Tuesday, November 27, 2018
A Tone Deaf Pope. . .
Pope Francis has proven to be somewhat a theological lightweight, certainly not up to the standards of Papa Ratzinger. He also seems to be somewhat of an enigma -- running right up to the edge of controversy and then failing to follow through, confounding critics and supporters alike. So what is the actual outcome of Amoris Laetitia? Those were battles of his choosing. The issue of clergy sexual abuse, homosexuality, and the failure of episcopal supervision was not his choice but it will certainly be one of those things for which he will be forever remembered. So what does it mean that Francis has named Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago to a four-member organizing committee for next February’s Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse -- you know, the summit that stunned the USCCB when their own plans were forcibly put on hold until its outcome.
So why is this appointment raising eyebrows? Because this is the self-same Cardinal Cupich who has rejected Archbishop Viganò’s testimony on the McCarrick abuse cover-up calling it a “rabbit hole” distracting the Church. This is the same Cardinal Cupich who rejected homosexuality as a significant contributing factor in the abuse of minors (despite the reality of statistics showing that it was perhaps the most significant factor). This is the same Cardinal Cupich who not only brought his own competing plan to the USCCB meeting and then welcomed the Vatican postponing U.S. bishops from voting on new measures to prevent abuse and its cover-up by bishops failing to be bishops.
In other words, Francis has chosen a fellow who has distanced himself from Francis Cardinal George and failed to repudiate Theodore no-longer Cardinal McCarrick, and proven to be something of a PR nightmare in suggesting that the pope had bigger fish to fry than the failure of priests and bishops to do their jobs (climate change among them). All in all, Francis seems rather tone deaf, perhaps more wishing that it will fade from the news and people's memories so that he does not really have to do anything. If you will allow me, this is typically the way Rome has met most challenges. Rome and the occupants of the Chair of St. Peter have chosen to bide their time, focus on peripherals and window dressing, and do less than what people want and is necessary. Francis seems up to this norm and it is hard to see how tainted individuals can function as leaders in the resolution of this crisis. So pardon this Lutheran for comments from the peanut gallery, but it does not seem that there is much hope for decisive, honest, honorable, and effective resolution to this failure that seems to come back when Rome has sighed in relief believing that it has survived another crisis.
If Lutheran leaders are reading, take note and do not follow Rome's lead. Our problems are not the same as Rome but they cry out for decisive, honest, honorable, and effective leadership from courageous and faithful Lutheran leaders. A PR moment will not due for us anymore than Rome. We need to figure out what it means to be the Church of the Augsburg Confession and then to act like it. Pray for our leaders to help us make the faithful and difficult choices that surely need to be made for our Lutheran jursidictions to survive and not slide into obscurity among the foibles of evangelicalism and an unbelieving mainline Protestantism.