Three questions to begin:
1. Why did the World Meeting of Families, which took place in Ireland last week, all but exclude from its panels and speakers people who had been active in recent Irish referenda relating to family and children?
2. Why did virtually every panel of commentators covering the World Meeting of Families and papal visit on Ireland’s national radio and television station comprise at least 50 percent LGBT activists?
3. Why did the Irish media play down the explosive intervention of the former Vatican diplomat Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò until Pope Francis was preparing to leave Ireland on Sunday afternoon?
The answer to the first question has two parts. One is that the Irish Church hierarchy, having more or less avoided involvement in three referenda—on (so-called) children’s rights (2012), same-sex marriage (2015), and abortion (2018)—seek to ensure that those who tried to do the job they abandoned become non-persons within the Irish Catholic world. More and more, the Irish bishops appear to wish to curry favor with those who despise the Church, and to dismiss and disparage those who defend Christ’s proposals for humanity.
I was one of just three people who fought prominently in all three referenda on the side that the Catholic Church might have been expected to lead. Though I had gained a reputation as an arch-apologist for the Catholic Church, I was not invited to speak at the World Meeting of Families or even to attend it, and so I watched and listened from a distance.
To the second question: Media panels are stuffed with LGBT activists in order to protect the dominant narrative concerning clerical sex abuse in the Church. That narrative insists that sex abuse was perpetrated by pedophiles; that the main cause was clerical celibacy; and that the coverups were conducted by Church leaders to protect the Church from bad publicity.
We have known since the John Jay Report published by the US bishops in 2004 that the overwhelming majority of abuse in the Church was carried out against teenage boys. The levels of pedophilia in the Church are shown by this report to be below those of the general population—whereas the levels of homosexual abuse were many multiples of the general situation.
In Ireland, anyone who tries to state this case is immediately attacked by both journalists and LGBT activists. For this reason, the truth has never been fully reported, nor has its significance been absorbed even by the Church at the official level. Most Irish people have no sense of the true meaning of the child abuse scandals, and both the media and much of the Church’s priests and leadership seem anxious to retain the narrative that implies the victims were all “little ones.”
The first child-abuser priest to be exposed in Ireland was a man called Brendan Smyth, a classic pedophile who clearly was psychiatrically ill. When being led into or out of court hearings, he would put on a show of demonic face-pulling for the cameras, providing perfect cover for those who wanted to conceal the true nature of the problem. Hence, the vast majority of Irish people are unaware that Smyth was an aberration among abusers, and that the problem arises in large part from the invasion of the priesthood in the 1970s and 1980s by unprecedented numbers of gay men, devoid of vocations, who now seek to undermine Church teaching on all sexual questions and who—rightly or wrongly—have come to see Pope Francis as an ally. This fifth column, the peel masquerading as the fruit, is the chief agent of the coverups of the abuses its own members have perpetrated.
When you think about it, the situation is absurd: Irish Christians are not permitted to hear any kind of discussion in the media about their faith, other than the gripes of people who seek to place gay sex at the heart of Christian and Western culture. But it is essential if the goal is to protect the narrative. Most people are terrified of being labeled homophobic, so the presence of LGBT proxies on broadcast panels ensures that nobody dares approach the truth.
The answer to the third question feeds into all of the above.
It is often unclear whether the confusion Pope Francis leaves behind him is a deliberate strategy or the consequence of a chaotic thinking process, but in any event he has long given succor and comfort to those who hate the Church, while causing dismay to many of those who love her. Almost from the beginning, the media—who have otherwise sought at every turn to bury the Church—have adopted Pope Francis as their champion, creating an entirely bogus, indeed asinine, good pope–bad pope dichotomy between Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. This is why Archbishop Viganò’s statement was not widely reported in the Irish media (or indeed elsewhere) until late in the day last Sunday, and then only grudgingly, with the reports laced with innuendo about Viganò’s motivation and timing.
The pope’s exchange with journalists on the plane back to Italy must rank as one of the strangest episodes of mutual avoidance in the history of journalism. An issue that journalists have prosecuted with extreme vigor for a quarter-century had finally arrived at the door of a pope: a direct and concrete accusation that, in a specific instance, he had protected a serial sexual abuser. Yet the omertà of the day continued into the early exchanges of the press conference, with several questions from Irish journalists making no reference to the matter. Then Anna Matanga of CBS—the first mainstream platform to cover the Viganò story on Sunday—asked: “This morning, very early, a document by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò came out. In it, he says that in 2013 he had a personal talk with you at the Vatican, and that in that talk, he spoke to you explicitly of the behavior of and the sexual abuse by former–Cardinal McCarrick. I wanted to ask you if this was true. I also wanted to ask something else: The archbishop also said that Pope Benedict sanctioned McCarrick, that he had forbidden him to live in a seminary, to celebrate Mass in public, he couldn’t travel, he was sanctioned by the Church. May I ask you whether these two things are true?”
The pope replied: “I will respond to your question, but I would prefer last—first we speak about the trip, and then other topics. … I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested. Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions. It’s an act of faith. When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak. But, I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you. That’s good.”
To the uninitiated, this seems like a desperate prevarication mixed with feeble flattery, a playing for time. But if it was a prevarication, it turned out to be an effective one: The pope’s refusal to answer the question was meekly accepted by the journalists present, who would surely have brought the plane down had the pontiff’s name been Benedict or John Paul. The Viganò story has since gained little traction in the mainstream, except for the purpose of discrediting the archbishop. It was as through the pope’s weak waffle was absorbed by some invisible padding of the plane’s walls. Even yet, Archbishop Viganó's intervention is being treated by the Irish media as some kind of outrageous exercise in party-pooping, revealing—if anyone was in any doubt—that the abuse scandals have chiefly been regarded by media people as an opportunity to prosecute an agenda rooted in other matters.
And when you read the pope’s response again in light of what has happened—or not happened—in the several days since, it acquires an ominous tenor, inviting a stab at a new translation. Here is mine:
Read the statement in the knowledge of the relationship you and I share: We are men and women of the world and like-minded on what is important. We know where we stand on matters like homosexuality and homosexual priests. But be careful how you handle this Viganò business—a wrong word could undo all we have achieved. I have faith in you to figure out who this man is. Do your work well and there will be no need for me to risk my position. Once you have defused the situation, I will deal with Viganò for the record. We are all adults here. I know I can count on you. I need your help on this, but we have an understanding that has worked well so far. Trust me.
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of nine books, and a playwright.