The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!
Last week the Vatican began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”
No, the moment highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.
Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering, denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”
Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission” in Italian and English.
So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.
He blamed the Devil.
Last week, before the Synod opened, he asked Catholics around the world to recite a special prayer every day in October to try to beat him back. Yes, October is “Pray to Stop Satan From Making Good Priests Rape Children Month”!
“(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” he wrote. He asks all Catholics to recite the rosary every day in October, and to follow it with a prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel that the Bible credits as the leader of the angels that ejected Lucifer from Paradise. The prayer was traditionally said after Mass until 1964, but fell into disuse as the Church modernized.
The prayer reads:
“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
This is a really clever solution to the crashing popularity of the Pope in the wake of recent disclosures of sexual abuse and cover-ups in Australia, Ireland, the United States and Germany. A survey released by the Pew Research Center right before the Synod found that 62% of Catholics in the United States believe the Pope is doing an “only fair” or “poor” job in addressing the problem—which is amazingly good, as in pathetically naive, given the hundreds of thousands of molestations and the overwhelming likelihood that priests are raping and molesting still. Then there was the eleven page indictment against the Pope and other Vatican and U.S. Church officials published on August 26 by Cardinal Viganò, who suspects that when the Pope says “the malign one,” he means him.
If the sexual assaults continue now, Pope Francis can blame it on world Catholics for not fulfilling their October obligations. Or he can blame St. Michael the Archangel.
(I wonder if they’ll be showing “Spotlight” at the Synod…)