A Primer on the Pope Francis Scandals
Q: For years, Pope Francis seemed to be coated in Teflon. Whatever he said or did, the media would spin it in his favor, and demonize his critics. His public humility stunts bought him a ton of goodwill. So did his nod-and-a-wink statements downplaying sexual morals. Now finally some of his choices appear to be costing him something. Could you please explain the scandals surrounding Pope Francis?
A: Sure. They come in four flavors. Imagine a cone with four scoops of gelato, maybe from the Old Bridge Gelateria right down the road from St. Peter’s Basilica. (The best gelato in Rome, by the way.) Of course, the flavors smoosh together sometimes, but it’s easiest to sample them one by one.
Money Grubbing Cardinals with Dark Sex Secrets
Q: So what’s the first flavor?
A: The scoop on top is Pistachio (Green): Financial Squalor. The Vatican Bank is perennially corrupt, and Pope Francis has only made it worse. He fired Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (remember that name) who tried to clean things up. First Things reported that Pope Francis used the U.S-based, $200 million Papal Foundation as a slush fund. Just this year, Francis ordered then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to shake down the wealthy laymen on its board for $25 million. That was to bail out a bankrupt Catholic dermatology hospital with apparent ties to the Mafia.
McCarrick ran the Papal Foundation at the time. Now he’s no longer a cardinal (but still an archbishop), since it came out he molested a child he’d baptized himself. And spent decades seducing and sexually harassing young seminarians in his care. McCarrick still lives in comfort at Church expense, a block from a grammar school, sealed off from reporters in a monastery.
Q: Will the Church defrock him, kick him to the curb, cancel his pension?
A: No. He knows too much. If he went to a U.S. attorney with all the details he knows of Vatican shenanigans …? That would likely result in the Papal Foundation closing. Maybe some of its board members going to jail. So the hush money spent protecting him from reporters and prosecutors is probably well-spent. From an entirely cynical, worldly point of view. It isn’t what Jesus would do, but it’s definitely what Michael Avenatti would recommend to Stormy Daniels.
Alliances with Communists Against the West
Q: Well, the pistachio was disgusting. What’s the next scoop?
Francis didn’t just sell out the underground Church in China. He threw its faithful members under the bus to conclude an alliance with the Chinese Communist regime, against the United States.
A: Sour Cherry (Red): Marxist politics. Pope Francis has surrounded himself with radical leftists tied to George Soros, such as the “Red Cardinal” Maradiaga of Honduras. Francis didn’t just sell out the underground Church in China. He threw its faithful members under the bus to conclude an alliance with the Chinese Communist regime, against the United States. Francis’ “big brain” on science and social sciences, Abp. Sorondo, said that China is a better example of Catholic social teaching than the U.S. Now, China imprisons Christians by the thousands. It forces women with two children to abort any subsequent pregnancies. It’s using a “social scoring” system to micromanage and tyrannize every aspect of each citizen’s life. Apparently for Pope Francis, that’s what Catholic social teaching entails. At least it’s not wicked capitalism.
Q: Has Francis made a big point of promoting leftist politics?
A: So here are some of the people honored with invitations to the Vatican: Sen. Bernie Sanders. Filmmaker Michael Moore. Italian abortionist Emma Bonino. Population control guru Jeffrey Sachs. Oh, and most recently, pro-choice activist and singer Bono — who echoed the statements of Vatican priests that those who’d limit immigration are “from Satan.”
Disney Princess Bishops
Q: Blurgh. Next scoop?
For decades, homosexual bishops have run largely homosexual seminaries, and often overlooked or covered up child abuse. That’s in part because their active personal sex lives left them vulnerable to blackmail.
A: That would have to be Peach Sorbetto (Pink): The Gay Mafia and Sex Abuse. Here’s where we need to remember Abp. Vigano. In three extraordinary letters (read them here, here, and here), that retired prelate has made astoundingly detailed charges of moral corruption. He charged that for decades, homosexual bishops have run largely homosexual seminaries, and often overlooked or covered up child abuse. That’s in part because their active personal sex lives left them vulnerable to blackmail. Specifically, he spoke of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He charged that McCarrick’s predatory targeting of handsome young seminarians was widely known among fellow bishops. He was the Catholic Harvey Weinstein.
When McCarrick’s sordid double life came to Viganò’s attention, he tried to warn Pope Benedict XVI. Most of his warnings disappeared in some Roman memory hole, but finally he got the pope’s attention. Viganò claims that Benedict ordered McCarrick to stop saying Mass or appearing in public. (A wimpy punishment, admittedly, but something.) McCarrick frequently disobeyed, but at least he was forced to vacate the grounds of a seminary where lived — his longtime happy hunting grounds. McCarrick joined longtime pedophile protector Cardinal Danneels of Belgium in lobbying for Jose Bergoglio’s election. That was after Benedict resigned, apparently in despair, a few days after reading a 300-page dossier about gay corruption inside the Vatican.
After Francis was elected, Viganò claims he reminded Francis of the restrictions on McCarrick, and the reasons for them. But Francis waved him off, and restored McCarrick to favor. He sent him globe-trotting as a Vatican goodwill ambassador. He even let McCarrick negotiate the Vatican’s alliance with Communist China. It was only when it leaked out that McCarrick had broken the civil law by molesting a 15-year-old boy whom he’d baptized himself that Francis pulled McCarrick out of public view. After, of course, using him to shake down the Papal Foundation for $25 million.
We never claimed that a pope couldn’t be a monster of wickedness. Or an idiot. Or even someone convinced of heretical views. Nor did we ever believe that God picks the popes. Or guides their daily decisions. Or protects them from speaking error, or writing it in letters.
At each of three stage-managed Synods, Pope Francis has allowed his close allies to push for expanded Catholic acceptance of homosexuality. Resistance from faithful bishops stymied such moves at the last two synods, but the current one (on “Youth”) is being run as tightly as a Soviet Party Congress. And the pope is wearing a rainbow cross around his neck, in case people don’t get the hint.
For a detailed account of Francis’ own mismanagement and cover-ups of sex abuse, see Michael Brendan Dougherty’s column here.
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Q: Lovely. How have Pope Francis and his allies responded to these very serious charges by Viganò?
A: They’ve adopted a three-pronged strategy: Stonewalling, Blasphemy, and Demonization.
- Stonewalling: Apb. Viganò said that there are documents sitting in the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., and the papal Secretariate of State in Rome that prove his assertions. Pope Francis and his underlings have brushed off requests by journalists, and even U.S. bishops, to look at the relevant files. They’re sitting on them as Nixon sat on the Watergate tapes. Though, to be fair, they might already have burned them.
- Blasphemy: Pope Francis responded to questions about Viganò’s charges by insisting he would remain completely silent. You know, the way Jesus did before the wicked King Herod. Cardinal Napier of South Africa, in a fawning series of social media posts, explicitly compared Francis to Jesus. As I wrote in response: “Even fair-minded unbelievers ought to be outraged, if they see Jesus for what He was: an innocent man, hunted to His death by political enemies. To seize on Jesus’ innocence, and His dignified refusal to answer the corrupt tyrant Herod, who would have set Him free in return for some petty miracle … and weaponize it on behalf of a ruler’s arrogant silence…. That is repulsive, on a purely human level. It’s like smooshing together Anne Frank and Josef Goebbels as ‘casualties of the Second World War.'”
- Demonization: Pope Francis later broke his silence, only to compare those who made charges against him to Satan (“the Accuser”). Defenders of Francis went after Viganò personally, accusing him of being the puppet of right-wing American capitalists trying to wreck Francis’ program of “renewal.” Cardinal Oullet of Canada made an extraordinary ad hominem attack on Viganò.
The one thing none of them did? Address any of the central factual assertions Viganò made about how Francis acted toward McCarrick. On that point? Crickets.
Heresies and Hubris
Q: I don’t think I even want to sample that fourth scoop, down on the bottom. It’s already starting to melt. …
A: Ah, but it’s the most important one: Licorice (Black): Heresy. Francis has directly promoted misleading and ambiguous statements on divorce, remarriage, and Holy Communion. That was in his letter Amoris Laetitia, which made room for those objectively engaged in adultery to receive the Eucharist.
He has changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church on capital punishment, rejecting a piece of Natural Law teaching that goes back before Moses to the Covenant of Noah.
And he employs as a papal spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica, who recently offered a staggering statement — that this pope (alone, above all others) stands above the Bible and previous Church teachings. He has the power to change them all, unlike any pope before him. (Now, fans of Catholic end-times prophecy know that only the Antichrist will make such a claim.)
That didn’t get Rosica fired, and the pope issued no correction.
Q: That really is … even worse. Wow.
A: I said you didn’t want to miss it. Now that we’ve tasted the Francis scandals down to the very dregs, do you have any other questions?
Q: How do you reconcile this, as a Catholic, with papal claims?
A: But we never claimed that a pope couldn’t be sinful or foolish. Or even someone convinced of heretical views. Nor did we ever believe that God directly picks the popes. Or controls their daily decisions. Or prevents them from speaking error, or writing it in letters.
Q: So what does papal infallibility cover?
A: Very little. In an infinitesimally rare number of cases, when the pope explicitly claims to speak on behalf of the whole Church and teach dogmatically, we believe he has the same negative protection from error that Councils such as Nicaea did. That’s all. Here’s a funny animated video I made that explains it:
Q: And on everything else?
A: He’s free to be a train wreck, crashing into a school bus full of children, then setting a city on fire.
John Zmirak is author of nine books explaining and defending Catholic teaching. The latest is The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism.
This article has been updated.