The Unfinished Tasks of Pope Francis

Pope Francis assumed the throne of Saint Peter with the aura of renewal. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 July 2018 — The scandal has transcended Chile and reached the doors of the Vatican itself. The earthquake provoked by accusations of sexual abuse and cover-ups against several Chilean priests has also challenged Pope Francis, who accepted the resignation of five Chilean bishops but is aware that the problem extends throughout the world’s Catholic Church.

Among the prelates and seminarians themselves, opinions on how to solve the current crisis remain divided and polarized. While some see the denunciations as an attack to the Christian faith and an attack against the ecclesiastical institution, others urge the implementation of important changes that would diminish the incidence of these scourges. Placed above this mountain of criticism, the Pope seems like a figure made of paper at the mercy of the storm.

The man who became the Bishop of Rome surrounded by an aura of renewal, has been able to do little to introduce real changes in the temples and convents that would contribute to modernizing the Church, opening it to a changing world where “the rule of law” must govern everyone, without complicities or silences. Francis has failed the victims of these abuses by not fostering the transformations necessary to prevent them from continuing to happen.

The discussion on the subject has special connotations in Latin America, since this region has more than 425 million Catholics, a figure that represents almost 40% of the Catholic faithful on the planet. The debate has been ignited even in countries such as Cuba where scandals of clerical abuse have not yet reached the front pages of the papers, due to the prudish secrecy of the official press and the fear of those affected.

Sotto voce, in Cuban corridors and sacristies, the news about the events in Chile inflames discussions. Few can escape taking sides given what happened.

“Eliminate the obligation of celibacy,” a young Cuban who studied at a seminar on the island proposes without blinking. “The ordination of women, greater transparency in the management of resources, the democratization of the communities and even the acceptance of homosexual marriage,” round out the demands of this potential priest who finally hung up his habit without seeing his dreams materialize.

“These scandals will pass because the Church is millenarian and has withstood worse attacks, we are going to weather the storm and continue,” says the elderly priest of a Havana parish. “We can not all be evaluated by the actions of some and celibacy must remain intact because it is something that distinguishes us and reinforces our chastity,” he adds.

Between the weathered priest and the young ex-seminarian is an abyss carved out by their differences. Both share religious faith but there is a vast difference in their beliefs about how the institution to which they belong should function. Both are Catholics, but while one clings to the traditions and the old ways, the other inhabits the church of the future, the one that Pope Francis has not managed to promote.


Note: This column  was originally published in the Latin American edition of Deutsche Welle.