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Analysis: Pope Francis has taken a Catholic Church in crisis and begun to remake it with his powerful brand of moral authority.
sunken into value neutrality. Celebrity culture has wrecked TV news, demagogues abound.
“Pure Marxism” is what Rush Limbaugh called “The Joy of the Gospel,” Francis’s 50,000-word Apostolic Exhortation. Released Nov. 26, the document made international news as Francis protested “laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
His words capture a reality not just of the poor, but millions of young, educated people around the world caught in Depression-level unemployment, forced to leave country, home and kin to find work.
“Masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape,” Francis wrote, “not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.’”
But the church has her own leftovers, like the 575 claimants sexually violated as children by priests in the Milwaukee archdiocese, which chose grinding bankruptcy litigation to slash its compensation to victims. A central issue there is $57 million then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan took from general funds and buried in the budget for cemeteries. A Catholic federal judge with relatives buried in those Milwaukee cemeteries ruled the $57 million “untouchable” and cannot be used to pay victims because the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. His ruling is on appeal.
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” Pope Francis stated in “The Joy of the Gospel.”
Dolan left Milwaukee to become archbishop of New York, and a cardinal under Benedict. In the run-up to the March conclave, the Italian press gushed over Dolan’s glad-handing and kissing babies, suggesting that he’d be a grand pope. Imagine what the international media would have made of that $57 million stuffed in cemetery coffers, had Dolan become pope, or the $20,000 bonus package he gave Milwaukee pedophiles to leave the priesthood. Dolan wisely tamped down the speculation.
In July, Francis issued a motu proprio (“in his hand”) decree that stiffened laws for the Vatican City State with regard to money-laundering. This move was responding to a process, begun under Benedict and broadened by Francis, restructuring the Vatican Bank under the advice of Moneyval, a European financial regulator; Ernst and Young auditors; and a Wall Street damage control company, Promontory.
Anticipating a possible prosecution from the ultimate findings, Francis’s decree put the Vatican into an alignment with civil law. The decree went further, covering child pornography and crimes involving children, mandating prison terms of up to 12 years.
The pope stands as final arbiter of canon law, literally a one-man supreme court with sweeping powers to reverse, halt or terminate a given proceeding. Popes rarely intervene in adjudicated matters in the Vatican canonical courts, which deal heavily in administrative issues of the church.
The entrenched pattern of bishops who recycled child abusers, according to Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and dean emeritus of the Duquesne University law school, “shows how poorly they used the laws they had.”
“Canon law provides for ecclesiastical trials in cases of severe wrongdoing,” Cafardi said.
Countless bishops sent perpetrators to psychiatric hospitals, and then back in ministry.
Francis’s motu proprio covers cardinals, bishops, religious and lay officials at the Vatican, as well as papal diplomats at the Vatican’s 120 embassies or postings — roughly 4000 people, according to a source knowledgable of church legal process. As the law was taking shape, news reports from the Dominican Republic accused the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, of abusing boys.
A native of Poland with a Vatican diplomatic passport, Wesolowski left the country. Rather than invoke diplomatic immunity, the Holy See cooperated with Dominican authorities, who praised the Vatican for doing so. In November, prosecutors in Santo Domingo stated that the nuncio abused five boys younger than 15. No indictment has been issued.
Wesolowski is one of about twenty Catholic bishops, who to use church parlance, is “credibly accused” of abusing youth. Two Canadian bishops have spent time in prison; the others, mostly American, “stepped down” from their positions, in many cases while the victims received legal settlements. The bishops remained, in title, bishops. In contrast, roughly 1,000 priests have been defrocked by the Vatican in the last decade.
There are still swirling