The Abuse Summit: Before, After, and on the Sidelines…

March 28, 2019

A summit for the protection of minors was held in Rome on February 21 – 24, 2019. On its eve, Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Raymond L. Burke wrote an open letter to all the presidents of the bishops’ conferences, present for the summit.

Before the Summit

They renewed the doubts (dubia) that they expressed at the publication of Amoris Laetitia (March 19, 2016). In 2019 as in 2016, the existence of an absolute moral law “that is without exceptions” is called into question in the name of relativist pastoralism:

“The Catholic world is adrift, and, with anguish, the question is asked: Where is the Church going?

Before the drift in process, it seems that the difficulty is reduced to that of the abuse of minors, a horrible crime, especially when it is perpetrated by a priest, which is, however, only part of a much greater crisis. The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the Church, promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence. The roots of this phenomenon are clearly found in that atmosphere of materialism, of relativism and of hedonism, in which the existence of an absolute moral law, that is without exceptions, is openly called into question.

“Sexual abuse is blamed on clericalism. But the first and primary fault of the clergy does not rest in the abuse of power but in having gone away from the truth of the Gospel. The even public denial, by words and by acts, of the divine and natural law, is at the root of the evil that corrupts certain circles in the Church.

“In the face of this situation, Cardinals and Bishops are silent. Will you also be silent on the occasion of the meeting called in the Vatican for this coming February 21?

“We are among those who in 2016 presented to the Holy Father certain questions, dubia, which were dividing the Church in the wake of the conclusions of the Synod on the Family. Today, those dubia have not only not had any response but are part of a more general crisis of the Faith. Therefore, we encourage you to raise your voice to safeguard and proclaim the integrity of the doctrine of the Church.

“We pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may assist the Church and bring light to the Pastors who guide her. A decisive act now is urgent and necessary. We trust in the Lord Who has promised: “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt 28, 20).

In 2019, as in 2016, this open letter received no response from its recipients.

After the Summit

At the end of the summit, Fr. Federico Lombardi, moderator of the event, announced that “concrete initiatives would follow rapidly,” especially:

  • A new motu proprio from the pope “on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons” to reinforce prevention and the fight to end abuse in the Roman Curia and Vatican City. It will be accompanied by new legislation for the Vatican City State and by guidelines for the Vicariate of Vatican City on the same topic.
  • The publication of a vademecum or handbook to help bishops throughout the world attain a clear understanding of their duties and their role.
  • Furthermore, in the spirit of the communion of the universal Church, the pope expressed support for the creation of task forces made up of competent persons to aid bishops’ conferences and dioceses in difficulty to face their problems and solidify initiatives for the protection of minors.

It was especially the final address given by Pope Francis that perplexed observers. According to Vatican expert Sandro Magister,

it was an odd address that gave prominence to statistics in its first part and in its notes. The data aimed to show the universal dimension of abuse of minors in all its forms and in all its contexts. What is happening in the Catholic Church, the pope emphasized, is part of a much wider phenomenon that takes on many forms, which nonetheless takes on specific gravity when this abuse is committed by sacred ministers ordained to do exactly the opposite of what they do.

“But in returning to the roots of the phenomenon,” Sandro Magister continues,

Francis is generalizing again. Sexual abuse of minors, both within the Church and without, he says, ‘are always the consequence of an abuse of power’—including ‘the other forms of abuse of which almost 85 million other children are victims, forgotten by everyone: child soldiers, child prostitutes, malnourished children, kidnapped children, sometimes victims of the monstrous trafficking of human organs or turned into slaves, children victimized by war, refugee children, aborted children, and so on.’ Such abuses of power are in Francis’ opinion, as he repeats again in this address, synonymous in the Church with ‘clericalism.’

On the Sidelines…

This perplexity is increased by troubling events that seem to contradict this speech. Hence the silence (omertà, to quote Cardinals Brandmüller and Burke) that surrounds the case of Argentinian bishop Gustavo Óscar Zanchetta, who is very close to the pope, and who has always protected him and even promoted him to the post of assessor of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), despite accusations of sexual abuse leveled against him, referred in 2015 to the competent ecclesiastical authorities in Argentina and Rome without resolution. This case was the subject of a question during the press conference at the end of the summit; the response was simply that “the investigation was ongoing,” without further comment. As Sandro Magister observes,

...this inevitably impacts Francis’ credibility as he combats the scourge of sexual abuse and exacts from the bishops a promptitude in accounting for their own actions, from which he dispenses himself.

The same perplexity was felt at the nomination of Cardinal Kevin Farrell as camerlengo on February 14, eight days before the abuse summit opened. As Aldo Maria Valli recalls on his blog on February 15, 2019, this Irish-American prelate belonged in the 60’s to the Legionaries of Christ, whose founder Marcial Maciel Degollado he knew well, a man guilty of sexual abuse and a scandalous double life. “But Farrell did not notice anything, and when he left the Legionaries years later, he said he had never been in contact with the founder.”

Kevin Farrell left in 2001 for the diocese of Washington, where he became an auxiliary bishop to Theodore McCarrick, another notorious abuser.

The powerful American archbishop wanted Farrell and he got him. Then he ordained him a bishop himself. He decided also that in Washington the auxiliary bishop was to share his apartment. But once again the Irish prelate noticed nothing, and still today he says he never heard a rumour of McCarrick’s misdeeds.

After Francis ascended to the pontifical throne, Aldo Maria Valli continues, Farrell could be found at the sides of Blase Cupich (Archbishop of Chicago) and Joseph William Tobin (Archbishop of Newark), prelates of the progressivist front,

...defending Amoris Laetitia and saying that he was in favour of Communion for the divorced and remarried. Such enthusiasm was rewarded: he became the prefect of the new dicastery for laypeople, family and life, and in the same year, 2016, he was made a cardinal.

This is the same Cardinal Farrell who signed the preface of the book Building a Bridge. How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, by Jesuit James Martin. He was the main organizer of the Dublin World Meeting of Families (August 21-26, 2018) “where Martin, despite the protests of numerous Catholics, was officially invited by the Vatican to give a conference to homosexual couples from all over the world.”

In light of these facts, the concerns of Catholics are understandable, and the pope’s speech at the end of the abuse summit does little to dissipate them. To forestall their concerns—since they were not dissipated—Cardinal Walter Kasper, another figure of ultra-progressivism, spoke of a conspiracy of conservatives against the pope. In an interview given to leftist Italian magazine Il Fatto Quotidiano on January 21, he stated, “Some are taking advantage of this [abuse] scandal to attack the pope. Others are using it for their program against [clerical] celibacy. I call that a bad use of abuse.”

But the facts are not conspiratorial; they are merely stubborn. Thus Vaticanist Marco Tosatti reacted on January 22: “In a setting such as this, it seems ridiculous that Cardinal Kasper should speak of a ‘conspiracy’ founded on abuse, against Pope Bergoglio.”

There are too many founded suspicions that cannot be erased with a wave of the hand. “And Kasper talks of conspiracy! Mercy!”