The Daily Caller
Henry Sire: Author of The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy
3:01 AM 05/25/2018
A few days ago
Pope Francis told the bishops of the Catholic Church that they need to be prepared to resign when the right time comes for them. He even said that he hoped he would know when the Holy Spirit wants him to resign, a remark that was taken as a hint (not the first he has given) that he intends to do so at some point. As we waited for a manifestation of this resolve, on 18 May we were given a dramatic sign. The entire Catholic hierarchy of Chile (all thirty-one active bishops, with three retired ones thrown in) have offered their resignation, supposedly because of failings in the handling of clerical sexual abuse in that country.
Any thought that this represents the new promptings of the Spirit would be off the mark. It is an effort to save face after the biggest public-relations blunder in Francis’s pontificate, the one he committed on January 18, when he defended Bishop Juan Barros against accusations of complicity in sexual abuse by the notorious Father Fernando Karadima in Chile.
Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff pronouncements, which have earned him such popularity with the journalistic profession, on this occasion backfired on him. He declared that he had seen no proof of the sexual crimes alleged and that the accusations were slander. It was later demonstrated that Pope Francis had indeed seen the evidence, and he was dismissing the claims of victims who had been trying to gain justice for years.
The reason why this was such a disaster for
Pope Francis was that, for the first time, it earned him criticism not only from such a senior figure as Cardinal O’Malley but from the liberal media, to whose applause he had been successfully playing for five years. A rescue operation was urgently needed. First of all, the Pope organised one of what may be called his “humility opportunities”, which he welcomes the way other celebrities like photo opportunities. There was a meeting with victims, and Pope Francis admitted his own failings; but this was nowhere near enough. To expiate his mistake, the Pope called all the Chilean bishops to Rome and told them — what? — that they were all to blame. One sentence from his rebuke is especially worth quoting: “No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others” — a classic case of Francis’s frequent habit of denouncing other people for the faults of which he is the prime exemplar.
A number of questions are prompted by this business. For example, does
Pope Francis hold himself responsible for his bad appointments and his bad judgment? And what sort of a regime is it in which an entire national hierarchy have to fall on their swords to save their boss’s face? Historic despots like Napoleon and Stalin were famous for their callous disregard of their soldiers’ lives in pursuit of their ends. Talking of Stalin, he is also known for his question, “How many divisions has the Pope?”, and we may extend it to ask how many other Catholic bishops and cardinals will be prepared to be Pope Francis’s cannon fodder, to practice self-immolation to keep their leader’s image from harm. Not as many as Pope Francis would like, I imagine; but at least they know now exactly what their leader expects of them.
This brings us back to the question of episcopal resignation with which this article opened. Will P
ope Francis retire? He’ll see the whole hierarchy perish first.
Vatican insider and historian Henry Sire is the author of The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy (Regnery Publishing).
"They also didn't rule out financial reparations for victims."