic biblical and historical sources supporting papal power have too often been overplayed, if not misused, in encyclicals and a Catechism, to justify supreme papal power . Significantly, these permanent changes, that the Catholic majority seeks in good conscience and good faith, may differ ultimately from what many in the Vatican now want. As the “infallible Supreme Pontiff” for millions of Catholics, Pope Francis has the best papal opportunity in many years, if not centuries, to fix the broken Catholic Church. This may also be the final papal opportunity to clean up the “holy mess”. Time will soon tell.
  3. This crisis has led to one papal resignation already. Pope Francis appears for many reasons to be the Vatican’s best and last chance to lead on initiating overdue Church changes. Pressures beyond Vatican control can be expected to compel more severe changes if Francis fails to act effectively and transparently. This has already begun to happen with respect to Vatican finances, as a result of the continuing European governmental investigations of multiple misdeeds involving both the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own significant portfolio assets. Prospects for criminal prosecutions of Catholic Church officials have seemingly caused the Vatican to focus on overdue reforms in ways that earlier financial penalties and shameful publicity had rarely done before. As with corporate criminal executives worldwide, prosecution risk is generally a uniquely effective deterrent to future crimes by senior leaders.
  4. Almost 150 years ago, facing a similar crisis, Pope Pius IX refused to initiate overdue changes to his arbitrary and ineffective leadership of his Kingdom of the Papal States in central Italy. His key misguided “fix” was to push to be declared “infallible” in July 1870. Two months later, he militarily lost the Kingdom completely to Italian nationalists. Traditional papal protectors like France and Austria-Hungary stood by and passively watched, unwilling to support further papal mismanagement and capriciousness. Will Pope Francis make a similar mistake like Pius IX did by misjudging his precarious position?
  5.  The Vatican no longer even has comparable powerful protectors. It is mostly on its own now in the international political arena, like Pius XI’s Vatican was by 1870. Popes since 1870 have counter culturally tried secretively to rule mainly as “semi-divine infallible” absolute monarchs with tightly controlled subordinate bishops worldwide in an increasingly democratic world now linked by an open Internet and an 24/7 worldwide free media. The Vatican is running out of time to adjust to current reality and may be forced to do so soon.
  6. Building governmental pressures indicate currently that if the Vatican does not adopt key changes voluntarily and soon, the Vatican can be expected to be compelled to change involuntarily. This has recently already happened repeatedly, for example, in the financial area. Another recent example of increasing governmental pressure is the Australian national investigation into child abuse in religious organizations. It has already led to the Vatican changing both internal policies, and key leadership in Australia, including Cardinal George Pell, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Papal Nuncio, following a massive effort by government investigators. Similar investigations can be expected in other countries as well.
  7. The Vatican likely will be unable to contain much longer the cumulative and growing pressure, both internal and external, for change. Well publicized Vatican scandals continue to proliferate before a steadily skeptical world audience that is unconvinced either by the Vatican’s limited efforts so far or by its many public relations diversions. Many Catholics and others are becoming more impatient about protecting innocent victims of continuing Vatican scandals and misguided policies — including millions of poor women, children, couples, divorced persons and gay folks. The building governmental pressures indicate increasingly that the Vatican can change voluntarily or, as has already repeatedly happened in the financial area generally and in the child protection area in Australia, the Vatican will be compelled to change involuntarily.
  8. Significantly, the Vatican no longer benefits from the powerful international protection that had enabled the Vatican to avoid overdue changes for centuries. In the current world of democracies and a free press and Internet, the secretive Vatican is vulnerable. Neither the Vatican’s high priced consultants, lawyers and lobbyists, nor the Vatican’s opportunistic financial elite allies, who seek Vatican backing to protect the income inequality status quo that benefits them so disproportionately, are hardly comparable substitutes for the earlier military backing of the Holy Roman Emperor and other powers. These powers had effectively protected the Vatican for centuries from demands for change. No more.
  9. Meanwhile, Pope Francis’ Synod strategy has pulled back the curtain on the Vatican’s fallible and incoherent management structure and helped explain why ex-Pope Benedict had no real choice but to resign. In our 24/7 media world, as the Church’s scandal and mismanagement dominoes fall, a further domino effect will likely take over beyond the Vatican’s power to control it. Fear of this effect has likely contributed to provoking some of the strong opposition that Pope Francis is facing among many in the Church’s leadership.
  10. Pope Francis acts at times like a radicalized realist. He is pressing forward relentlessly on a novel path to change. When necessary, he is even bypassing or sidelining fearful and entrenched opponents and factions. His opponents often overlook the many risks that presently exist in the Vatican’s vulnerable predicament. Pope Francis is evidently well aware of these risks. At times, some of his opponents prefer “to play their fruitless fiddles while Rome burns”.
  11. And of course, money is usually lurking in these factions’  approaches to changes. For example, the German and US bishops seem to have basically different approaches to changes like permitting communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. German bishops depend mainly on a per capita government subsidy, presently totally more than $6 billion a year, that pays the bishops more if more Catholics remain on the government registry; hence the German bishops’ inclusive approach to divorced and remarried Catholics and their families. US bishops, on the other hand, depend significantly on fewer major donors who reward the bishops’ ability to draw out fundamentalists to vote for low-tax right wing US political candidates. These fundamentalists oppose most changes, especially those relating to traditional marriage. Not surprisingly, US bishops tend to oppose changes to traditional marriage sacramental rules. As with understanding approaches to other changes, sometimes it pays to follow the money.
  12. Significantly, the Catholic majority intuitively understands that these risks generated by the present crisis, especially from building governmental pressures on the Vatican, have paradoxically also generated an unprecedented opportunity to restore the Church to an earlier condition — to a Church that Jesus’ first disciples would have recognized as completely consistent with Jesus’ Gospel message of love of God and of neighbors, even of enemies. This will be a welcoming Church again that satisfies the needs of both conservative and progressive Catholics.
  13. Well publicized Catholic Church scandals have triggered a unique situation — both an unprecedented crisis and an unexpected opportunity. This crisis (A) erodes Catholic trust in light of the longstanding gap between the Vatican’s words and deeds, (B) invites outside governmental intervention at a time when the Vatican lacks powerful international protectors like it had for centuries, and (C) underscores the urgent need for key changes in Church structure and doctrine. The crisis has also contributed, as indicated, to one pope’s unanticipated resignation and to the replacement pope’s unpredictable revolution.
  14. Before his 80th birthday in barely two years, Pope Francis can successfully seize the opportunity, follow his conscience and apply his unique status, forceful temperament and popular appeal. Most importantly, he can declare “infallibly” key changes. By then, he will have received new input from his two advisory Synods of Bishops. He has already been enlightened by his valuable almost two years of  experience as pope. He now also is unhampered by his prior pastoral positions and unfettered by his earlier ideological constraints as an obedient cardinal, bishop and Jesuit. If Francis fails to act effectively soon, the consequences will likely be quite negative for the leadership of the Catholic Church.
  15. Pope Francis can accomplish much if he wants to and finds the wisdom and courage to do so. Equally important, it seems unlikely any of his successors will get a more propitious opportunity in the foreseeable future to adopt long overdue changes. It may be now or never for Pope Francis and the Vatican.
  16. Any needed changes that Pope Francis leaves uncompleted, whether by choice or circumstances, Catholics can then push to complete soon thereafter, with or without Vatican support. Catholics can be expected to do so, given the current Catholic majority’s momentum and mounting democratic governmental pressures. The Catholic majority can expect help in effecting these changes from powerful forces, outside the Church structure, that are now pressing harder for key Vatican changes, like greater accountability and transparency.
  17.  The Making of the Unique Present Crisis: The Catholic Church is in the throes of its worst crisis since the Reformation. Vatican leaders in the 16th Century, aided by powerful outside military protectors, had mainly evaded making overdue structural changes, and their successors also managed with outside protection to avoid such changes mostly during the four centuries since.
  18. Nevertheless, Church changes are badly needed now and the Vatican no longer has any dominant outside protectors willing to help it avoid the changes. The changes cannot be deferred much longer if the Vatican wants to avoid both further Church decline and splintering into competing factions and constant interference from outside governments. Pope Francis’ confident and bold approach, and the Vatican’s evident need to avoid further negative repercussions from the current crisis, are both generating some hope now, as well as creating what appears to be the best opportunity since the Reformation for the worldwide Catholic majority to press the Vatican successfully for key overdue changes.
  19. According to Augustine: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to suffer no evil to exist.” Catholics are now pondering whether God will soon bring some good changes out of this evil crisis, likely with some help from either Pope Francis or the worldwide Catholic majority or some international investigators or some combination of all three.
  20. There are now hopeful indications (A) that the Catholic Church may restore some of its management structure to its earliest consensual, bottom up and distributed form, from its current coercive, top down and hierarchical form, and (B) that some questionable traditional Church teachings may change to fit mercifully the actual lived experience of sincere Catholics and to conform honestly to current biblical, historical and scientific scholarship, all with or without the Vatican’s affirmative assistance.
  21. The scandals underlying the crisis have deeply discouraged millions of concerned Catholics, yet many of them now also see a new ray of hope. This hope springs less from Pope Francis’ skillful public relations efforts than from the likelihood that the present crisis will necessarily help accelerate Church changes. Moreover, some of these changes are ones that the usually silent Catholic majority can and likely will play a key role in bringing about. This would be a refreshing change in itself for the Catholic majority, a change from only being able to react passively to misguided top down Vatican decisions dictated by a celibate, aging, conflicted and self perpetuating all male leadership.
  22. It appears likely now that the Pope Francis will soon make, or be induced by outside pressures to make, major structural and other changes — changes that the Vatican had been able to resist making for centuries under earlier better positioned popes. Powerful governmental, legal and media forces are now pressing from the outside for changes, whether the presently weakened Vatican wants changes or not.
  23. While Pope Francis mostly can only play the bad cards that ex-Pope Benedict dealt him, he can use both his papal authority over bishops and the Catholic majority and this mounting outside pressure, enhanced by the power of his personal popularity and his strong will, to help convince his entrenched Vatican opposition that voluntary Church changes are more in their interest than the otherwise inevitable involuntary changes could be expected to be.
  24. Paradoxically, these anticipated changes can also help restore the Catholic Church to one that is much closer, in essential structure and compassionate spirit, than the current Church is to the Church that Jesus’ earliest disciples, including prominently some women, left behind for over three centuries.
  25. Pope Francis has brought fresh hopes after centuries of papal evasions. Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, by 1520 had sought similar changes to an earlier Vatican bureaucracy then slithering through major scandals. Only military protection initially from the Holy Roman Emperor ultimately saved, for another 350 years until 1870, the Vatican’s centuries old Kingdom of the Papal States from many of the religious wars, internal divisions and radical reforms that followed Luther’s revolt. But Vatican scandals and structural shortcomings continued mostly as unresolved problems.
  26. The usually well positioned papacy generally remained unchanged structurally after the Reformation until the popes’ imperial protectors faded by 1870 and then finally disappeared in the First World War. This was almost 1,600 years after the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century first sought, often in practice by threats and bribes, to redirect the early Catholic Church leadership to become part of his imperial bureaucracy. Constantine’s and his successor’s imperial designs still infuse the current Vatican’s coercive and top down leadership structure.
  27. In 1870, Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) lost his last major monarchical protector due to the Franco-Prussian War. Pius IX then, without a strong outside protector, promptly lost the Kingdom of the Papal States finally on September 20, 1870 to a direct military assault on the Vatican by Italian nationalists. Both the Vatican and the Italians suffered fatalities. Two months prior to this assault, Pius IX had desperately tried to offset some of the projected negative effects of the Vatican’s expected military and political defeats. He sought to salvage some papal prestige on July 18, 1870, by being declared infallible at the First Vatican Council (Vatican I) that then soon ended prematurely due mainly to the military risks.
  28. A new era of “semi-divine Supreme Pontiffs”  thus began in 1870 and still continues under Pope Francis today, as he presses to solidify, at least temporarily, his extensive power over the Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia, as well as over the world’s bishops.
  29. The powerful prestige of infallibility has been the keystone of papal power from 1870 until now. Papal infallibility, ironically, has also been the tragic papal flaw. Concerns for preserving a claim to being infallible have, it seems, prevented politically insecure popes from making long overdue changes out of fear of appearing to be fallible and, yes, a mere mortal.
  30. This almost obsessive papal concern has been quite evident, for example, in the continuing papal opposition to contraception, mainly based on outdated natural law philosophy and medieval physiology, despite the overwhelming contrary witness in good conscience of the Catholic majority, and the latest strong and contrary evidence from natural science and modern philosophy.
  31. Incidentally, the Vatican’s opposition to family planning seems to be  a “win win” proposition for the Catholic leadership and a “lose lose” situation for couples. especially with other children, who cannot afford more children financially or emotionally.  From the Vatican’s perspective, if Catholic babies survive and thrive, they can then become potential future Church donors and docile voters to enhance the Vatican’s position in bargains with desperate vote seeking political forces. If the babies do not thrive, they become their parents’ or society’s problems, not the Vatican’s to be sure.
  32. Nevertheless, the Vatican’s strong pro-pregnancy opposition to contraception is unlikely to generate at current birthrates enough new Catholic babies to offset the Church’s escalating exodus among the practicing Catholic majority. This ongoing net decline in practicing Catholics is further eroding the Vatican’s already declining political influence and financial resources.
  33. Ironically, the more that recent popes press their opposition to positive ongoing human advances like pharmaceutical contraception, that enable couples, especially poor women, to plan their families, the less infallible they appear to be to more Catholics. The present crisis, exacerbated by the disarray among the pope and some cardinals and bishops exhibited at the recent Vatican Synod that ironically had been intended to curtail part of this crisis, also has put unsustainable additional weight on the already weak claim to papal infallibility.
  34. For almost 150 years until now, popes have been shrewdly able, despite the loss by 1870 of their actual Kingdom in central Italy, to maneuver politically, diplomatically and financially to retain some of their international influence, operational independence, considerable wealth and legal immunity, free of international laws and foreign restraints. Are the Vatican’s unique international status and contrived legal immunity claim both now about to collapse in the present crisis? Yes, it appears that the Vatican’s unique status and legal immunity are both likely facing collapse soon enough, no matter what Pope Francis now does.
  35. Many of the problems Luther initially noted in 1517 remained unresolved even after Vatican I in 1870, and still remain unresolved. These include Luther’s issues with the Vatican’s top down, coercive and unaccountable Renaissance structure and with recent popes’ historically and biblically questionable, if not idolatrous, claim of unaccountable absolute papal power. Vatican I was terminated abruptly and prematurely due mainly to the military risks, before the relationship of bishops and the Catholic majority to the newly proclaimed infallible popes could be addressed fully. Pius XI and many of his successors, through Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013), have at times used this uncompleted and unexpected result for almost 150 years to extend papal power over bishops and the Catholic majority.
  36. These continuing problems remain after (A) unsuccessful Vatican efforts prior to 1945 to seek favorable and special political arrangements with powerful leaders, such as with the Fascist dictators of Italy, Germany and Spain, (B) numerous Vatican efforts since 1945 to solidify in many countries favorable arrangements with various powerful political, financial and media elites, and (C) significant and still uncompleted and frustrated reform efforts from 1962 to 1965 at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).
  37. Most significantly, there are no longer any Holy Roman Emperors, or any other powerful monarchs, dictators or even democratically elected leaders, who appear willing to save the Vatican from facing the international legal and political consequences of its seeming sins and harmful policies. On the contrary, outside governments are already currently and forcefully pressing the Vatican firmly on its financial misconduct. Moreover, these outside forces are now also pressing hard, including through UN committees and national investigation commissions, on other Vatican misconduct, including facilitating priest child abuse.
  38. The current crisis paradoxically presents all Catholics worldwide with an unprecedented, even hopeful, opportunity to resolve longstanding problems, some that even predate Luther. Whether the Vatican will on its own initiative seize this opportunity positively or will imprudently wait, like Pius IX did in 1870, (A) to be invaded, now by Italian, Australian and other government investigators and prosecutors, and (B) to be forced to accept the latest geopolitical reality, remains to be seen.
  39. Catholics believe that God providentially guides their Church in mysterious ways. Some even wonder if God is not using this crisis as an opening for Church structural reforms overdue for centuries. Catholics increasingly are losing trust in their top leadership and want effective changes now. Many Catholics are curtailing their donations or just leaving the Church. Others are remaining nominally, but opting out of many Church rituals and doctrines for themselves and their children. And many younger Catholics are at best just indifferent about participation in a seemingly out of touch organization run, in effect from all appearances, as an all male absolute monarchy for the benefit of a few.
  40. The well publicized Church scandals include clerical sexual misconduct and widespread child abuse, as well as financial corruption and excesses — some longstanding and pervasive. As mentioned above, this crisis paradoxically may offer Catholics some hope and the best opportunity since the Reformation to restore the Church to the consensual, bottom up and distributed management structure that Jesus’ first disciples, prominently including women, originally left behind for centuries.
  41. Catholics overwhelmingly want leaders they can trust, which essentially means leaders who are accountable, not absolute, and who act transparently, not secretively. Given the Catholic Church’s pervasive worldwide influence and its universal potential as a strong public force, and counterweight to non-religious leaders, for either good or evil, the issue of how the Catholic Church is structured matters to all the world’s citizens, and to their political leaders as well.
  42. Governments worldwide are responding more actively to citizen complaints and media pressure about these Church scandals by investigating and prosecuting clerical crimes being revealed. Catholics elect and influence their political leaders, who in turn can influence Church leaders, who currently remain completely free of any democratic oversight by the Catholic majority.
  43. At present, the pope is still the last word on almost all matters concerning the Church and its leadership and laws, even on matters that impact the overall society like access to contraception and protection of children. The pope, as Supreme Pontiff, is purportedly accountable to nobody else, which is at the heart of the present crisis. Making sure no man is above the law is the modern antidote to the ailment of modern popes who seek to be, and to operate as, Supreme Pontiff without accountability.
  44. Citizens worldwide can be expected steadily and increasingly to encourage their political leaders to press the Vatican for major Church structural reforms, especially by these leaders enacting and enforcing vigorously civil laws against Catholic leaders who commit crimes. This legal process, especially prosecutions of alleged crimes, will very likely, if not inevitably, lead to the outside imposition of Church structural reforms in the near term if the Vatican fails to adopt the reforms on its own initiative.
  45. Continually hard pressed Vatican leaders really have no alternative, as earlier European absolute monarchs in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere painfully learned, other than to submit to independent oversight by the Catholic majority.
  46. Meanwhile, the Vatican is risking the division of the Church into numerous splinter cults and the incarceration of some of its leaders for crimes related to the sexual and financial scandals, as the Catholic hierarchy wastes precious time at Synods debating arcane theological topics like graduality.
  47. This crisis for the “99.99% Catholic faithful majority” appears to be mainly about TRUST. For many of them, it is mostly about losing trust in the “0.01% Catholic leadership minority”, given the leadership’s frequently flawed and unaccountable management and the scandalous and repetitive misbehavior of too many of them.
  48. By contrast, the crisis for the leadership minority appears to be mainly about SURVIVAL. For many cardinals, bishops and priests, this crisis seems too often to be largely about trying to save at all costs the current top down and coercive Church structure that has supported and rewarded many of them so handsomely.
  49. The present crisis has already led to unintended negative consequences — even to unprecedented and growing challenges to worldwide Catholicism, including: (A) a leadership challenge, to the Pope’s ethical authority and doctrinal infallibility as the “last word”; (B) a political challenge, to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to its opportunistic support of plutocratic political promoters;(C) a financial challenge, to the Vatican’s long term financial viability and to its self interested arrangements with selective financial, oil and media moguls; and (D) a competitive challenge, to the Catholic Church’s prospects in its continuing competition with other Christian and world religions, especially Islam, and even with non-religious secularism.
  50. These accelerating challenges surely have influenced, if not at times dictated, the Vatican’s recent tactics, and even its public style on many issues. This historically is almost a new papal experience, since modern popes mostly had operated secretly as near absolute monarchs for centuries. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that popular popes alone are insufficient to resolve the crisis — the Vatican can no longer defer confronting these challenges fully, honestly, transparently and promptly, even if they would rather defer them as recent popes often have. Both internal Church political factions, and external governmental legal forces, are increasingly pressing for greater papal accountability, sooner rather than later. Deferral is no longer a viable papal alternative.
  51. Jesus left a short, simple and revolutionary oral message of “Good News” about a caring and trustworthy God. Jesus, it appears, thought this message could be passed on by word of mouth by his usually uneducated disciples. 2,000 years later the oral message has been buried seemingly under millions of written words by thousands of scribes that have obscured Jesus’ direct simplicity, often to advance the personal agenda of those overseeing the scribes with their countless and opportunistic “explications” of what Jesus really meant.
  52. Was Jesus naive or foolish? And is his originally oral message essentially that simple? Even a quick perusal of the New Testament indicates Jesus’ core message is simple and direct, especially when stripped of some of the heavily philosophical and selectively imposed explications in Latin and Greek. This often stultifying and self serving explication process was most recently illustrated amply by the Catechism of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  53. Will the Vatican now finally begin to try to remove the self serving papal gloss and counterproductive clerical crust that have for many centuries obscured Jesus’ radical and revolutionary Good News —  to trust in a caring God and to love one’s neighbors, even enemies, as oneself? Or will the the Catholic leadership minority once again futilely try to contain the current crisis within its latest hierarchical structure?
  54. Will the Church leadership minority now restore its management structure to the early Church’s consensual and distributed network of bishops accountable to the faithful majority from the current coercive, top down and unaccountable model? And will the leadership minority now restore its general Church-state policy to Jesus’ earliest approach of peaceful coexistence with political leaders and prophetic witness for the poor and disadvantaged from the current Vatican approach that seeks opportunistic financial, legal and other leadership preferences in exchange for papal political support?
  55. Hopefully, the coercive and top down Vatican will finally soon restore, or be required to restore, some meaningful consensual and bottom up power to the Catholic faithful majority. Anything less will merely be at best a temporary glue on a crumbling structure. 500 years after Luther had been more than enough time to fix the structure, but the Vatican has failed, and is continuing to fail, to do so. It will continue to fail unless and until it submits to effective and transparent oversight by the Catholic majority, as almost all other absolute monarchies in history have already learned, often the hard way following violent revolutions.
  56. A consensual and bottom up Church management approach had been a common norm in the Church that Jesus’ disciples, including women, left behind for the first three centuries. That was before the decisive top down takeover, in effect, of the Church hierarchy that began under the powerful Roman Emperor Constantine and his imperial successors. Constantine’s top down and coercive Fourth Century legacy has survived in Rome in key respects, and still fundamentally overshadows Vatican decision making and operations. This must and will change, perhaps much sooner than the Vatican presently anticipates.
  57. As indicated with Pius IX’s underestimation of Italian nationalists, and Pius XI’s and Pius XII’s overestimation of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s protections, whatever else infallibility encompasses, international politics is evidently excluded. Time will soon tell if the current Vatican leaders are any wiser than their modern predecessors were.
  58. Millions of disrespected couples, women, children, divorced and gay persons and other innocent and marginalized victims of the Vatican’s current unchristian policies deserve the initiation of positive Church changes, as soon as practicable. Moreover, the beneficial worldwide potential for Jesus’ simple message of loving God and one’s neighbor, including enemies, needs to be freed of the blinders and constraints that too many popes have opportunistically and selectively imposed on it for centuries. Not only were modern popes “Prisoners of the Vatican” unnecessarily. So was Jesus.
  59. It is important in my judgment that citizens of the world, especially Catholics, weigh in now strongly and often, and try to influence the potential Vatican outcomes. Since the Vatican operates mostly secretively and often covers its real objectives with frequent and well funded media diversions, I have at times tried to draw my best inferences and projected what seemed to me to be likely outcomes, in light of the evidence available to me and my long legal experience. Some, of course, will object, but this appears necessary to assess the actions of an organization that still too often is shown to be dissembling considerably.
  60. My approach is intended to assist concerned readers in acting timely and proactively to advance structural and other reforms, and not just reacting defensively, after the fact, to papal faits accomplis. It is the Church of all Catholics, including the 99.99% faithful majority, and not just of the 0,01% leadership minority, and all need to weigh in now as their situations permit.
  61. The present crisis presents major risks for the Catholic Church’s leadership minority. Providentially, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for the Catholic majority to recover their Church from the clerical clique that centuries ago hijacked Jesus’ message. By recovering their Church, Catholics can then re-direct it and unleash the full potential of Jesus’ simple message of love of God and neighbor to a world that at times seems eager to hear that needed message of hope and peace.
  62. The Current Unprecedented Situation:A free media in a steadily more accountable world is pulling back the Vatican’s dark curtain letting all see the scandals, up close and personal. Luther, as mentioned above, had complained loudly about similar scandals as early as 1517. Yet, it took 500 years for the many misdeeds of Pope Alexander VI and other Renaissance clerics to be featured in several “Borgia TV Series”. Today, the latest “Secrets of the Vatican” are widely reported almost simultaneously, as in a recent PBS documentary by that name covering several current Vatican scandals.
  63. Moreover, Renaissance popes were protected by a powerful Holy Roman Emperor whose last successor lost power a century ago. Politically and militarily, popes since the end of the Second World War in 1945 have been dependent for protection and support mainly on Western democratically elected leaders.
  64. Even now after 1700 years, however, Constantine’s Fourth Century legacy of an imperial top down and coercive leadership structure remains influential in Rome, centuries after most of the world had rejected unaccountable monarchs. European monarchical protection of the Vatican diminished after 1850 and disappeared completely by 1918, replaced soon thereafter with de facto alliances with Fascist dictators in Italy and Germany and Spain until Italy and Germany’s defeat by 1945.
  65. As late as 1903, significantly, the Austria-Hungary Emperor reportedly vetoed a top contender in a papal election leading to the election of Pope Pius X. That was the last election prior to the start of World War I, in which the Austria Hungary Empire was dismembered, in effect, ending imperial veto power in papal elections. That veto power, however, had sometimes worked positively to restrain elections of some less dependable papal candidates.
  66. The defeat of the Fascist powers by 1945 has contributed to popes subsequently having almost to scramble opportunistically at times to make arrangements on a local basis with many countries for political protection and financial advantage for the Vatican and its bishops and priests. These papal arrangements have often been negotiated with local dictators and wealthy elites, as well as with some democratically elected leaders seeking local papal political support as opportunities arose in particular countries, most noticeably Pope John Paul II’s close ties with US President Ronald Reagan and his right wing Republican successors, including President George W. Bush.
  67. Popes Benedict XVI and Pope Francis continued to maintain close ties with right wing US Republicans and continue to provide them with political support through the US bishops and otherwise.  This is reportedly already underway for the 2016 US presidential election. Popes tend to be more pragmatic than ideological when under considerable pressures as in the present crisis.
  68. With the unrelenting spotlight that the 24/7 modern media now shines, the timeless “philosopher king” leadership question of Plato’s Republic now arises in Rome publicly and dramatically: Can any man, even a popular pope, be trusted honestly to face a major crisis of trust like the Vatican is facing, and to set important policies for over a billion people, unless he is truly accountable to others and also decides key issues transparently?
  69. Given the current pope’s age, the further question arises, are his successors also to be trusted without accountability? What have Catholics learned from the sordid history of bad popes, as well as from the revelations of current scandals that seem at times to be as sordid as the earlier scandals? Given the present crisis, the Vatican’s procedures and processes, now and in the future, in evaluating and adopting reforms are almost as important as the potential substantive reforms themselves.
  70. Pope Francis had little choice, it appears, but to try to contain this crisis of trust, after suddenly, in the midst of this crisis, unexpectedly succeeding the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. Francis’ Synods of Bishops strategy, his ongoing sophisticated and well funded media campaign, and his efforts to shore up favorable arrangements with some powerful world leaders of government, finance and media, all appear to be key parts of his strategy to contain this crisis.
  71. The Vatican under the current pope and his successor surely must soon either “lead and act”, or they will most likely be compelled, by internal and external pressure, to “follow and react”. Neither this present crisis of trust, nor the resulting challenges, can be avoided much longer to any significant extent.
  72. Some Relevant Recent History: The Vatican under Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) had aligned itself in the Second World War (1939-1945) with the once seemingly invincible, but losing Fascist dictators, Hitler and Mussolini and their “neutral” ally, Franco. Pius XII had been born into a Roman family that had been immersed earlier in the monarchical Papal States. He served for almost two decades under the autocratic Pope Pius XI (1921-1939). A top down coercive leadership must have seemed natural to Pius XII.
  73. Nevertheless, it had become increasingly clear by Mussolini’s removal in July 1943 that Western autocratic structures were losing to Western democratic structures and that major Catholic Church reforms were sorely needed, if not inevitable. By September 1943, Pius XII was endorsing modern biblical scholarship, which eventually planted the seeds that undermine some papal claims as Supreme Pontiff.
  74. Pius XII’s less well born immediate successor, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), an experienced diplomat and church historian, knew change was inevitable in the postwar situation populated by powerful Western democracies and decided boldly in early 1959, after only a short time as pope, that major Church reforms were badly needed and even overdue. This was clearly evident, especially after the defeat of the Vatican’s powerful European allies, Italy and Germany, and the takeover by 1950 of Eastern European Catholic countries like Poland, Hungary, Croatia and the Baltic States, by the Soviets.
  75. John XXIII must have also understood that as an “infallible pope” that he could ultimately control the key outcomes of the Second Vatican Council (1962- 1965), or “Vatican II”. He called for the Council in 1959 less than a decade after Pius XII had in 1950 exercised the ultimate papal “infallibility power” in declaring Mary’s Assumption. That dramatic papal exercise appears to have been a desperate attempt to flex his “semi-divine infallibility” power after suffering the defeat of his Fascist allies and in the face at the time of the rise of Soviet power under Stalin.
  76. So John XXIII could risk letting the 2,500 plus Vatican II bishops talk with some freedom at Vatican II. As Pope, he would still have the last say.  Pope Francis seems to have a similar understanding that he has the last word no matter what his current Synods may decide or however the Synod bishops may vote. For modern popes since the 1870′s declaration of papal infallibility, councils like Vatican II and  Synods of Bishops are ultimately only advisory. This positions Francis to act decisively on Synod Bishops’ advice and otherwise.
  77. Unfortunately, John XXIII died in 1963 before he could implement many essential reforms as he may have planned to do. John had served in key diplomatic posts directly under two autocratic popes, Pius XI and Pius XII. These popes had enjoyed until 1945 powerful Fascist protection and support. John XXIII evidently understood well that the days of unaccountable autocratic popes protected by conservative European monarchs or Fascist dictators were over, especially with the postwar expansion of democratically accountable governments in many Catholic countries, including Italy and Germany.
  78. John XXIII in January 1959 had suddenly, unexpectedly and almost haphazardly announced publicly his reform intentions and initiated the preparation for the massive 2,500 plus bishops’ Second Vatican Council. His old friend, Paul VI, who was an experienced Vatican bureaucrat and his successor, reportedly thought in 1959 that John was stirring up a “hornets’ nest”. Similarly, Pope Francis appears intentionally now to be “creating a mess” with his unusual Synods. Undeterred, however, by John XXIII’s unexpected boldness and realizing that a retrenchment opportunity had been presented by John’s death early in the Council’s proceedings, the Vatican’s “hornets” reacted, specifically some of its entrenched bureaucrats like powerful Cardinal Ottaviani (1890-1979), and their preferred choices of subsequent Curial accommodating Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
  79. These Vatican bureaucrats like Ottaviani and their successors, in effect, sidelined several key Vatican II era reforms for a half century with their “reform of the reform”, generally, a rhetorical euphemism for obstruction. These sidelined reforms included those relating to papal power sharing, married priests, contraception and even priest child abuse.
  80. These and other inevitable reforms can no longer be sidelined by the Vatican without risking dire consequences, given the escalating internal and external pressures at present on the Vatican. Maintaining, at times, the almost medieval Vatican status quo is no longer a papal option, as it may earlier have been for Pope Francis’ predecessors.
  81. This current crisis is now forcing the Vatican to try harder (A) to defend its exclusive doctrinal authority, (B) to maximize its wealth and solidify its allies among powerful national elites, and (C) to counter its religious competitors, as it tries try to survive reasonably intact.
  82. After a half century of frequent papal resistance and Vatican bureaucratic diversions that thwarted key elements of John XXIII’s and Vatican II’s reform approach, Pope Francis appears to be seeking to resume some of what John XXIII had tried to initiate. But Francis may not be doing enough, soon enough, as he approaches his eightieth birthday in two years.
  83. Many Catholics’ mistrust has now even led some of the Catholic 99.99% publicly to question the Vatican’s selective interpretation and application of Jesus’ simple Gospel message of love of God and neighbor. The Vatican’s opportunistic approach to the Gospels had earlier been at least widely tolerated, if not accepted by many Catholics. Now even at the initial Vatican Synod of the Family in October 2014, a significant number of bishops selected by  prior conservative popes even voted against several traditional Vatican positions. Such episcopal independence had been scarce since 1980 under the prior two popes.
  84. The Vatican dam has burst under the pressure of the current scandals and the the floods being released will not likely by contained by anything short of a return to the consensual, bottom up approach that prevailed in the Church and that Jesus’ disciples, including some women, left behind for over three centuries. The current coercive and top down papal management structure is not likely to contain the floods much longer, without major reforms, including especially power sharing with an independent Catholic majority. Cardinals and bishops who resist this pressure will likely be swept away by the flood of reforms, as happened with Cardinal Raymond Burke even before Pope Francis strengthened his authority to remove bishops.
  85. Strategic Alternatives and Assumptions: Any serious and objective assessment of this current Church crisis must consider at the outset several key questions. How is Pope Francis, after almost two years as pope, addressing this current crisis, as well as the related challenges to the Pope’s moral leadership and doctrinal authority, to the Vatican’s political and financial positions, and to the Catholic Church’s competitive advantage that this crisis has dramatically and unexpectedly provoked? What are Francis’ strategic options to resolve the crisis and which strategy has he selected? Is his selected strategy based on valid assumptions and truthful analysis? What are the likely outcomes from this crisis for the Vatican?
  86. The Expanding Crisis and Interplay of Related Challenges: The current Catholic Church crisis, and the four challenges the crisis has provoked, have been occasioned by almost unending scandals These scandals involve priest child abuse, bishop misconduct and financial corruption. The yet uncontrolled scandals have caused the ongoing crisis, while the insatiable 24/7 media cycle and the Internet are accelerating it non-stop.
  87. The scandal fallout is even leading many Catholics to question the previously accepted assumption that “The Holy Father knows best.” Basic questions now arise about infallible papal authority, as well as the Vatican’s hierarchical structure and unquestioned control of biblical and moral theology, especially regarding sexual and gender matters.
  88. Pope Francis indicated as the new pope at the World Youth Congress in July 2013 that he wanted a “mess” to stimulate change, and now he has one he helped create. He cannot now avoid confronting and attempting to defuse the expanding crisis, since it has unleashed unstoppable international legal and political responses. Previously, modern popes could discuss some pressing issues, while also deferring other important issues, and then sit on or even avoid the implications of these discussions, even for a half century as with some of the key issues discussed in the 1960′s during the Second Vatican Council period, such as married priests, power sharing among bishops and contraception.
  89. No more! With the pressure from the current crisis increasing, the Vatican can no longer just table these issues, and must address them now, along with additional significant issues, like (A) holding bishops accountable to the 99.9% faithful majority, (B) ordaining women priests, (C) celebrating gay marriages, (D) welcoming divorced and remarried Catholics at Mass, and (E) protecting children.
  90. These scandals in today’s wide open media world have created unprecedented reputational, political, financial and competitive risks and also generated related challenges for the Vatican. One pope has already resigned under pressure, the first to do so in almost 600 years. Many tough questions, rarely asked earlier, are now proliferating rapidly and are being raised constantly and publicly. The days of popes on pedestals are over permanently, notwithstanding the rapid acceleration of Pope Francis’ new pope saint making spree as part of his crisis response.
  91. Will Pope Francis be next to resign under similar pressure? Who will succeed him? How many Vatican officials are now being investigated by outside government prosecutors? Could the Vatican financially go broke, as over a dozen US dioceses and religious orders already have, under the weight of rising scandal related legal costs and declining donations and subsidies? Will even more Catholics now leave the Church seeking greener pastures and truer shepherds?
  92. Until recently, the Vatican’s decades’ old strategy aimed simultaneously and defensively at protection and preservation. Protecting, as the Vatican’s highest priority, its top leaders from governmental legal accountability, has meant employing media management tactics with help, it appears from billionaire media masters and seeking opportunistic arrangements with powerful political leaders and wealthy financial barons.
  93. Preserving Vatican wealth and membership statistics, both to maximize its eroding income worldwide and to reverse declining Catholic birth and retention rates in key countries, has meant continuing to pursue a “pro billionaire” fundraising approach and a “pro-pregnancy” population policy. This population policy had been earlier declared in Pope Pius XI’s 1930 anti-birth control papal encyclical occasioned by both the rising threat of atheistic Soviet communism against a declining Western European birthrate and the military ambitions of Pius XI’s key protector, Mussolini. Today, the Vatican’s pro-baby policy appears directed at the Vatican’s near obsession with the threat of radical Islam and Muslims’ high birth rate.
  94. The Vatican’s defensive instruments of power currently include (A) endlessly quoting in Vatican public relations releases from Jesus’ appealing message of brotherly love, while avoiding the message too often in actual Vatican actions,  (B) constantly fronting a smiling  “semi-divine infallible pope”, preferably hugging babies, (C) shrewdly managing a self interested, obedient and self perpetuating hierarchy, (D) carefully applying its significant worldwide wealth advantage,  and (E) tightly controlling its considerable political influence in key countries, like the USA and Germany.
  95. The major current Church challenges, on top of the present scandal crisis, are:
  96. (A) A leadership challenge — diminishing papal authority and declining adherents, as millions of older Catholics are leaving the Church, many due the Vatican’s rigid sexual policies and its mismanagement of the scandals, while many younger Catholics are similarly disaffected and are increasingly marrying in non-Church ceremonies, are having and baptizing fewer Catholic babies, and are even avoiding or deferring the early introduction of their children to the Church’s formative indoctrination process associated with First Communion/First Confession;
  97. (B) A political challenge — to the Vatican’s modern immunity from outside governmental oversight and to the Vatican’s opportunistic arrangements with plutocratic political promoters ;
  98. (C) A financial challenge — declining personal donations and governmental subsidies while facing unending legal expenses and litigation penalties — fewer Catholics are donating, while billions in scandal related expenses are still being incurred, as more dioceses go broke and bankrupt and more Churches and schools are closed and sold off; and
  99. (D) A competitive challenge — increasing competition from other faiths and from secularism, ranging from Christian pentecostals, to Islamic converts, to the growing category of “nones”, unaffiliated with any faith group.
  100. Many of the world’s billion Catholics worry increasingly about the future of their scandal infected Church. While many millions still support the Catholic Church devoutly, millions of others, including women, children, poor couples, divorced and remarried, gay folks and even non-Catholics, suffer under Vatican policies that often seem unchristian and unnecessary.
  101. Pope Francis must currently confront this crisis and these challenges. He needs a comprehensive strategy to do so. His individual actions cannot really be assessed adequately or intelligently, except in the context of his overall strategy.
  102. Strategic Alternatives Presently Available to the Vatican: Pope Francis has given many Catholics new hope for a Church cure, for positive changes and for overdue reforms. Recent developments make clear that major changes for the papal monarchy are underway and that more are coming. When and how the newest changes may come surely raise complicated questions that demand responses, even if “final answers” are yet unavailable.
  103. Some Catholic Church changes may come voluntarily and others involuntarily, but come soon they will to the current papal monarchy, as they long ago came to other European monarchies. Depending on the specific change, either voluntary consensus among many Catholics or involuntary coercion from outside governments (as has already occurred in the financial area), or both, are driving these changes relentlessly. As a Catholic, I hope the changes come voluntarily. As an international lawyer, I expect the major changes will come involuntarily in any event, if needed voluntary changes are not implemented soon.
  104. Of course. the Church’s future options necessarily depend on, and are limited by, its present situation, as influenced by its unique history and traditions. Pope Francis cannot start afresh. He also faces considerable opposition from many sides. In some respects, Pope Francis’ situation today is like that of Pope Pius IX, who lost his large Papal States’ kingdom a century and a half ago to outside Italian governmental forces. Pius XI tried to recover some lost power by being “declared infallible” at the 1870 First Vatican Council. That move, however, may have created more problems for the Church than it solved.
  105. Pope Francis appears similarly desperately to be trying, with recent papal saint making spectacles and his Synods of Bishops, to make changes to try to head off some of the likely changes he may anticipate being imposed on the Church by escalating outside government pressure. His fine tuning the rules recently on his power to remove bishops suggests he does not plan on endless debates with the likes of Cardinal Burke.
  106. Moreover, Pope Francis must try to follow Jesus’ message closely if he wants to succeed. But traditions about Jesus, especially the all important “Good News” of the four Gospels, have been interpreted in different ways, prophetically, theologically and even politically, by earlier Catholic leaders and thinkers. These influential leaders and thinkers and their specific interpretations have generally dominated Church dogma and practice over much of its 2,000 year history, often in unpredictable ways at times with unanticipated consequences.
  107. For much of this long period, popes benefited from considerable protection from powerful monarchs, and at times even tyrants. But this has generally no longer been the case since the end of Fascist hegemony in Germany and Italy by 1945. Since then, the Vatican has had to nimbly weave its web of political protection by trading Vatican support on an ad hoc opportunistic basis for national arrangements. These alliances ranged from close ties since the 1980′s with elected US Republican leaders to alliances with military dictators in Latin America and Africa.
  108. Importantly, the Bible, including the Catholic New Testament, has a complex and complicated origin and multiple textual, linguistic, and cultural sources. It is now well known by scholars that the Bible is no straightforward guidebook on many modern problems. Early Church history also is poorly documented, quite diverse and easily manipulated by selective sourcing and quotations.
  109. Indeed, millions of words have been written by modern biblical and church history scholars. Nevertheless, in recent years, there has frequently been greater rather than less uncertainty about some important aspects of Jesus’ reported words and deeds and about some of his “clear mandates”, than had sometimes been assumed as beyond question by earlier popes. “The Tradition is …”, is at times much more complicated than modern popes have sometimes suggested in their encyclicals and the Catechism.
  110. The Vatican’s Current Strategy and Strategic Assumptions: Modern popes, including Francis, in their key dogmatic and moral pronouncements and proclaimed pastoral policies and practices, rely on many assumptions, occasionally unstated ones, sometimes selectively derived from preferred “in house” Catholic scholarship on scripture, history and theology. There are several assumptions in essential areas that are less certain than at times presented by self interested Vatican officials and their opportunistic apologists.
  111. These assumptions are a major part of the foundation for the Vatican’s claims about the Church’s (A) origins and sources, including some key New Testament mandates, (B) structure, leadership and management, and (C) dogma and practice. On closer inspection, these assumptions are more doubtful than modern popes, including Pope Francis, have at times indicated and the propositions popes construct on these assumptions are often more uncertain than not.
  112. By acknowledging these uncertainties now, some “unchangeable” dogmas and practices at variance with the lived experiences and informed consciences of hundreds of millions of Catholics can, and will be, changed voluntarily or involuntarily by the Vatican, to conform truthfully and honestly to Catholics’ current knowledge of, and daily experience, with reality. These truthful acknowledgements are often, as well, an essential prerequisite for the Vatican to survive the crisis and challenges it must face to survive.
  113. The Vatican can no longer avoid addressing the current relentless questioning of some of its key assumptions, given the growth in the Catholic scholarship community beyond Vatican control, as well as the 24/7 media coverage and Internet revelations that at times undercut Vatican positions. And future papal pronouncements, without ample underlying independent scholarly support, are hardly going to influence many Catholics for long. The Vatican can no longer address modern day “Galileos” solely by placing them under house arrest.
  114. Acknowledging honestly the uncertainty of the Vatican’s assumptions is fundamentally important, and also provides additional reasons to hope that positive changes in Church structure and doctrines are likely in the near term. If, as Jesus reportedly said, the truth makes us free, it is  mandatory that the Church’s options for change henceforth be pursued based honestly on truthful assumptions, and not opportunistically on “selective truths”, as at times still occurs and has also occurred in the past.
  115. Pope Francis had as a young Jesuit provincial in Argentina direct experience with the outside government power of a military dictatorship. He understands well that the Vatican he inherited from the ex-Pope was and remains in several areas, especially priest child abuse, on a collision course with outside governments armed with a coercive rule of international law. Longtime Vatican players, that had been accustomed until recently to living in a Vatican bubble in an Italy run by a seemingly billionaire swinger, do not yet seem to understand, as Francis appears to, that the days of “The Holy Father says … ” are over. Francis appears to know that either the Vatican reforms itself now or it risks being forced soon to reform, with the chaos and divisions that forced reforms would likely entail.
  116. These assumptions, in varying degrees, have shaped much of the Catholic Church’s present. They will also influence significantly its future, no matter what Pope Francis decides to do. Understanding better these often unstated assumptions creates hopeful opportunities for adopting long overdue positive reforms by eliminating non-essential and questionable “certainties” that at times have been impediments to needed changes.
  117. The overarching Vatican “framework” at present, based on current Vatican assumptions, appears to be mainly that (A) Jesus endorsed popes as supreme papal monarchs, (B) who are accountable only to God, (C) who uniquely interpret infallibly matters of “faith and morals”, including New Testament moral themes, and (D) who appoint as unaccountable bishops superior men, exclusively, (E) to implement and enforce unchangeable dogmas and practices mandated by popes. The Vatican currently, in effect, requires a billion plus Catholics to operate within this framework as well. This framework does not stand up well to close scholarly scrutiny.
  118. Complicating Pope Francis’ difficult tasks are many opportunists, including several very wealthy and powerful Church donors, who appear to be seeking, for their own personal agendas, to exploit the considerable “spiritual power” possessed by the modern papacy and to benefit from the political prestige and financial assets that popes control. For more than the last three quarters of the Catholic Church’s  2,000 year history, popes have at times been important “players”, sometimes a major player, in the international political economy; hence, the age old objective of wealthy donors to influence both papal decision making and wealth management.
  119. These opportunistic donors at times rely implicitly and selectively on several present weak papal assumptions, as do many in the Catholic hierarchy of cardinals and bishops. Of course, some of these Catholic religious leaders, with over 1,500 year years of accumulated political and economic traditions behind them, often also share some of their wealthy donors’ primary goals of maximizing their personal wealth, while also minimizing their individual accountability.
  120. Neither Pope Francis, nor any of his potential successors, can make many of the needed positive changes, without at a minimum revising key elements of his weak assumptions. Pope Francis and his successors, of course, may be unwilling voluntarily to make these revisions. That may matter significantly for the 0.01% minority leadership who may then not survive. It may not matter much, however, to the 99.9% faithful majority, who may still get to see these reforms imposed on the leadership majority by outside governments.
  121. The current likelihood is that Francis or his successor will, nevertheless, be compelled soon enough to make many of these changes, by pressure from outside governments accountable to their constituents, many of whom are Catholic. This is not the 1960′s, with the Second Vatican Council, when a collusive Vatican bureaucracy and their selected popes can stymie for a half century needed reforms agreed to by almost all of the world’s bishops at the Council.
  122. European governments are already beginning to apply considerable pressure in the financial area with mandated reforms for the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s own asset management operation. This pressure has included so far a Vatican Bank asset seizure, a Vatican City credit card facility freeze and criminal investigations, even an arrest of a key Vatican financial official by the Italian government. The Vatican has been, in effect, required to hire some of the world’s most influential and expensive financial and banking consultants, lawyers and auditors and that may still not be enough to keep all Vatican officials out of prosecutors’ reach.

123. While Francis bobs and weaves and seeks political allies like anti-gay American fundamentalists, Catholics need to cover their bets by continuing to press their leaders, including President Obama to act. Papal promises of change are no longer a safe bet without concrete papal actions fulfilling the promises. Insufficient papal action to date suggests a need for more caution and prudence, and less cheerleading and wishful thinking.

 

About victimsofrapebythercc

The Catechism offers a clear moral teaching: "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them." (no. 2356) Note that rape is "an intrinsically evil act," meaning that it is evil at its very root, nothing justifies it, and it is objectively a mortal sin. An evil act was done against me, a crime, by a priest at St Thomas More Parish in Durham, NH. An evil and a crime I will no longer keep silent about. Those who perpetrate crimes against children, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, should all be punished for their crimes against children. Anything less would be criminal.

Posted on November 23, 2014, in Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt, Archbishop John Nienstedt, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, Bishop Kieran Thomas Conry, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Cardinal Bernard Law, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Cardinal Ludwig Mueller, Cardinal Patrick O'Malley, Cardinal Pio Laghi, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Cardinal William Levada, Child Sex Abuse, Clergy Abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse, Father Donald J. McGuire, Father Robert Geisinger, Hans Kung, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope Pius XII, Priest Child Sex Abuse, Religion, Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church Sex Abuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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 )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: