John Allen on Pope’s Cease and Desist Order

Pope Francis’ recent muzzling of American bishops concerning child abuse caught nearly everyone’s attention. John Allen, editor of CRUX and long-time Vatican apologist, discussed it. He offered a sampling of others’ opinions, but no explanation of his own. He did discuss some implications.

Jesuit Father James Martin suggested that “perhaps Francis wants the response to be more universal, that the USCCB may not be unified enough to confront the situation.” This makes little sense. The Pope knew about the bishops’ meeting and its purpose for over a year. If he objected to its lack of universality, why did he wait until just before a vote was to be taken? Why was this bishops’ meeting different than all other bishops’ meetings? If the Pope was worried about a lack of unity, the vote would have demonstrated it, and given him a stronger basis for an alternate proposal. Why was this the first explanation Allen offered us? Why include it at all?

Allen says “multiple sources told Crux that there were serious problems under Church law with several of the proposals the bishops had developed.” First, the bishops are familiar with Church law and no doubt had experts review the legality of their proposals. Second, even if the proposals do violate canon law, is that sufficient reason to prevent a vote? When the House and the Senate pass different versions of a bill, they have a working committee from both houses come up with a compromise bill. Why can’t the Pope create a committee of canon lawyers, bishops, and others to resolve the problem?

What if the bishops had a revelation and came up with a set of proposals that were almost certain to end the abuse epidemic, but canon lawyers had problems with it? Does Pope Francis believe that the Church must continue to rape children and cover up its crimes until a solution is found that also satisfies canon law? Where are his moral priorities? There have been many changes to canon law, and there is nothing to prevent further changes. Does Pope Francis really place current canon law above the safety of its children and the criminality of its clerics?

While John Allen can’t explain Pope Francis’ action, he has some prophetic comments. First, he reminds us the Pope has called for a world-wide conference of bishops in February to discuss the child abuse problem. And he adds,

If the February summit was already high-stakes, those stakes have now grown exponentially. For the Vatican to ask the bishops’ conference of the fourth-largest Catholic country in the world, and one deeply scarred by the crisis at the moment, to wait three months before taking meaningful action suggests the February meeting better deliver something dramatic, or, at least in this country, there will be blood in the water.

A very dramatic prophecy. I wonder what Mr. Allen will say when the February conference ends without any rules with teeth?

How is it that Mr. Allen completely ignored Pope Francis’ shameful track record? When Pope Francis took office over five years ago, the child abuse problem was one of his highest priorities. He appointed a special papal commission that has yet to produce any meaningful output. When members of that commission resigned in protest, he promised to make specific changes. He did not. Given Pope Francis’ track record of willful inaction, why would Mr. Allen expect a miraculous conversion now?


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