Why I don’t like Pope Francis
Progressive friends wonder why I’m not a fan of Pope Francis, who—according to these friends, the mainstream media, and pretty much every progressive Catholic I’ve spoken to—is clearly progressive.
The short answer: He is not. The long answer starts in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
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A poor 13-year-old Dominican boy needed epilepsy medicine, so an archbishop gave it to him in exchange for sexual acts. The archbishop would go on to abuse the boy for four more years.
In 2013, minors interviewed by the police admitted to masturbating and having oral sex with the same archbishop as he filmed them. Such footage was later found in the suspect’s laptop, which contained over 100,000 files of child pornography, digitally archived in category-specific folders.
Pope Francis had known about the allegations since August 2013. His response? On Aug. 21, the abuser was recalled to Rome in secret.
The following month, a yearlong investigation was broadcast with the allegations against Archbishop Józef Wesolowski, a former envoy of the Vatican to the Dominican Republic. This was the first time the Dominican authorities had ever heard of the allegations. By this time, Wesolowski was already under the Pope’s protection.
In a New York Times interview, the Dominican district attorney said the Vatican even sent someone in October to investigate, but it still did not cooperate with the authorities.
Protests and petitions in Santo Domingo called for Wesolowski to be extradited from the Vatican, to no avail. Meanwhile, Wesolowski would live freely in Rome for over a year, living luxuriously in an upscale house, according to reports.
On Sept. 23, 2014—or more than a year after the Pope was told directly about Wesolowski—the Vatican finally arrested the alleged abuser. But instead of extraditing him to the Dominican Republic, authorities decided to hold a trial in the Vatican this year.
This isn’t the first time that the Pope saved an alleged abuser from prosecution. When he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, he did nothing about the more than 100 abusers documented by the Attorney General’s Office in Buenos Aires alone.
According to bishop-accountability.org, which has one of the most comprehensive databases of clerical child abuse, not only did the Pope do nothing, there was even “evidence that Bergoglio knowingly or unwittingly slowed victims in their fight to expose and prosecute their assailants.”
The punishment of Fr. Julio Grassi of Argentina, who was sentenced to 15 years for child abuse, was delayed in part because Pope Francis had commissioned a private report to prove his innocence and discredit the victims.
A United Nations panel has continued to criticize the Vatican for failing to report abuse charges to authorities, for transferring clergy to avoid prosecution, and for failing to properly compensate the victims and their families.
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If you’re a progressive Catholic, you’re probably excited about the Pope’s visit. “Finally, a progressive Pope is changing the Church, and he’s coming to the Philippines!”
But if you read the story of Wesolowski, the cases in Argentina, and reports by the UN Committee against Torture and bishop-accountability.org, you’ll begin to see that there’s a gulf between proof and public relations, between initial impressions and in-depth investigations. And you’ll find that this gulf is not unique to the issue of child abuse.
“Who am I to judge?” is probably a progressive’s favorite proof that Pope Francis is changing the Church’s approach to LGBT issues.
Taken out of context, the sound bite seems to imply that the Pope, and the Church he represents, has no right to condemn any LGBT individual for anything they do.
But if you look past the sound bite, you’ll find that the statement was made in defense of someone who had sought forgiveness for having gay relationships. The full sentence is: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well, who am I to judge them?”
In an interview with Crux, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago explained that the sound bite “has been very misused … because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution, whom he knows well… That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness… At a certain moment, people who have painted him as a player in their own scenarios about changes in the Church will discover that’s not who he is.”
As Cardinal Bergoglio, Pope Francis described marriage equality as “an attempt to destroy God’s plan… a move of the father of lies.” In 2013, he called same-sex marriage an “anthropological regression.”
Although he has removed a bishop for living luxuriously, he has allowed the following to remain: An archbishop who declared in October 2014 that Ebola is a punishment for homosexuality; a Ugandan bishop who told parents they’d be rewarded for surrendering their LGBT children for state punishment; an archbishop who compared homosexuality as a defect that had to be corrected.
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Although the media make it seem like Pope Francis is a revolutionary, he is not. At the end of the day the Pope, like Benedict XVI and the many who came before him, is still Catholic.
No one knows this more than the Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, who has often had to correct the many misrepresentations that progressives like to make. He explained that the most significant change Pope Francis has contributed is “changing perceptions about the Church’s message.”
In other words, style, not substance. “In its substance, the Church’s magisterium has a continuity,” Lombardi added. “There is no great revolution.”
Red Tani is the founder and president of the Filipino Freethinkers.
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