The sexual abuse scandal has erupted from a wildfire into a blazing inferno for the Catholic Church, having broken out on multiple fronts. In Pennsylvania, the laity is still reeling from the publication of a gargantuan and exhaustive grand jury report that accuses more than three hundred priests of the sexual abuse of minors over a period of more than half a century. And in Maryland and Washington, DC, the scandalous case of Cardinal McCarrick has taken a huge turn following the publication of an eleven page letter by an ex-Nuncio of the Vatican, Archbishop Carlo Vigano. Both of these things are related, but not in the way you may at first assume.
We’ll start with Pennsylvania. For those who haven’t been following the unfolding coverage over the last couple weeks, I’ll try to bring you up to speed. The controversial report published the accusations against three hundred and one priests of the sexual abuse of minors across most major dioceses in the state, complete with a catalogue of the accused transgressions. These transgressions ranged wildly in nature and in frequency, with one of the accused having involved impregnating a seventeen-year-old and arranging an abortion, to the sexual grooming of middle school students, and others having to do with sexual exhibitionism involving religious imagery. All-in-all, it’s reprehensible stuff and you can find the whole report online.
Of the accusations, however, only two indictments were issued, and one man already pled guilty to sexual assault. Because of the scope and span of the investigation, which included cases as far back as 1947, about than two-thirds of the accused priests are already dead. Yet still, of the remaining hundred or so, only two brought forward enough substance for the state to have enough for trials. There’s the possibility of more to come, but that number doesn’t look so good.
What the Pennsylvania grand jury report asserts is the existence of what most of the reactionary and militantly conservative wings of the catholic laity and clergy have known or suspected for a long time. The abuse crises haven’t been isolated incidents and the cover-ups haven’t been done, by and large, on a case by case basis. There exists in the Church the presence, effectively, of a gay mafia—the same sort of in-group mob that can be found in the power structures of the urban elite. Hollywood is a good example. The same fundamental basis forms their in-group identity as well: sexual misbehavior that frequently turns to abuse.
This brings me to the second issue of note: the Cardinal McCarrick scandal. The man’s long history in the clergy began to unravel after accusations of abuse from nearly fifty years ago led to an investigation that yielded fruit. He resigned in July, after the accusations led to evidence, and his resignation has been taking with it the entire structure of the abuse circle he’s been involved with. He had been trading sexual favors for institutional advancement, coercing young seminarians into his bed in exchange for furthering their futures in the priesthood.
McCarrick’s scandal has inadvertently dragged the highest offices of the Holy See into it. The archbishop of Washington, DC has ended up being used as collateral damage by one Archbishop Carlo Vigano, whose eleven page open letter dropped last weekend. This letter accuses and directly implicates Pope Francis in the continuation of McCarrick’s abuse, as well as others. Vigano alleges that he personally informed the Pope of the abuse, as early as 2013, and yet nothing was done.
If the presence of a gay mafia active in the Church wasn’t apparent before, it certainly is now. And worse, its influence extends all the way up to the institution’s worldly throne.
What is important to remember is, by and large, both of these scandals are predominantly homosexual in nature. While it’s certainly true that there were a number of accusations unearthed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report that feature pedophilia as front and center, most of the cases dealt largely with young men around or just shy of the age of consent. McCarrick, likewise, was not a man absconding with eight-year-olds; he was leveraging the authority of his seat against the morality of the seminarians in his care. Seminarians, by definition, are adults. What the Church needs to address is the apparently rampant degree to which homosexuality has been allowed to fester in its own ranks, particularly when its own doctrine asserts homosexuality to be a form of sexual immorality. Regardless of your own feelings or opinions about homosexuality, the Church has a very clear, stated position on the matter, and the officers of the faith should be called up on to remember it. You wouldn’t, in good conscience, put a recovering alcoholic on the sales floor of a liquor store.
In the week that has passed since Vigano’s letter, the entire scandal has been called an attempt by traditionalist Catholics to attack Pope Francis, defenders of the Pope have alleged racism as a contributing factor to the letter’s proliferation, the Pope has gone on the record to neither confirm nor deny the allegations (look that one up yourself), and perhaps best of all, the Pope himself was confronted with a crowd chanting Vi-ga-no during a general audience in Rome.
The Pope has no interest in curbing crimes such as McCarrick’s because of his soft position on homosexuality. He’s interested, as he said, in a more forgiving, softer Church, which endears him to the popular media—a collective group of sycophants who have had neither for the Church nor its positions. Unfortunately, despite his insistence, his actions reveal a startling lack of competency. But his willingness to put men of the cloth who have already had documented problems with temptation back into the positions where they have failed reeks of something much more sinister than mere incompetence.
And he’s only making it worse by refusing to comment on the issue. Global warming, immigration, the worldly affairs outside of the Church’s influence are but buzzwords in the news cycle—these are topics he’d prefer to focus on while extortionist sexual depravity and the alleged abuse of minors are cancerously devouring the institution. The man’s tendency toward silence on specifically Catholic issues—such as we saw already with Ireland’s abortion referendum earlier this year—is beyond the pale.
The obvious must be stated first: the way to deal with Archbishop Vigano’s letter, if its allegations are false, is simple. Bring out the documentation and the witnesses that disprove it, and bring forth the parties directly named to comment on it. But the parties who have been directly named in it are either silent or unwilling to comment. Meanwhile, the documentation that exists is investigated only by those labeled as traditionalist haters of Francis’ papacy. Everyone has seen this kind of tactic before. They’re the tactics that the Democrats in Washington pulled when confronted with Obama’s numerous scandals by right-wing investigators, and they’re the tactics GamerGate was confronted with in their seemingly innocuous online skirmishes with SJWs—they are the tactics of the guilty. And they don’t work. And maybe the guilt isn’t the guilt directly asserted by the Vigano letter, keep in mind. That still has to be corroborated and substantiated. But the reactions to Vigano’s allegations are a clear acknowledgement that there is guilt of something.
The ring of homosexual abusers within the Church has gained itself a moniker: the Lavender Mafia. It’s had the name for years, though before it was merely considered an open secret instead of a substantiated and evidential reality. Vigano’s letter asserts its existence by implicating the highest officers of the Church in its complicity. But how do mafias work? How does any sort of crime ring or subversive element within an established institution work? Well, blackmail is a start.
And blackmail doesn’t have look like blackmail. It can look like support groups for priests struggling with sexual temptation. It can look like sympathetic advisors and confidants up the bureaucratic chain. The ‘isolated incidents’ of abusive behavior can look like the failings of low-level clergy succumbing to their desires. Those that put them up to the task, who told them it’s okay to be gay, who left them in positions open to compromise, and who suggested that their own supervisors could use a bit of to-and-fro themselves—they can cover for each other, and it would be out of necessity.
Read the Pennsylvania grand jury report and contrast it with the McCarrick allegations. Many of the Pennsylvania allegations come across as the cases where low-level clergymen were caught in compromising scenarios or where their priestly resolve collapsed in the presence of sexual temptation. McCarrick’s position was entirely different. After a career made on licentious bribery, momentary weakness fails to be a believable excuse. What you see in the Pennsylvania grand jury report is a slew of lackeys hung out to dry by a corrupt establishment that lied to them. What you see with McCarrick’s abuse of office, as made evident by Vigano’s letter, is the instance of one of those members of the establishment really getting nailed to the wall.
Pope Francis, in remaining silent, will hope to back out of this one. It seems like he wants to let it all fly overhead and just plod on while ignoring it for a few weeks so he can live out his papacy with the same media bluster as he entered it with. Maybe he will. There is no mechanism in the Church, nor should there be, that could demand the resignation of a pope, although it has happened in the past that the papacy has been (perhaps rightly) supplanted. The seat must be willfully resigned. The question that remains on the lips of many, many Catholics is: what sort of answer is he willing to give to these allegations? What sort of answer can he give?