It is impossible to remain mute after the explosion caused by Archbishop Carlo Vigano’s letter of August 2018 which was released first to the media before being seen by Pope Francis. I knew the ex-nuncio in Rome, and I have received many telephone calls and emails denouncing what the archbishop described as a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Church.
The Pope as well as the Canadian bishops unanimously responded to the U.S. sex abuse allegations. Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in his report at the Archbishop’s dinner last month, was clear about how much the entire Church is suffering because of clerical sexual abuse, especially the victims.
Yet the ex-nuncio has no authority to suggest that the Pope should retire, and it was wrong of him to disclose information that was under pontifical secrecy and accuse the Pope of ignoring claims made against important prelates of the Holy See. No doubt, the entire Church suffers with the disclosure of clerical corruption. However, a good son must first speak in secret with his father and not go to the media or assume a role that does not belong to him.
Certainly, the Holy See is preparing to address the ex-nuncio’s accusations. The Holy Father has his reasons to take time to study the situation and deliberate before taking decisions. For now, the “C9” Council of Cardinal Advisers, gathered in the Vatican for their 26th working session, have issued a statement expressing “full solidarity” with Pope Francis and noting the Vatican is about to formulate the “eventual and necessary clarifications.”
The “C9” is the team hand-picked by the Pope to be his most trusted advisers to lead the way in reform. However, it has faced a series of problems. Several members are fighting allegations of corruption, and by the Council’s own admission it may not be up to the job.
The real way to reform the leaders of the Church is to turn to penance, prayer and fasting. Bishops around the world have asked the faithful to join with the clergy in observing the classic triple way of the first Christians to obtain divine forgiveness.
Archbishop Miller released a statement on Aug. 17 regarding the recent revelations of abuse in the Church. He said to his faithful: “Over the past few weeks, a number of very serious accounts of sexual abuse in Catholic Church have become public. Like you, I am devastated by these account of profound evil … I will issue a pastoral letter outlining our plans, including prayer, fasting, and services of reparation in all our parishes at a date to be determined. The pain inflicted on so many victims affects us all and compels each of us to offer our prayers for them and to do penance for the sins committed against them.”
Fasting, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, has three purposes: “To rein in carnal desires, to elucidate contemplation, and to satisfy for sins.” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has called this a time for prayer, penance, and purification for those who are bishops and priests.
This is an effort by lay Catholics to strengthen the leaders of the Church so that they may undertake the necessary institutional reforms. When done in a spirit of charity it can also bring solace and aid to the victims of abuse. This is what the laity intend to achieve when they fast and pray.
How sinful and hypocritical was the criminal activity of those who abused the beautiful children of God who will suffer all their lives due to the corruption of a man who promised to be a representative of God. Pray, fast, and do penance for these innocent victims.
Let me repeat the words of Archbishop Miller: “I call on the faithful of the Archdiocese of Vancouver to join me in doing penance for the grave sins committed within our Church against our brothers and sisters. In order to heal as a community of faith, we must first acknowledge our brokenness before the Lord.”
Also heed his call: “If you are aware of any situation of abuse happening now, please immediately contact law enforcement authorities. If the abuse involves a member of the clergy or any person engaged in ministry in our Archdiocese, please also make us aware. You may find our webpage on reporting abuse at: rcav.org/safe-environment-reporting. If you know of any sexual abuse that occurred in the past, but have not reported it before, consider doing so now.” (B.C. Catholic, Aug. 27, 2018)