In August 2018 the Catholic Church was once more rocked by a sexual misconduct scandal. The charges were shocking; fundamentally that Popes Benedict XVI and Francis had been aware of the allegations against the D.C. archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick before he (McCarrick) resigned earlier this summer.
Other than to confirm that he was the author, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò offered no further information and provided no proof of its claims. The tone of his letter is sanctimonious, he posits what he hopes might have happened, he speaks of the ‘face of the Bride of Christ, which is terribly disfigured…’ but his words were enough for the current Pope’s critics to demand he stand down.
John Paul II’s successor
There are not many jobs which are for life in the modern world. Monarchy is no longer one of them, although the Queen of England appears to believe it is. The papal chair is remarkable in being one of the few which is for life.
Benedict XVI was the unexpected successor to John Paul II now (Saint John Paul II). Cardinal Josef Ratzinger had long been part of the curia. Before becoming pope, he was the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The job of the congregation is to defend the church against heresy.
Ratzinger was adept at the office. In the first place, he personally leans to the right on the church’s doctrines. He would still deny the divorced communion for example. Academically minded, yet holding his doctrinal positions from his right-wing leanings, he earned himself the nickname God’s Rottweiler and was a perfect foil to John Paul II’s own conservatism.
His own elevation to the papacy may not have been something he sought. The mysteries of a conclave are supposed to remain mysteries. But nonetheless, those who know him talk of him not being a leader, but a counselor.
Regardless of his leadership skills, he was a completely different pope from the one who was elected directly after him. Pope Francis was purportedly no less diffident regarding his own election. But he from the first moment set out on a different route to Benedict’s.
Benedict XVI’s successor
Pope Francis was everything Benedict wasn’t. His liberal attitudes, his easing his foot off the gas on some of the harder line doctrines were all seen as deeply suspicious and worrisome by the hardliner right of the church. The space is an uncomfortable one.
Benedict tries to remain silent
The problem for Francis, besides the obvious one of the accusations, is were Benedict to speak out, it might not help his papacy, but as long as he doesn’t, the far right can use his silence as a mark of opposition to Francis, and his prior words and actions would support that.
The church moves glacially
With 2000 years’ worth of controversy, the church moves slower than its critics believe possible or acceptable. Francis is trying, but nothing happens until 2019 now.