ECLECTIC RANT: Is Pope Francis the Right Choice to Fix a Church in Disarray?

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 15, 2013 - 02:54:00 PM

As the whole world now knows, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope (Pope Francis). Clearly, the cardinals saw him as a safe, compromise choice. In other words, a keeper of the status quo. He holds traditional Catholic Church views. Otherwise he would not have been elected. He opposes abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, adoption by gays and lesbians, and contraception. 

He was criticized by human rights activists for not openly confronting the terrorism by the Argentine dictatorship in the 1970s that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate "subversive elements." In fact, a human rights lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests. At the time, he was the superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina. 

How will he deal with the various scandals facing the Catholic Church? The most pressing, of course, is the widespread allegations of sexual child abuse by Catholic clergy and the coverup by church officials. A study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that 10,669 allegations of child sexual abuse were reported to church officials in the U.S. alone between 1950 and 2002. 

Similar crimes have occurred in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere. And according to a complaint filed by The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) before the International Criminal Court, between 1981 and 2005, there are more than 100,000 sexual abuse victims. 

The CCR complaint alleges that Vatican officials, including then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ignored information that subordinates were committing these crimes and engaged in a widespread coverup of such abuse. The complaint alleges that since 1981, when Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had primary responsibility for dealing with the clergy sex crimes. His refusal to decisively address the epidemic – and discipline Church officials who protected predator priests – was exacerbated when he became Pope. The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with stealing and leaking papal correspondence revealing how the Vatican was a centre of intrigue and infighting.  

And then there is the "Vatileaks" incident. Supposedly there is a secret "dossier" alleging the existence of a gay lobby within the Church, who had some sort of control on the careers of those in the Vatican. And further, the dossier alleges that members of this group were blackmailed by laymen with whom they entertained relationships of a "worldly nature." 

There is some speculation that these scandals caused Pope Benedict to resign.  

Will Pope Francis "fix" these scandals by sweeping them under the rug or institute real reform? I suspect the former, but only time will tell. 

The larger question is whether the Catholic Church has become too rich, powerful, and corrupt to continue. If so, perhaps the Pope should cede all the church holdings to the poor and resume the church's mission in poverty.  

Is this likely? A emphatic "no."