Pope Francis Is the Catholic Nixon
Pope Francis is stonewalling.
Like Nixon, during Watergate. He had tapes, as America knew. They told the tale of whether or not that president had ordered the Watergate break in. (He hadn’t.) And whether he’d led a criminal cover-up. (He had.) For months, Nixon fought public access to those tapes, citing Executive Privilege. Then he offered redacted transcripts, citing “national security.” Then at last a judge demanded the actual tapes, and he complied. With his guilt clear and impeachment coming, he resigned in disgrace.
The Price We Pay for Selfish Leaders
Nixon’s misuse of his power tainted and weakened his office. It hurt our country. It emboldened liberal Democrats in Congress to cut off all aid to our allies in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Each nation succumbed to vicious Communist tyranny, and Cambodia to genocide in the “killing fields.” Nixon’s corruption made room for the election of the hapless Jimmy Carter. That moralizing Sunday school teacher threw Iran to the wolves, welcoming a vicious regime that still tortures its people today, and seeks nukes to wipe out Israel.
Bad, self-serving leaders exact a price. Many innocents end up paying it. That’s surely why Church Father John Chrysostom wrote his famous line: “The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” It’s why Our Lord promised “millstones” for those who mislead, corrupt, or traumatize the “little ones.” Of course, He meant first “children.” But Jesus usually meant a great deal more than the narrow, literal sense of His words. That’s why we meditate on them.
Millstones. There’s a Great Future in Millstones.
Surely, Jesus also spoke of the simple, the hard-working and busy, those poorly schooled or easily shocked. All those people who are especially prone to “scandal,” or stumbling blocks on their road to holiness. Of course, each of us has weaknesses, and each is probably at some point or on some issue a “little one” whose faith can be endangered. Or hope snuffed out. Or love chilled to room temperature, like an old cup of coffee.
Pope Francis is following Richard Nixon’s playbook.
Pope Francis is following Richard Nixon’s playbook. He’s sitting on a cache of documents, in the Vatican in Rome, and the papal “nunciature” (embassy) in Washington, D.C. They tell the tale of which bishops knew, and when, of the decades of sex abuse to which Cardinal McCarrick subjected seminarians. They tell us whether Francis knew, and when. They’ll tell us whether Pope Benedict indeed imposed any penalties on McCarrick. And whether Francis revoked them, knowing McCarrick’s crimes.
They’ll also speak to the guilt or innocence of a long list of bishops whom Francis appointed or promoted. That list includes Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Tobin of Newark, Bishop McElroy of San Diego, and many others. In other words, half the leaders of the Catholic Church in America. They now stand accused, and those documents could vindicate them, if they were innocent. If Francis were innocent.
The Imitation of Nixon
But Pope Francis won’t release them. He won’t even deign to answer the specific, searing questions posed by Archbishop Viganò, in his extraordinary letter (go read it). Instead of Executive Privilege, Francis hides behind the pretext of holy “silence.” He pretends that he’s like Jesus, standing before the wicked judge Herod, too pious to give any answer.
You know who else took that stance? The sociopathic priest Marcial Maciel, who wielded cult indoctrination methods in building the huge, rich religious order the Legionaries of Christ. He vaunted his tightly disciplined, loudly orthodox order as the future of the Church. And good men believed him, including Pope John Paul II. So they plugged their ears when ex-seminarians told awful ugly stories. Of how Maciel seduced them into sexual encounters, claiming he had a “medical condition” requiring “release,” and permission from Pope Pius XII for young men to offer it.
At the time, I too refused to believe the stories. They were just too sickening, the contrast with his carefully crafted public image too jarring. Maciel counted on people having reactions like mine. He struck the preening pose of “holy silence.” And left it to his followers to demonize the whistleblowers.
Just like Nixon. Just like Francis.
Demonizing the Faithful
See below, where papal spokesman and ghostwriter Rev. Antonio Spadaro compares papal critics to evil spirits:
This is staggering: Spadaro is now twisting scripture to justify @pontifex‘s silence – giving the example of Our Lord telling the demons possessing a man to be silent. Have you no shame, Father? https://t.co/zidTQb5KHV
— Dictator Pope official site (@DictatorPope) September 4, 2018
Team Francis is doing more than speak of their critics as demons. Like good exorcists, they’re expelling them. Perceptive priest Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reports on Fr. Juan Carlos Gavancho of Santa Barbara, California. He gave a powerful sermon on Sunday (go read it) demanding that the pope and bishops open up their books on sex abuse. By Monday, he’d been removed from his parish, deleted from its website, and kicked out of the rectory. The parish insisted it had nothing, nothing to do with his sermon. It issued a vague, sinister statement alluding to “interpersonal” issues he’d had with staff and parishioners.
And maybe that’s true. Some faithful priests are obnoxious, or hard to work with. It’s telling that Father Juan was tossed out of his living quarters at a moment’s notice, while rapist Cardinal McCarrick still lives in church-furnished housing, with a pension and Cadillac health care. Cardinal Wuerl paid a healthy stipend (and hush money) for a decade to kiddie-pornographer priest Rev. George Zirwas.
Father Juan, for the moment, is living in a hotel room, wondering about his future.
But that’s how every informed Catholic feels right now. We sit in the pope’s icy silence, waiting for him to offer us bread instead of stonewalling.