Given the magnitude of the media coverage the next week, this is Pope Francis’ best opportunity to strengthen his geopolitical influence and power.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 (PHILADELPHIA)
11:00 a.m. Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
Of the three cities the pope is visiting, Philadelphia children have suffered the most from clerical sex abuse. Due to a public outcry, two grand jury investigations were held.
In September 2005, a grand jury announced that Cardinal John Krol was involved with the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by accused priests throughout the archdiocese, as was his successor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Both transferred accused priests to other parishes throughout the archdiocese. “The grand jury also demonstrated that nobody could be prosecuted due to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations and other conditions that protect the archdiocese from being criminally accountable.”
A second grand jury in February, 2011, accused the Philadelphia Archdiocese under Cardinal Rigali of failing to stop the sexual abuse of children more than five years after the first grand jury report documented abuse by more than fifty priests. “The 2011 grand jury report said that as many as 37 priests were credibly accused of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior toward minors [and] most of those 37 priests remain active in the ministry.”
The 2012 conviction of Msgr. William Lynn followed from the grand jury investigation. Lynn is the only Catholic official in the US to be convicted and sent to prison for covering up abuses by other priests in his charge.
Lynn was moved out of Currna-Fromhold to another state prison after the pope’s itinerary was announced.
Robert Corby, who says he was a victim of child sexual abuse by a priest, “when he heard that Francis was planning to visit inmates at a Philadelphia jail, wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that the pope instead meet with victims of sexual abuse by Philadelphia Archdiocese priests.”
So far, no such meeting is on the pope’s schedule in the US but there is some media speculation because Pope Benedict did so during his US trip. However, given the amount of time needed to carefully screen any victim who gets to meet the pope, this may not happen.
4:00 p.m. Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Citing the statement issued last year by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child about the Vatican, another now-adult victim of clerical sex abuse, John Salveson, asked “how about putting the issue of childhood sex abuse on the agenda for discussion and exploration? I can think of nothing that tears a family apart more than abuse, and the World Meeting of Families is the perfect setting for a comprehensive, compassionate discussion of this problem.
My second request is that Pope Francis, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and all meeting participants wear a black ribbon on their clothing to acknowledge the thousands of survivors who have never received the justice and support they deserve … [W]e mourn the survivors who have died by their own hand, or through their uncontrolled self-destructive behavior and despair when the Church they loved refused to help them.”
“Who am I to judge”
While cardinal primate, Bergoglio accused the president of demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power when Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. He rejected the idea of same-sex marriage as an “anthropological regression” and the proposed legislation as “a move of the Father of Lies [Satan] who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Shortly after he became pope, Bergoglio said “Who am I to judge” in defense of his appointment of Msgr. Battista Ricca as his watchdog at the Vatican Bank. Ricca had been outed for making a scandalous public display of his relationship with another male. The pope was responding to the question: “I would like to know, Holiness, what do you intend to do about this question of Msgr. Ricca and of the news of his private life?” No further questions allowed during that press conference.
As pope, Bergoglio has become more circumspect in his speech.
He warned the people of the Philippines: “The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”
After telling reporters about a public service officer who, in order to receive a loan to build schools, had to include a book on “gender theory” in her curriculum, the pope said: “Clever girl, she said ‘yes.’ And, as a result the goal of the financiers was achieved. This is ideological colonization.”
“The ‘gender theory’ Francis is denigrating is the medically and anthropologically supported concept that gender is a construct imposed by society. It is commonly cited in defense of transgender rights, since it shows gender can vary despite society’s expectations.
Pope Francis said in February 2015: “Let’s think of nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”
On September 10, 2015: “The family – as God wants it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and also the generation and education of children – is deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization.”
While this pope removed the “Bishop of Bling,” Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, for spoiling his image of a “poor Church,” he has never contradicted, reprimanded or removed the following prelates for saying the following during his reign:
A Swiss bishop “quoted Bible verses calling for gay people to be killed and said the passage made clear what Church policy was on homosexuality.” A group of gay supporters said these comments amount to “inciting people to crime or violence.”
A Ugandan bishop “praised the Members of Parliament for the Anti-Homosexuality Act that provides life in prison for gay people in Uganda … a law which institutionalizes homophobia and affirms the persecution of LGBTI people. The bishop called for a blessing for Uganda’s Christians who worked so hard to ‘free the land of gays.’ The bishop also asked for parents to hand over their gay children to authorities, so they would be rewarded in heaven.”
The archbishop of Monrovia declared Ebola to be a punishment from God for the act of homosexuality.
“In January 2014, Nigeria adopted a law criminalizing homosexuality, and the country’s bishops called the move a ‘courageous act.’ One archbishop praised the Nigerian president for not caving in to international blowback, warning of a ‘conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent the dumping ground for the promotion of immoral practices.’”
Following the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said it was “profoundly immoral and unjust.”
A cardinal in Lima, Peru, called same-sex marriage “imperialism, colonialism … History will judge whether we are bequeathing ‘a better world or a really sad world,’ he added, recalling that history has made judgments in the cases of the Nazi regime and Islamic terrorism.”
Pope Francis elevated a Spanish bishop to cardinal who had described homosexuality as a “defect” that can be corrected with treatment.
An Irish bishop said that homosexuality – like Down’s syndrome or spina bifida – was not part of God’s plan, and that same-sex couples with children were “not necessarily parents.”
The pope’s secretary of state called the Irish vote to legalize gay marriage a “defeat for humanity.”
The Vatican refused to confirm France’s new ambassador to the Holy See, an openly gay veteran diplomat. The president of a French anti-gay group had asked the Vatican’s ambassador in Paris to “resist the appointment.”
The Catechism states that homosexual acts are a “grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered.” The 1992 edition of the Catechism also said that “men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies … do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Pope Benedict XVI – added in 1997: This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. (emphasis mine)
So Pope Francis can change this anytime he wants but he won’t.
We know, therefore, that Pope Francis does not object to the firing of openly gay employees in the US including the dozens who have lost their jobs in the past few years.
Margie Winters was fired June 22, 2015, from the Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania, “for being in a same-sex marriage, something she told the school about when she was hired eight years ago.” In August, “Winters, accompanied by about 50 supporters and carrying a box of petitions signed by 23,000 people who want her reinstated as a Catholic school educator, could not get in the front door. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Center City offices were on lockdown Monday afternoon. A security guard politely but firmly refused to allow Winters to enter the building.”
In June, “gay Catholic groups and families headed by gay Catholics had asked for an official presence at the World Meeting of Families to present their view that homosexuals should be fully welcomed in the Church. Homosexuals can attend … but won’t be allowed to use it to attack Church teachings. “We don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our Church,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput.
“To counter the official message, New Ways Ministry and several allied groups have scheduled various programs – including a workshop on gender identity – to coincide with the Meeting of Families. The initial plan called for the programs to be held at a Catholic church in Philadelphia, but the LGBT groups said the church’s pastor rescinded the invitation at the urging of Chaput’s office. The LGBT groups said the events will be relocated to a nearby Methodist church.
As of September 2015, “parents of children attending Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools are now required to sign a pledge promising their support of the schools’ ‘Catholic identity’ as well as Archbishop Chaput, who holds ‘final determination’ on questions involving Church
The US-based Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) is also hosting a meeting in Philadelphia to press for women’s rights in the Church. “Some 500 Catholic activists from around the globe” are expected to attend. Pope Francis dismissed the possibility of women’s ordination. “The Church has spoken; that door is closed,” he said.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))
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