Is the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal a cancer on the papacy?
This summer, the sex scandal that has bedeviled the Catholic Church went critical.
First came the stunning revelation that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington and friend to presidents, had for decades been a predator-priest who preyed on seminarians and abused altar boys, and whose depravity was widely known and covered up.
Came then the report of a Pennsylvania grand jury that investigated six dioceses and found that some 300 priests had abused 1,000 children over the last 70 years.
The bishop of Pittsburgh, Donald Wuerl, now Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, defrocked some of these corrupt priests, but reassigned others to new parishes where new outrages were committed.
This weekend brought the most stunning accusation.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Vatican envoy to the United States under Pope Benedict XVI, charged that Pope Francis had been told of McCarrick’s abuses, done nothing to sanction him, and that, as “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse is Francis’ own policy, the pope should resign.
In his 11-page letter of accusations, Vigano further charged that there is a powerful “homosexual current” among the Vatican prelates closest to the pope.
What did the pope know and when did he know it?
Not unlike Watergate, the issue here is whether Pope Francis knew what was going on in the Vatican and in his Church, and why he was not more resolute in rooting out the moral squalor.
Orthodox, conservative and traditionalist Catholics are the most visible and vocal demanding an accounting. Progressive and liberal Catholics, to whom Pope Francis and Cardinal McCarrick were seen as allies on issues of sexual morality, have been thrown on the defensive.
Now, accusations alone are neither proof nor evidence.
Yet there is an obligation, an imperative, given the gravity of the revelations, that the Vatican address the charges.
When did Pope Francis become aware of McCarrick’s conduct, which appears to have been widely known?
Did he let his close friendship with McCarrick keep him from doing his papal and pastoral duty?
This destructive scandal has been bleeding for decades. Too long. The Church is running out of time. It needs to act decisively now.
Priests who prey on parochial school children and altar boys are not only sinners, they are criminal predators who belong in penitentiary cells not parish rectories.
They ought to be handed over to civil authorities.
While none of us is without sin, sexually active and abusive clergy should be severed from the priesthood.
There needs to be a purge at the Vatican, removing or retiring bishops, archbishops and cardinals, the revelation of whose past misconduct would further feed this scandal.