“The Catholic Church is facing its most serious crisis in 500 years.” So, at any rate, claims Villanova University’s Prof. Massimo Faggioli in an article for the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine entitled ‘The Catholic Church’s biggest crisis since the Reformation’.
In an unusual move, the article can be read at foreignaffairs.com without registration, which at least gives thoughtful Catholics the opportunity to grapple for themselves with Prof. Faggioli’s analyses and claims.
“The Viganò letter, and the scandal itself, have sent shockwaves through a foundation that was already cracked,” Prof. Faggioli writes. “The Church is bitterly divided between progressive and conservative wings. This split is particularly pronounced in the United States, where highly mobilised, neo-traditionalist Catholics took up Viganò’s call for Francis’ resignation.”
There’s a lot to think about in Faggioli’s piece – and indeed much to disagree with, because while his analyses of flaws in Vatican administration are excellent, his faith in decentralisation rather glosses over the spectacular failures of the Church at local level over recent decades.
Some would make claims about local liturgical and catechetical failures, but a more obvious issue concerns abuse; between 1975 and 1983, for instance, according to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, not even one report of clerical child abuse was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Ireland’s Ferns, Dublin and Cloyne reports paint a similar picture, with clergy not being reported to Rome for disciplinary action.
Still, there’s much more to the article than this, and it is definitely something to reflect on.
This is the kind of piece that’s worth printing out and thinking through with a pencil in one’s hand.
Viganò affair rolls on
The Viganò Affair hasn’t gone away, as readers of The Irish Catholic will know, and recent weeks have seen ongoing journalistic investigation of the issue, personal statements from the archbishop and Cardinal Marc Ouellet and a short formal Vatican statement on Archbishop McCarrick.
The Vatican’s official statement should be read at press.vatican.va, stating as it does that Pope Francis is aware of confusion being generated by accusations about Archbishop McCarrick’s behaviour, and mapping out how Rome ordered a preliminary investigation into abuse allegations after being told about them by the Archdiocese of New York in September 2017.
“Because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation”, the statement noted, Pope Francis accepted Archbishop McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals, prohibited him from public ministry, and obliged him to lead a life of prayer and penance. The scope of the investigation has now broadened significantly, the statement explained.
Cardinal Ouellet’s statement was published the day after the Vatican letter, with Robert Mickens claiming at international.la-croix.com that the Pope took a lot of persuading before bregrudgingly allowing the Canadian cardinal to speak up. Be that as it may, the letter is worth reading in its entirety at, for instance, vaticannews.va.
Read properly and fairly, a few things should leap out at readers, not least the cardinal’s certainty that – contrary to Archbishop Viganò’s claims – Pope Benedict never placed restrictions on the erstwhile Cardinal McCarrick remotely comparable to the sanctions Pope Francis placed on him and that the then Cardinal McCarrick has never been an influential figure during the current papacy. It’s worth thinking through carefully.
Spiritual sustenance is not hard to find
There is, of course, rather more to the Church than Vatican intrigue or the failures of the Church at diocesan and national levels, and even at times of heightened online tension in the Catholic internet there are always things to help sustain our hope.
Spiritual sustenance is, if anything, all the more important when ecclesial corruption seems too often on our minds, and those seeking truly nourishing fare could do far worse than check out, for example, podcasts.dominicansistersofstjoseph.org for some first-rate and thoughtful preaching by a community of Dominican sisters in England’s New Forest. In the interests of honest disclosure, however, I should point out – with some pride – that one of the sisters involved is my goddaughter!