Will the Media Turn against Pope Francis?

The huge sex scandal engulfing Pope Francis and the Catholic Church creates a dilemma for American news media. On the one hand, sex sells, and the Catholic Church has been an object of criticism by generations of the secular leftists that dominate journalism. On the other hand, Pope Francis is generally adored by the world’s media for his perceived liberality on sex and other issues, and the particulars of the scandal involve one of the favorite causes of the cultural left: normalizing homosexual behavior.

Since the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report regarding sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, the Catholic world has been in turmoil. That turmoil only intensified – exponentially -- when retired Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released what amounted to an affidavit accusing senior Catholic hierarchs of knowingly covering up and even enabling the abuse. Viganò placed special focus on the retired Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick, a prelate of vast influence in the American church, a reputed "kingmaker," a one-man fund raising juggernaut, close adviser to Pope Francis, and a mentor to such progressive luminaries as cardinals Wuerl, Cupich, and Tobin -- all among Francis's anointed. As if that weren't enough, Viganò called on Francis himself to resign for his knowing complicity in the coverup of McCarrick's crimes.

Viganò's release of his testimony was timed to coincide for maximum effect with Francis's controversial trip to Dublin -- already a public relations disaster due to lack of attendance. That disaster was compounded when Francis issued his non-denial statement in response to press questions about the Viganò testimony: "I will not say a single word ..." followed by a tacit appeal to the press to basically ignore it all.

Ordinarily that type of stonewalling by a high-profile public figure would be met with a storm of protest and accusation in the media. Just such a storm did in fact ensue, but mainly in the world of Catholic blogging and tweeting. The mainstream media, on the other hand, seemed strangely (or maybe not) indifferent.

In the past, Catholic sex scandals involving the clergy have been widely characterized as pedophilia. Knowledge that this characterization was, in fact, inaccurate, that the problem was overwhelmingly one of homosexual priests preying upon adolescents and young men, had been carefully kept in the background. With this fresh outbreak of scandal, however, the Catholic blogosphere, fueled by Viganò's testimony regarding McCarrick's abuse of seminarians, quickly galvanized around the accusation of a powerful "lavender mafia" of homosexual prelates dominating the post Vatican II Church.

The Catholic blog Rorate Coeli has published a handy review of the known situation by the eminent Italian historian of Vatican II, Roberto de Mattei:

The homosexualization of the  Church started to spread in the 1970s and 1980s, as the meticulously documented  book by Father Enrique Rueda reveals: The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy, published in 1982.

In order to understand the situation at that time, it is essential to read the study dedicated to Homosexuality and the Priesthood. The Gordian Knot – of Catholics? by Professor Andrzej Kobyliński of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.* Kobyliński cites a book entitled The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A reflection on the Priest’s Crisis of Soul, (2000) by Donald Cozzens, Rector of the Cleveland Seminary in Ohio, wherein the author states that at the beginning of the 21st century the priesthood became a “profession”, exercised predominantly by homosexuals and we can even talk about  “a heterosexual exodus from the priesthood.” (snip)  

In 2004 The John Jay Report appeared, a document prepared at the request of the American Episcopal Conference, in which all the cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons, from 1950 to 2002, were analyzed. This document of almost 300 pages is of extraordinary informative value – writes Kobyliński.  The John Jay Report  “demonstrated the link between homosexuality and sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. According to the report of 2004, in the overwhelming majority of cases of sexual abuse it is not about pedophilia, but ephebophilia, that is, a degeneration that consists not only of sexual attraction towards children, but towards adolescent boys, at the age of puberty. The John Jay Report demonstrated that about 90% of the priests condemned for sexual abuse with minors are homosexual priests.” [emphasis added]

The McCarrick scandal is therefore not the last act in a crisis that goes way, way back. Yet, in the “Letter of the Pope to the People of God," and throughout his trip in Ireland, Pope Francis has not once denounced this moral disorder. The Pope maintains that the main problem in sexual abuse by the clergy is not homosexuality but clericalism.

Francis's ambivalent stance toward established Catholic teaching, dating back to Paul's letters to the early churches, has been well documented from the beginning of his papacy, starting with his famous "Who am I to judge?" Not as well-known outside the Catholic blogosphere has been his relentless advancement of prelates who are not only favorable toward the acceptance of homosexuality but who are notorious for living a "gay" lifestyle themselves. I can hardly do better than link to this account of the episode in which Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia commissioned a homoerotic mural for his cathedral church which featured "Jesus carrying nets to heaven filled with naked and semi-nude homosexuals, transsexuals, prostitutes, and drug dealers, jumbled together in erotic interactions." Paglia himself was included in the mural, embracing a naked man, and the image of Christ was modeled on a local male hairdresser. Paglia now heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, and Francis also appointed Paglia as president of the Pontifical Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family -- after purging the institute of its orthodox members.

It's hardly surprising, then, that mainstream media outlets were initially loath to attack the "gay friendly" Francis. Indeed, the mainstream media was inclined to dismiss Viganò's testimony in favor of damage control narratives that were floated by proxies for Francis.

But this may be a crisis that is too good to waste.

The long term goal of the Left is simply to destroy any moral authority the Catholic Church may still have in the broader conservative society -- Catholic or not. To induce a sense of hopelessness among conservatives.

The Church is still the Church. Popes come and go. The goal for the progressive media will be to try to separate cultural Catholics from the influence of Catholic doctrine by discrediting the entire hierarchy -- not just "conservatives".

The current crisis offers an opening for progressives that may well override any other concerns. I think the more liberals consider their options the more confident they'll become that attacking the American bishops and even the Francis papacy can be done without empowering conservatives or endangering the homosexual agenda -- and they'll push ahead. To bring down a pope -- could it possibly get any better than that for progressives?

For all its warts the Church is one of the few truly significant social institutions that interposes between the State and the individual. Removing such "intermediary institutions" -- so that each individual in his individuality is confronted with the full power of the State -- is what totalitarianism is all about. One needn't accept the Church's claims to see where danger lies. We see the increasingly open totalitarianism of the Left everywhere today.

The Church -- or at least its hierarchs -- has brought this crisis upon itself, but it's a crisis that in its broader dimension will draw in all conservatives. We will need to be aware that while malevolent forces have been at work within the Church, other malevolent forces will be seeking to take advantage of this crisis for goals that are inimical to our freedoms.

Image by Timothy Bishop

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