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US priest: ‘strong protest’ may move Pope Francis to deal with abuse crisis

Doug Mainwaring Doug Mainwaring Follow Doug

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has criticized Pope Francis’ decision to suppress any vote or action on the abuse scandals by the U.S. bishops. 

In his Nov. 16 blog piece titled The Pope Owns This, published by The National Catholic Register, Msgr. Charles Pope writes about the concerns of many of his fellow priests and lay people regarding the annual fall assembly of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) which concluded last week in Baltimore.  

“There is an almost complete tone-deafness in Rome; there seems to be bewilderment as to why these American ‘conservatives’ are so worked up,” wrote Msgr. Pope.  

“Even worse, it appears that there is intentional resistance, obfuscation, and outright refusal to grant the legitimate requests of God’s faithful for a full and prompt investigation. These requests by the faithful are intended to ensure that tolerance of sin, violations of chastity, and clerical malfeasance will end,” he added.

“To most Catholics, the Pope’s actions and seeming resistance place the ownership of the scandal squarely in his court; he has increasingly become the face of the scandal,” continued Msgr. Pope. 

‘No way to treat God’s faithful’

Instead of responding in good faith to members of the Church in the United States who have asked for greater transparency from Rome regarding former Cardinal McCarrick’s predatory behavior, Msgr. Pope points out that Pope Francis has “referred to those who have asked for answers and investigations as ‘a pack of wild dogs,’ ‘scandal-mongers,’ and ‘those in league with the Great Accuser.’”

“This is no way to treat God’s faithful; it makes him seem more of a besieged and angry potentate than a shepherd who ‘has the smell of the sheep,’” added the Monsignor.

After drawing parallels between Pope Francis’ past “stubbornness, dismissiveness, and unkindness” in his treatment of clergy sex abuse survivors, in Chile, Msgr. Pope states: “Americans, both clergy and lay, may well have to learn that it could take strong protest to move this pope to reconsider his seemingly dismissive stance regarding our concerns.”   

“My point here is not to recount every detail but rather to point out that Pope Francis, who was himself tasked by the last conclave with rooting out abuse and corruption, has tended to surround himself with men who are at the very heart of the scandals rocking the Church throughout the world,” asserted Msgr. Pope. 

“His credibility as a reformer who will root out scandal and insist upon accountability is nearly nonexistent; the scandal in the United States has landed firmly on his desk as a result of his own behavior. He has said to American Catholics and to our bishops, in effect, ‘Let me and the Holy See handle this.’”

“I cannot say strongly enough how uncomfortable it makes me to be detailing all this. Every faithful Catholic—and certainly every priest—has an instinct to support the Pope and our bishops, but this worldwide scandal has forced many of us to speak out,” wrote Msgr. Pope. 

For the few bishops who did speak out clearly at the recent USCCB meeting, Msgr. Pope prays they will direct clear and forceful appeals to Rome and to the Holy Father. 

“Bishops are not acolytes of the Pope and their dioceses are not mere franchises of the Diocese of Rome,” continued the Monsignor. “I pray that they will raise their rightful voices as shepherds seeking to protect their flock. May they have the courage to insist, not just request, actions that they deem necessary for the protection of God’s faithful and for a restoration of credibility.” 

Advice for concerned laity

Beyond praying for the bishops, Msgr. Pope advised laity who have had a bishop speak out strongly regarding Rome’s handling of the scandal to “encourage and support him.” If he has remained silent, “challenge him with love. Find your own voice, too. It may feel awkward to speak forcefully and with concern toward the Holy Father, but it seems that this will be necessary."

Msgr. Pope said that by Pope Francis' actions he “has become the face of this crisis, indicating that he wants to be the one to handle it. Our focus, prayers, and insistence must now be directed toward him." 

“Practically speaking, I would advise you to write to the Papal Nuncio in Washington D.C., Archbishop Christophe Pierre,” wrote Msgr. Pope.  “Keep your letter brief, but be clear in stating your concerns and in insisting on the actions that the Holy See must take to begin restoring credibility; ask the good archbishop to forward your concerns to the Holy Father.”

Clergy should not blame the faithful

“There are some in Rome and even among our own bishops and priests in the U.S. who still see this crisis as a mere tempest in a teapot, largely stirred up by “right-wing” bloggers and Catholics who simply ‘don’t like’ Pope Francis,” noted Msgr. Pope.  I know of no one from any sector of the Church who is not heartbroken about this, while also angry and insistent upon reform. This is not a storm created in the ‘blogosphere.’”

Monsignor Pope concludes by cautioning priests and bishops to not demonize the faithful who have expressed dismay over the clergy sex scandal and its handling. 

[T]hey have been too good to us for us to write them off as some fringe element. They are good Catholics and are looking to us for clear teaching, for some return of the love and loyalty they have shown us through the most difficult decades of the cultural and sexual revolutions. They have been exceedingly patient with us. This is no time to be dismissive; this is a time to listen and work together with God’s good people for reform and a new springtime of faith in the Church and in the world. Somebody say, “Amen!”

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