The First-World Church to
Depose our Third-World Pope?
POLITICS OF COWARDICE
Aloysius Pieris, s.j.
The American Hierarchy has been caught with their pants down. Like the proverbial cat that has defecated on a rock, they are unable to cover up their caca (shit) —-to use the very word Pope Francis employed to describe the repulsive effect of a child-abuse scandal. But quite unlike the Chilean bishops who had the courage and the humility to resign from their episcopal office as an act of repentance and reparation, the American hierarchy has shown cowardice and arrogance in the face of their scandalous failure; and they have demonstrated this in two ways:
One Cardinal (a decent one, I admit) has begged the Pope to cancel the next synodal meeting on Youth because the credibility of the bishops among the teenagers has sunk to an all-time low. The Pope is trying to salvage the youth (the next generation of Christians) from a crisis of faith caused by the culpable negligence of their pastors; now these very pastors, in their pusillanimity, want to avoid being embarrassed before the youth who are now fully informed about how their young colleagues have been preyed upon by these same unscrupulous “shepherds”. The bishops would evade the unpleasant truth chicken-heartedly rather than face it with repentant hearts; cowardice, not courage.
The other solution is crass treacherous. The devastating revelations of clerical pedophilia in just one State of that country has shocked the American laity so much that many bishops fear a lay uprising. And their spineless strategy is to put the blame on the Pope (who assumed office only five years ago) and wash their hands of a crime they have been perpetrating decades before this pontiff was elected! So it is the innocent Pope who has to resign, not the degenerate hierarchs! See what living in the lap of economic comfort has done to these pastors! They cannot even think straight.
The culprit behind the proposed “coup” against the Pope is Mgr. Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican Nuncio to USA. He cannot forget his humiliating departure from the Vatican and his grouse against the pontiff for not decorating him with a Cardinal’s hat. He has mendaciously accused Francis of covering up the sex-scandals of the ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, despite the well recorded fact that it was Francis, and Francis alone, who severely censured this predator-prelate and even deprived him of his Cardinal status — a first time event in the whole history of the Church!
But the stakes have now turned against Vigano in a way he had never expected. According to the revelations made by eminent theologians like Massimo Faggioli (Villanuova University) and highly respected investigative journalists such as Andrea Tornielli (La Stampa), it is Vigano who had shamelessly covered up the ignominious sex-scandals perpetrated by the Archbishop of Minneapolis!!! Vigano’s duplicity is now a public secret!
The next bombshell came from someone whom the conservative US bishops always admired and even favoured as the alleged opponent of Francis, namely Benedict XVI. This retired Pope has dismissed Vigano’s accusation as “fake news” and a “lie”! Hence let me stress that this nuncio is a liar according to the very Pope whom the conservative “Vigano-fans” hold as the authentic leader of the church!!!
The Pope’s Strategy
No wonder that Pope Francis refused to respond to Vigano’s accusation and asked the journalists to do their job properly and find out the truth for themselves, promising that he would add a few words after they had accomplished their duty. He has nothing to fear. We admire his silence, which of course some crafty bishops of USA have interpreted as an admission of guilt!
It is true that the scrupulous adherence to justice and mercy had made the Cardinal Archbishop Bergoglio of Buenos Aires reluctant to condemn even pedophiles until they were proved guilty beyond doubt; for the vilification of innocent people, who were later found innocent, has taught a bitter lesson to many ecclesiastical superiors. That policy of prudence is a far cry from covering up abuse, which is precisely what the Pope’s accusers have been caught doing! In fact recently at his mass at Santa Martha he explained (based on the day’s scriptural reading and the praxis of Jesus) that prayerful silence is the answer to those sowing you hatred. Silence was also the Pope’s response to the despicable poster-campaign organized against him in the city of Rome by a notorious Curial cardinal from USA, covert supporter of Vigano! Hence our suspicion: is there also a political motive for many first-world Catholic leaders to bring disrepute on this Third World Pope?
Third World Pope
The first Pope who annoyed the First World’s right-wing Catholic Churchmen by criticizing the First World’s economic exploitation of the Third World, was certainly notPope Francis. It was blessed (very soon ‘”St”) Paul VI. This Italian pontiff’s Populorum Progressio was dismissed by the First World Press as a Philo-Marxist critique of their allegedly successful economic system. Paul VI reiterated his uncompromising critique on several other occasions. Church historians have observed that Francis is only continuing the Conciliar Renewal which ceased with Pope Paul’s demise. Paul has come alive in Francis.
Francis, of course, has been even more blunt and insistent than Paul when hurling this same criticism against economic exploitation by rich countries. For he comes from the Third World and had experienced the effect of such exploitation on his people. Hence we are amused to hear him being accused of Marxism, a label tagged on to anyone who struggles for economic justice! But Francis seemed even more amused; for his humorous repartee was that whatever good Marx had taught about exploitation of workers was copied from the Bible! It is solely the Word of God in the Bible that guides this Pope whenever he sees, judges and acts. Hence the following observation.
Back to the Bible
“Back to the origins” (reditus ad fontes) was the slogan with which Vatican II was launched. For the church felt it had deviated from is sources. The West’s right-wing Catholic lobby including bishops had forgotten that the biblical narrative does not begin with the Creation Story (which was an important after-thought) but with aWorkers’ Revolt in Egypt and the revelation of a merciful God who took the Workers’ side in their struggle for justice. According to the New Testament, it was this God’s divine Son who, at the appointed time, was born into a worker’s family and inaugurated the reign of mercy and justice with a small group of disciples many of whom also came from a worker-background. It is about this God that Pope Francis speaks to the dismay of those Catholic leaders whose Mammon-worship had led them not only to abandon the God of the Oppressed but also oppress God’s little ones.
Furthermore, history has demonstrated that wherever the Church has failed to witness to the revolutionary origin of Judeo-Christianity, it has sinned against God’s poor and has violated the dignity of the most vulnerable humans, i.e., children. We, Asian Christians, must learn a lesson from this crisis in the first world, and renew ourselves, our families, our parishes, our religious congregations and our dioceses as demanded by Vatican II lest we too succumb to the same temptation. There are signs that we are not far away from that pitfall. The Bishops of Philippines have already pledged to the Pope that they would take every precaution to avoid it. Other Asian churches must wake up and follow the lead given by Asia’s most Catholic nation!
There is also another area in which our Third World Pope has antagonized the church leaders and theologians of the de-churched West, namely by severely reprimanding them for failing to feed their flock with God’s Word. “From the fruits, you shall know” said the Lord Jesus. The crisis of faith in those countries is the visible fruit of the self-seeking clericalism of their pastors as well as their bookish theology which is evangelically ineffective and spiritually sterile. Ironically, it is this Argentinian Pope from the Third World who is re-gathering Europe’s de-Christianized youth while the self-styled ‘theologians’ of the West, who look for heresies in this Pope, have lost their credibility among the believers entrusted to them. The Third World Pope is, therefore, a thorn in the flesh of failed pastors, who should now examine their own personal histories instead of harassing our lion-hearted pontiff for restoring the original charisma of Christianity in accordance with the renewal programme of Vatican II.