Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pope Francis: A Conjecture

The central facts of the current Catholic crisis appear clear. By the time Francis became Pope, it was well known in Vatican circles that Cardinal McCarrick had engaged in extensive homosexual activity with young adult seminarians. The previous Pope had, on that account, restricted McCarrick's activities in a variety of ways, details of which are still controversial. When Francis became Pope whatever restrictions had been imposed were lifted and McCarrick became one of the Pope's chief advisers. Then ...
On July 19, The New York Times published an article based on the story of a man named James, whose last name was withheld. A New Jersey man whose uncle had known McCarrick since high school, James alleged that McCarrick had sexually abused him beginning at age 11. ... On July 27, 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to observe 'a life of prayer and penance in seclusion' and accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.

The obvious puzzle is how to explain this pattern of events. I offer the following conjectures:

1. Pope Francis, like many moderns, does not regard homosexual activity as morally different from heterosexual activity. His view is in that respect inconsistent with current Catholic doctrine and he has prudently concealed it.

2. Pope Francis believes that requiring clerical celibacy is a mistake. This view is inconsistent with current policy but not, as I understand the matter, with theological doctrine.
3. Pope Francis strongly disapproves of adult men having sex with children.

All three of these positions fit modern progressive attitudes, which which Francis seems largely in sympathy. They also explain his behavior. So long as McCarrick's offenses were limited to consensual sex with adults they appeared to Francis as insufficiently serious to justify restricting the activities of a talented priest with views on the church close to those of the Pope. Only when evidence of sex with a minor appeared did that change.

I am not a Catholic, am evaluating the situation from the outside. Readers with more information or insight are invited to comment.



Gorgasal said...

4. (a) Pope Francis doesn't care much about doctrine one way or the other (conjecture). (b) Benedict's sanctions were not made public (fact). (c) McCarrick has been very successful in fundraising for the Church (fact).

Therefore, Francis lifted the sanctions, because is didn't cost him anything in terms of mental disjunction with doctrine (see a) or in terms of bad publicity (see b), but back-scratching a still well-connected major fundraiser (see c) is Good Politics.

He came down hard on McCarrick once the scandal broke and might have negative consequences on the stream of funding from the US.

This, IMO, also explains the chain of events, and it is pretty much the gist of what I am picking up from some conservative Catholic sites. (Disclaimer: as a CC myself, I am Not Happy with Francis, which may color my assessment.)

David Friedman said...

Is there evidence that McCarrick was a particularly good fundraiser? What I saw was mostly about his role in pushing candidates he approved of for various positions.

Unknown said...

It's debatable that this affairs with a very old man were truly consensual for the seminarians who lacked any other alternatives for Roman Catholic Ordination.