Cardinal tells pope: Faithful not influenced by ‘gossip’



That was the headline on a few minutes ago. It is a headline that sickens me.

I was raised in Mahopac, N.Y., a primarily Catholic town whose residents include some of the finest people I’ve ever known. They were hard-working men and women who spent their week getting their hands dirty and their Sunday mornings in the pews at church. They believed in God and Jesus, and treated Pope John Paul’s words as literal gospel. Faith guided their lives, often in an extremely positive way.

How do these folks feel now?

Faith is not a joke. God is not a joke. The Catholic Church, however, is a joke. An absolute joke. This is no longer merely about the systematic abuse of hundreds upon hundreds of children. This is no longer merely about sexuality, and self-denial.

This is about accountability.

Over the past few weeks, I have been blown away by the Catholic Church’s jarring lack of accountability. If you listen to so-called men like Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former Vatican secretary of state and the dean of the College of Cardinals, everything that’s going on these days can be rationalized as “gossip.”

“Also with you are the faithful who do not let themselves be influenced by gossip,” Sodano said in Italian during his Easter Mass, using the word “chiacchiericcio,” which means chatter or gossip. “May the Lord continue to sustain your mission at the service of the church in the world.”

I am not looking for the Pope to take personal responsibility for every rape committed by a priest. What I am looking for him to do is stand up and say, “I’m the Pope, and the buck stops with me. If there’s a problem with this church, point your fingers in my direction. I’m the guy.”

But will such sentiment ever emerge from his lips? No. Never. Why? Because the Pope is unfailable; the walking, talking, breathing next-best-thing-to-Jesus icon. Were he to utter such a thing, his credibility—and glow—would be lost. How can the Pope make a mistake? Not the Pope.

So what happens? He issues a note, saying he’s “truly sorry” for the abuse suffered by victims at the hands of Catholic priests. Then he attacks. The media. The defectors. The people lacking faith.

Worst of all, the Church uses faith as its ultimate weapon. “This is a test of your faith,” it tells its followers. “It’s easy to have faith in the good times. But are you strong enough to have faith now? When Jesus needs you? When the Church needs you?”