The Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica has published some remarks made by Pope Francis as the fifth anniversary of his pontificate approaches. Speaking to Jesuits on a recent trip to Chile and Peru, said that when he realised during the conclave that he might become pope, he “felt great peace. And up to today that peace has never left me.” Asked about criticism, he replied: “When I cannot see spiritual goodness in what these people say or write, I simply pray for them.”
What the British media are saying
Since his election, Francis has been “hugely popular”, said Catherine Pepinster in the Guardian. “Yet in the Vatican itself, all is not well.” Doctrinal debates have worried some; others are “deeply upset by recent remarks he has made on child abuse”. Last month in Chile, he “defended Juan Barros, a man he named as a bishop in 2015”, and said those who “accused him of covering up for a paedophile priest were guilty of slander.”
Writing for Time, Christopher Hale said he had been “one of the Pope’s biggest cheerleaders in American and global media the past five years, but I can say with conviction that if Francis doesn’t transform his focus and practice on ending the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, his papacy will be a tragic failure.”
What the vaticanisti are saying
The “honeymoon” is over, wrote Philip Lawler at firstthings.com. “Pope Francis has consistently said all the right things about the abuse question, promising to maintain a “zero-tolerance” policy and to hold bishops accountable for their handling of abuse complaints. But in practice the Pontiff has tolerated and even promoted prelates with seriously flawed records on the issue.”
At libertylawsite.org, Samuel Gregg said that Vatican foreign policy was hurting its reputation: a senior official’s recent praise for China “speaks volumes about prevailing atmospherics at the Vatican these days”. In the Church, “the ultimate responsibility for that state of affairs falls squarely into one man’s in-box. Whether he actually chooses to do anything about it is, at best, uncertain.”
✣Vatican judge convicted of child porn possession
A senior Vatican judge has been convicted of charges of possessing 80 pornographic images involving children. Mgr Pietro Amenta pleaded guilty and was given a 14-month suspended sentence. Il Messaggero said that Mgr Amenta had been reported to the police for alleged obscene acts and harassment in 1991 and 2013 respectively.
Why was it under-reported
The media appear unsure how to handle current abuse scandals in the Church. The story has changed: it is now Hollywood, Oxfam and other previously admired institutions which are fighting for their reputation, not the Church. Moreover, the strange story of Bishop Juan Barros, appointed despite allegations that he turned a blind eye to abuse, remains the major story – and news organisations are not quite sure how to handle it either. It doesn’t fit the narrative of an enlightened “zero-tolerance” regime under Pope Francis.
What will happen next?
A canonical trial, to follow the civil trial, will come soon. And the case might be a wake-up call. But the canon lawyer Ed Condon, writing for the CatholicHerald.co.uk, said that elements within the Vatican continued to drag their feet. “Ask anyone in Rome and they will tell you they want to see an end to sexual abuse scandals.” But suggest that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith be given the “expansion of manpower, resources, and authority needed to make this happen and you will get a far less enthusiastic response”.
✣The week ahead
Tomorrow at 2.30pm, a Mass for the travelling community will be celebrated in Westminster Cathedral. Bishop Paul McAleenan, the main celebrant, told the Catholic Universe last month that the community are frequently “misunderstood”, and paid tribute to “their deep piety and indeed knowledge of the essentials of the Catholic Faith.”
Tuesday will marks the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s last day as Pope. He spoke to cardinals at a farewell meeting, waved to the faithful gathered outside the Vatican, then departed by helicopter for a silent life of prayer.
On Wednesday Lord Patten, the former politician and current Chancellor of Oxford University, will give the Newman lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford. He will offer an updated version of Blessed John Henry Newman’s classic work, speaking on “The idea of a university in the 21st century”. The event is only open to members of the university.
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