The Church continues to hit new, dysfunctional lows — and the faithful are noticing.
In the last 48 hours there have been two big Vatican stories. First, revelations about the Holy See’s financial crisis; second, and more bizarrely, a furious dispute over statues being thrown into the Tiber. But really it’s all one story, the big story of contemporary Catholicism: a disastrous failure of leadership at the top of the Church.
Vatican finances may not usually be a subject to set the pulse racing, but the last month has been dramatic: Vatican police raided offices and confiscated computers, after finding — to quote a leaked search decree — “serious indications of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, money-laundering, and self-laundering.” Other leaks suggested that as much as $560 million of Catholics’ donations to the Vatican were invested in speculative deals that Vatican investigators described as “reckless.” The pattern, even at this early stage of the inquiry, is familiar: The faithful have trusted a leadership class that has done little to deserve their trust.
Indeed, donations are already falling — partly because of the abuse crisis, where once again the Vatican has been less than transparent. In 2017 it emerged that Pope Francis had reduced sanctions against some abusers. Then last year, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the U.S. made a set of spectacular accusations, claiming there had been a concerted effort, featuring many senior figures up to and including the pope, to protect Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from numerous allegations of abuse. A letter from the Catholic Women’s Forum, bearing almost 50,000 signatures, asked for a Vatican response to the ambassador’s claims. None came.
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