August 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Two confidants of Pope Francis – Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J and the journalist Andrea Tornielli – have both sent out messages in recent days that Catholic faithful should not expect to hear more from the Pope concerning the abuse crisis in the U.S. after his earlier 20 August letter.
Papal “ghostwriter” Spadaro says it is now up to the local bishops' conference to act on their own to implement the spirit of that papal letter. But Archbishop Vigano’s detailed accusation about Pope Francis' involvement in the crisis, along with top U.S. prelates, may change everything.
Both Father Spadaro and Andrea Tornielli are known to be unofficial spokesmen of the Pope. Their articles and statements are viewed by many as being reflective of the Pope's mind since they are in close contact with him and have both already written several books about his papacy.
On 20 August, Pope Francis published a letter in which he acknowledged the Church's failure with regard to the abuse crisis in the U.S. He pointed to “clericalism” as the main cause of that crisis. He did not once mention homosexual priests as a cause of the abuse scandal. Nor did he announce any practical steps to punish the culprits among the U.S. episcopacy. As LifeSiteNews reported, German abuse victim Dr. Markus Büning, indignant over this papal lack of concrete steps against the evil doers, subsequently withdrew his own prior public support from Pope Francis.
Father Spadaro, however, has defended this papal letter. He now appears to be trying to steer the discussion away from homosexuality toward clericalism as the cause. And, he is now calling for more reform based on the notion that clericalism is the problem. He also suggests that it is now up to local bishops' conferences to clean up the abuse problems themselves, despite evidence that — at least in the U.S. — such an attempt by the bishops to clean up the problem has proven disastrous.
On 21 August, one day after the publication of Pope Francis' letter, Father Spadaro tweeted the following message:
Sure, this is not just a “local” problem. But this is why we can’t ask the POPE to react every single time overtaking the BISHOPS. The bishops have also to act locally together as a *collegial body* not just waiting from Roma. And the synodality (LAY people included) has to work!
He also quoted – on the same day – Pope Francis who had earlier said in Evangelii Gaudium:
“It is not advisable for the #Pope to take the place of local #Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their #Territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound “decentralization”. (Evangelii Gaudium 16) #PopeFrancis #Abuses #Pennsylvania
Thus, Father Spadaro has sent out the message that it is now up to the local bishops' conference to clear up the abuse scandals in the U.S. He also divertingly points to problems other than the real one, namely homosexual priests who abuse boys in their teenage years.
On 23 August, Spadaro said on his Twitter:
In dealing with the #abuses case are implied at least 2 big things: 1. The understanding of the #ministry in the Church, considering the clericalism. 2. The reform of the #papacy in the sense #PopeFrancis talks about.
Reflecting the consternation of many people about this statement, the British priest Father David Palmer pointed out the irony, commenting:
“I would have thought that men sexually abusing teenage boys might be the biggest issue…. but apparently not. So glad you have put us all right.”
Following up on the first tweet, Spadaro explained on the same day what he meant when he added:
“Some want to act but are uncertain on how to move forward. Some see this as an opportunity to flush out the gays. Others see this as a moment to push a political agenda. Others say the only one who can fix it is the Pope. Some are seeking reform but are conscious of being rookies.”
In this last comment, Spadaro again implies that it is unreasonable to ask the Pope to “fix” the problem. As he stated in yet another tweet, already on 20 August, “Clericalism is a force for abuse of power that also (and not only) expresses itself in sexual abuse.” That same day, Spadaro also made it clear that the Pope consciously did not address only the bishops, but the People of God. He added: “The scandal that emerged with the Pennsylvania report touches the heart of the Church and cannot be solved only in the relationship 'within' the Hierarchy.”
Father Spadaro is often called the Pope's “ghostwriter.” He is the editor of the journal La Civiltà Cattolica which is close to the Pope. The Vatican specialist Sandro Magister calls Spadaro “the Pope's everything”: “For Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Fr. Spadaro is everything. Adviser, interpreter, confidant, scribe. There is no counting the books, articles, tweets that he incessantly writes about him. Not to mention the pontifical texts that bear the imprint of his hand.” As Magister reminds us, Spadaro was also part of the inner circle that drafted Amoris Laetitia. Thus, when Spadaro speaks, one might well assume that his words are close to what the Pope thinks.
Following up with some of Father Spadaro's messages, Andrea Tornielli, journalist of La Stampa's Vatican Insider, wrote an article on 24 August about the abuse crisis. He states in an authoritative manner: “There are no new papal directives coming up on the subject of abuse and Francis is not preparing any new documents directed at the bishops for the fight against clerical pedophilia.” (Let us take note here that this journalist speaks about pedophilia, where he should have talked about homosexually active pederast priests who abuse boys in their teenage years.)
Tornielli hereby wishes to calm down speculations that there is now in the pipeline a new text from the Vatican to be released upon the Pope’s return from the World Meeting of Families in Ireland. Here, the Italian journalist refers to well-informed sources in the Vatican and adds that “the Pope considers the letter to be exhaustive and believes that the Church has equipped herself with the regulatory instruments and rules necessary to combat those who commit the crime of child abuse and also to hold superiors responsible if, due to negligence or other reasons, they do not act in an adequate manner, thinking of the good of the victims.” Tornielli stresses that the 20 August letter written by the Pope “contains precise and concrete indications, which are spiritual and pastoral, and therefore have nothing to do with laws, codes and regulations.”
These words make it clear that U.S. Catholics are not to expect any further steps to be taken by the Pope himself with regard to the predators of our youth. It is, however, clear that only the Pope himself can remove bishops from their offices; and that only he could remove a cardinal from the College of Cardinals.
Does this mean that he wishes not to take steps against Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is barely holding onto his position in the face of more than 60,000 signatures asking for his resignation?
The conservative commentator Rod Dreher commented on this new Tornielli article as follows: “Note to US Catholics mired in crisis: Pope Francis is not going to swoop in and save you.”
In the wake of these two papal confidants outlining the papal plan, Marie Collins – an abuse victim who met with Pope Francis during his 25-26 August trip to Ireland – confirmed that the Pope told her “that there's not going to be anything more.” The Pope referred to existing tribunals. “The fact that there's nothing new being planned or brought in,” added Collins, “to me, is disappointing.”
Now with Archbishop Vigano’s detailed accusation that Pope Francis himself covered-up now ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s abuse, it remains to be seen how long the Pope will be able to hold out with his plan of inaction.