The Lenten season is an excellent time for confessions, so here goes: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. On April 13, I actually watched a segment of 60 Minutes. I hadn’t planned to do it, but as I was eating my dinner and surfing through the TV channels, I heard the name of Pope Francis, and, well, suddenly I was watching CBS journalist Scott Pelley mentioning that the Pope had recently apologized for the sex abuse scandal in the Church and quoted the Pontiff thusly: “I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil . . . to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage done.” Pelley followed with “It was another advance from a pope of “firsts.”
A person who knew nothing about the Catholic Church except what he heard through the mainstream media would probably conclude that Francis was the first pope to make such an apology and that it should have come years before. Well, it had come years before. In 2001, John Paul II said, “Sexual abuse within the Church is a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ.” He added that the church “apologizes unreservedly to the victims for the pain and disillusionment caused to them.” In 2010, Pope Benedict said:
I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes . . . I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation that all of us have suffered because of these sins . . .
By omitting the previous apologies, CBS created a misleading narrative. Bad enough, but there was more.
Pelley interviewed Robert Mickens, an American journalist who covers the Vatican for The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly. According to The Tablet’s editor, the news weekly provides a forum for “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home, but ideas are welcome.” It’s hard to imagine progressive and orthodoxy living in peaceful existence, but I digress.
By his own admission, Mickens believes that Vatican II and the changes that followed were part of the golden age of Catholicism. Unfortunately, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI destroyed the promises of ecumenism and openness to new ideas. But Pope Francis might just be the man to restore that lost glory.
Yet CBS made another omission by not informing the viewer that Mickens may have an ax to grind. The Tablet recently suspended him because of a tweet he wrote that looked forward to the death of “The Rat,” a clear reference to Benedict and the derogatory term applied to him by his opponents when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.
I am sure that CBS led an exhaustive search to find a truly objective Vatican journalist but just couldn’t find one. Right. So when Pelley asked him what kind of Church does Francis dream of, Mickens offered his opinion:
A missionary church, a missionary church that shows the mercy of God, a church that’s not wagging its finger at people, not scolding people, but is inviting people, walking with people, befriending people . . . He [Francis] calls the Church a field hospital after a battle.
Again, the low-information viewer must assume that the Church has never reached out to people and shared the love of God. This, of course, will come as a shock to the Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Jesuits, the great missionary orders of the Church. And then there are Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the Holy Ghost Fathers, and the PIME missionaries, just to name a few. The Church has been a missionary church since Jesus told the Apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
The truth is that Mickens doesn’t really care about a missionary church. He shows his true colors when he opines that the “new” Catholic Church will be one of mercy, one that will not wag its finger at people or scold them. Of course, Pelley offered no rebuttal to this silly assertion. So, when Catholic Relief Services provides food, shelter, clothing, and material assistance to over 130 million people in 90 countries each year, does that sound like a “scolding” church? When 26% of all health care around the world is provided by Catholic institutions, is that a church without mercy? When the Church has the largest non-government school system in the world, is that a church “wagging” its finger? Obviously, CBS doesn’t want facts to interfere with its agenda.
What CBS, Mickens, and their fellow travelers are hoping for is that Pope Francis will create a church that smiles approvingly when they contracept, abort, divorce, and proudly support sodomy. They long for a church that is a democracy where the people vote for the rules they may or may not follow. After all, you can’t sin if there are no sins.
Currently, the media treat Francis like a rock star. They gush over every phrase he utters that seems to coincide with their own world view. But this won’t last forever. Eventually, he will scold them and wag his finger at them in order to save their souls. And then he will become a pariah, and they will set out to destroy him. It’s just a matter of time.