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Priest urges Catholics to ‘stay properly angry’ over Pope’s handling of sex abuse crisis

Lisa Bourne Lisa Bourne Follow Lisa

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 11, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A recent Holy See statement on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct seems to signal an attitude improvement for the Vatican and the Pope regarding the issue, a noted priest of the Archdiocese of Washington said. And the change in tone and policy is owing to Catholics justifiably angered by the abuse and cover-up who are speaking up about the scandal.

But Catholics need to “stay properly angry” at the covering up of abuse in the Catholic Church, Monsignor Charles Pope said, if true reform is to happen.

While this places many in an uncomfortable position, he said, an activist response from faithful Catholics is necessary in a papacy that wields ambiguity like a weapon and frequently closes its ears.

“Like many of you, I feel awkward in this new role of loyal agitator,” Msgr. Pope wrote. “It should not be this way, but it has become necessary in a pontificate of weaponized ambiguity and often stubborn refusal to listen.”

“Many are compelled to speak out and express rightful anger,” the priest blogger said, and the October 6 Vatican communiqué is “great progress” - if the promised thorough investigation comes to fruition.

But Catholic laity and clergy must continue in both righteous anger and in pushing for reform.

“The step forward represented by this communiqué has only occurred because we have refused to remain silent and have respectfully demanded accountability and a just investigation,” he said.

“So stay angry, my friends,” Msgr. Pope stated. “Stay angry at sin, at cover-ups, and at different standards for the powerful and those at the top. Yes, stay angry.”

In an Oct. 8 blog post published in the National Catholic Register, Msgr. Pope recounted how prior to now, the pontiff has avoided addressing the McCarrick scandal and derided those who call for investigation of the situation. 

Up until the Vatican communiqué, he said, Francis “has brusquely refused to address the allegations that Archbishop McCarrick’s offenses were long known up to the highest levels in Rome.” 

“Those who viewed the allegations as credible and worthy of further investigation or who expressed concern over them were greeted with an announced policy of silence at best, and at worst were implicated by the Pope in his sermons as scandalmongers in league with the Great Accuser,” said Msgr. Pope.

Further, he said, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, in his recent open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, “does confirm a central claim made by the archbishop — namely, that allegations about Cardinal McCarrick were known well before June of this year and resulted in some sort of censure, even if informal.” 

Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, had released an open letter Sunday fiercely chastising the former U.S. papal nuncio for his explosive 11-page testimony released in August implicating Francis and other senior churchmen in covering for McCarrick. 

Many have pointed out, however, that Ouellet’s letter inadvertently acknowledges Viganò’s claim that “everybody knew” about McCarrick, including top leaders in Rome.

And this, Msgr. Pope wrote, underscores his point that Catholics feel the need to speak out in just anger.

“Though these methods have become regretfully necessary,” he said, “they are effective and must continue if reforms are to happen.”

The Holy See communication, he said, “Seems to accept the need for a thorough examination of documents in relevant dicasteries and congregations and of following the truth wherever it leads.”

The October 6 Vatican Press Office Communiqué had said Francis has been taking action to address McCarrick scandal; that he’d ordered the Archdiocese of New York to conduct an investigation of McCarrick in September of last year. 

The results of the investigation are to be combined with “a further thorough study” of the Vatican’s documentation on McCarrick, the statement said, and “the Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusion in the matter.”  

“This is great progress if the stated approach is in fact followed,” said Msgr. Pope of the statement. “However, we need to realize that this change in tone and policy is the fruit of active insistence by God’s faithful. Laity and clergy together must persist in this approach if the investigation is to be sufficiently thorough and true reforms are to be forthcoming.”

The Washington D.C. priest cautioned against directing anger imprudently, saying, “Our anger is to be focused on opposing sin, the approval of sin, and any ambiguity that winks at sin.”

The anger must ultimately be focused on purifying the Church and the repentance of sinners, said Msgr. Pope.

“Persistence has gotten us this far, but we must not allow a mere statement to lull us into inaction in the future,” he wrote. “It is action we must seek, not mere words.”

Msgr. Pope also called for prayer for and affirmation of bishops who were doing the right thing in the abuse scandal, as well as holding bishops accountable.

An unhealthy deference to authority was being set aside, he continued, and while the hierarchical nature of the Church is to be respected, “It is the obligation of all the members of the Body of Christ to ensure the proper functioning of the Church.”

“Stay strong, persistent, faithful and properly angry, fellow Catholics,” said Msgr. Pope. “Although it is a step in the right direction, one communiqué cannot solve this mess.” 

“Affirm it, but continue to demand action,” he stated. “Insist that the communiqué be a true path forward both to the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the February meeting of Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences called by the Pope.”

The USCCB has said via statements the abuse scandal and the McCarrick matter would be taken up at its General Assembly in November in Baltimore, and Francis has called the presidents of the national bishops conferences to Rome next February to discuss the "protection of minors” in the abuse crisis.

Now is the time for Catholics to remain strong and persistent in holding Church leaders’ feet to the fire, Msgr. Pope wrote.

“Yes, stay properly angry,” he said. “This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Pace and long-term determination are going to be critical.”

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