Pope Francis’ Accusation

See the source imageEven Cardinal O’Malley is visibly perturbed at an off-the-cuff, seemingly angry remark by the Holy Father. This one, regarding a controversial bishop:

The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?

The backstory on concern over Bishop Juan Barros is here. This was getting attention almost three years ago in the US press here.

Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org:

He has just turned back the clock to the darkest days of this crisis. Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be believed?

No, the barn door has opened. The clock won’t be turning back anytime soon. What this does damage is the role of the Church as a partner in reform, contrition, and renewal. Victims, survivors, and allies will go to lawyers, journalists, politicians, and others who will hear them. Does the Church want to be part of the discussion when the dust settles and terms are imposed from the outside? Surely nobody wants to see ugly, sinful, and embarrassing stories played out in courts, legislatures, and in the press.

All that said, my sense is that Bishop Barros’ consideration is a disappointment no matter how you slice it. The man likely possesses skills you see in bishops: administration, preaching, being personable. He leads a very small diocese. Tally up 22 parishes, 44 priests, and a bit more than 100,000 Catholics in an area between the size of Delaware and Connecticut, and it’s no bling assignment. Even so, every bishop has ample responsibilities that he doesn’t need an anvil hung around his neck from the get-go. No favors are being done for his in this appointment or in his continuation in his post.

The man has been around, though. Ordained for the diocese of the nation’s capital, eleven years later, an auxiliary while still in his thirties. Small see bishop for four years, then eleven as bishop of the military. Osorno is his third assignment as an ordinary and fifth since ordination.

One might think that even in small sees, extra-special care would be taken as lists of candidates for bishop are drawn up. I’ve known many, many good parish priests over the years who would seem to be good candidates to sit in the cathedra. Are we really so short of demonstrably holy and capable candidates? Or are they often saying no to the papal nuncio?

To be sure, popes have befriended and supported questionable characters in the past. Pope Francis may yet have more. His successors in office certainly will. I did a bit of digging on Bishop Barros–maybe he had a major hand at Aparecida or something. If so, those news items are inn Spanish or pretty well-hidden to the casual internet search. So count me baffled and disappointed.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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