In a strange and almost tone-deaf homily delivered Tuesday morning, Pope Francis implored the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to pray and resist the “Great Accuser,” Satan, who seeks to expose sin in order to divide the faithful.
“In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The ‘Great Accuser,’ as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the Book of Job, ‘roams the earth looking for someone to accuse,’” Pope Francis said, according to an official report in Vatican news.
He added that in the current times, “the Great Accuser, has been let loose and he’s got it in for the bishops. True, there are, we are all sinners, we bishops.”
The “Great Accuser” is a reference to Satan first seen in the book of Job, in the Old Testament. Satan is there attempting to sow division by making false accusations of sin. Many faithful Catholics took the Pope’s word, however, as an attack on lay people seeking transparency from the Vatican, which is accused of covering for bishops, cardinals, and other clerics accused of sexual abuse over the course of at least four decades.
Concluding, it appears the Pope suggested that people consider the real victims of the sexual abuse scandals currently roiling the Church: the bishops. The Devil, he said, “roams the world seeking how to blame. The strength of the bishop against the great accuser is prayer — his own and Jesus’, the humility to feel chosen and staying close to the people of God without heading toward an aristocratic life.”
There are, no doubt, concerns that some accusations being leveled at the Vatican hierarchy — particularly some of those contained in a letter from Archibishop Maria Vigano, which often veers into the ad hominem — are unfair. But ultimately, so much evidence exists that the Vatican, and particularly bishops and clerics in the United States, silenced victims of sexual abuse for decades and protected and even hid their abusers, that a full and fair investigation is warranted in the name of justice.
There are most certainly guilty men, or the sins of those like the now-deposed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick would not have gone unnoticed for decades.
The crimes the Church is accused of are not “uncovered sins” that should have been left at rest. It’s the act of covering for the sins of its priests and clerics that got the Church into trouble in the first place.
Pope Francis seemed to lay the blame for the accusations at the feet of “elites,” further confusing the issue, and fomenting division. “The ‘elites’ criticize bishops, while the people has an attitude of love towards the bishop. This is almost a special unction that confirms the bishop in his vocation,” he added.
In the month since Archbishop Vigano leveled his damning complaints — that not just Pope Francis, but the last three popes either ignored, abetted, or impotently punished McCarrick — “leftist” Catholics have tried to level their own accusations: that more traditionalist Catholics are simply out to get the pope, perhaps for his agenda, for his humility, even for his race, even as Pope Francis faces some of the most serious McCarrick-related allegations, that he restored a tainted cardinal to the role of trusted Vatican adviser.
Others have suggested that McCarrick’s dalliances with male seminarians were consensual — which is a little like suggesting that Harvey Weinstein’s affairs were just flings between two people who were sexually attracted to each other at Cannes. It’s the power and the privilege that makes such “relationships” problematic, not whether both parties were willing and able to partake.
Demanding transparency of bishops and other clerics who are credibly accused of serious crimes is not the work of Satan, it’s the work of justice.