Sexual Abuse and the End of Papal Deference
COMMENTARY: The Chilean bishops’ visit to Rome demonstrated the newfound willingness of bishops to push back publicly against objectionable actions.Fr. Raymond DeSuzza has a good commentary at The National Catholic Register which you can read in full HERE. I print the last part of his commentary below.
From a traditional Catholic’s orthodox point of view is this a good thing or not, meaning just more post Vatican II heterodoxy? DISCUSS:
When the pope was in Chile last year that the age of deference by bishops toward the Holy Father took a decisive turn. After Pope Francis made comments accusing his critics of making false charges, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, directly rebuked the Pope’s statement. For a senior cardinal to publicly dress down the Pope was unprecedented. That the Holy Father found himself compelled to accept the reprimand was the true earthquake; he no longer could insist upon the deference that he was not being given.
This is new territory, and the consequences are only slowly being seen — for good and for ill. At the American bishops’ meeting in November, the decision of the Holy Father to postpone votes on American reform proposals was publicly criticized by the bishops present, including their president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
The most astonishing statement came from Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who argued that when it comes to telling the truth, the “Holy Father should be given the benefit of the doubt.” That’s not deference; it’s damning with faint praise.
The castigation model preferred by the Holy Father — whether speaking to the Roman Curia or writing to the U.S. bishops earlier this month on retreat — depends upon the bishops accepting it without protest. That can no longer be assumed, a new dynamic to be taken into account ahead of the sex-abuse summit in Rome next month.
The age of deference has been winding down for several generations. The days of when officials would kneel during brief meetings with the Holy Father and he would take all his meals alone have long ended. In the early years of St. John Paul II, it was quite common for theological dissenters and religious orders in turmoil to make heated public criticisms of the pope.
But bishops generally held their tongues. Even when bishops were summoned for (private) castigation, such as the Dutch bishops in 1981 or the Australian bishops in 1998, public deference was maintained. That is no longer the case.
If a cleric loves Christ and His Church then he is honor bound to point out wrong, even if it points to the Pope. On the other hand, the cleric must have solid facts and do so in a constructive manner.
"Papal deference" for Catholics in former times was not an issue, particularly when popes were also secular princes.
Pope John XII comes to mind.
It is for this purpose that Liudprand of Cremona, a partisan of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, gives an account of the charges levelled against him at the Synod of Rome in 963:
Then, rising up, the cardinal priest Peter testified that he himself had seen John XII celebrate Mass without taking communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, a cardinal deacon, professed that they themselves saw that a deacon had been ordained in a horse stable, but were unsure of the time. Benedict, cardinal deacon, with other co-deacons and priests, said they knew that he had been paid for ordaining bishops, specifically that he had ordained a ten-year-old bishop in the city of Todi ... They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father's concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse. They said that he had gone hunting publicly; that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died; that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him; and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass. All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when playing at dice, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons. They even said he did not celebrate Matins at the canonical hours nor did he make the sign of the cross.
There have been Saints who criticized Popes. The apostle Paul wrote how he criticized Peter. I though Cardinal O’Malley did it in a charitable and appropriate manner. The fact that Pope Francis thanked him for it shows that O’Malley was right.
Furthermore it was the straw that forced Francis to look into the matter further.
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