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Franciscan poverty?

February 10, 2018

The weeks following the papal visit to Latin America have been dominated by the reportage of his "defence" of an accused bishop. As far as one can tell - and allowing for issues of translation- it is not suggested that the bishop in question was in fact the perpetrator of any acts of abuse; rather, that he failed to intervene, to secure the removal of the accused priest, and thereby failed to protect the complainant(s) from harm. To date, the Holy Father's engagement with the media has been informal; some might even say, casual.  It is an ease of manner which has been welcomed by some and criticised by others. However, when we enter into the territory of accusations of abuse and allegations of systemic failings, prudence dictates that words are chosen with care. This same prudence must necessarily demand that where the complaint or allegation is under investigation, or, the ensuing legal process is ongoing, nothing is said or done to indicate any form of pre-determination.    In such situations, the words with which we express ourselves must be carefully chosen. Equally, care must be exercised as to whether it is appropriate to comment at all. Of course, attention has now turned to the thorny issue as to whether the Holy Father had received a letter of complaint to support the assertions made against the Bishop. Was a letter delivered to Cardinal O'Malley? Were the contents of the letter brought to the attention of the Holy Father? These are important questions. It might be said that the moral of the story is quite simple: one should adhere to the exhortation of St Francis: "When you go out to preach; only use words if you have to..."   However, hindsight is always 20:20 and it is too easy for all sides to point to what could have/should have occurred.  It may be thought better for all interested parties, if the detail and veracity of specific allegations are left to the determination of others; duly appointed to make determinations within the confines of a legal inquiry or similar process?

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