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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage! Years ago, I declared that I was “not a Francis fangirl.” But many other people rushed right over to slobber all over him like he’d personally invented rock music. Well, now we can definitely put to rest all that hype. Francis is not only not a revolutionary new kind of pope, but a retread of the worst-of-the-worst. And his announcement of partnership with his tribe’s notion of Satan proves that idea. Here’s why Francis loves Satan with all the fire of a thousand adolescent crushes–and why he needs Satan so much.

The Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria, Kansas. (Byron Howes, CC-ND.)

This is TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ If Anything Ever Was.

I always found fault with Pope Francis’ less-than-definitive response to the still-ongoing Catholic child-rape scandal. That’s not the only scandal he’s mishandling, of course. Really, we could name some serious crime at random and fully expect to see the Vatican firmly implicated there. The corruption in this group goes all the way to the top. No highly-ranked officer in it can be expected not to know about–or even not to have participated in–these sickening goings-on.

But child sexual abuse remains the Big Kahuna Burger of a general trend of arrogance, not to mention their absolute lack of concern with decorum and decency, naked control-lust, and pure contempt for the many victims of what the world has slowly become aware is simply history’s longest-running and best-protected organized gang of criminals.

In past years, Francis’ gang of thugs and bullies could simply silence their victims. That’s one reason the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report sounded so devastating to Catholicism itself.

For the first time, we could trace the paper trail that tracked predatory child-rapists in priestly garb. We could see–in living color, really–exactly how this church preened and prided itself on how holy it looked from the outside, while fully protecting men they knew were predators who sought out, groomed, and then viciously sexually attacked children.

The World’s Grandpa–NOT.

And at the top, presiding over this carnival of carnality and lies, sat sweet, doddering old Pope Francis. He nodded and smiled and gestured benevolently in his new role as the world’s self-appointed grandpa.

Even some atheists fell over themselves to compliment him for granting atheists one after another of his famous left-handed compliments. Not too many, and some of ’em saw through it like I did, but I heard way too much praise for him at the time.

And yet–as that Guardian link reveals–he has turned out to be just as bad as his predecessors. He just marketed himself better, that’s all. He still reached for silencing as his immediate response to serious allegations concerning “muddled” bookkeeping, seriously- (and almost certainly intentionally-) underestimated real estate holdings, and mind-bogglingly high expenses racked up by a relatively minor office that investigates potential canonization candidates.

When it came to his priests and higher-ups accused of child rape, he folded and followed his predecessors’ example there too.

Il Papa? The World’s Capo dei Capi, More Like.

According to a bombshell allegation, Pope Francis both knew and covered up the predation of Theodore McCarrick, a cardinal from Washington. McCarrick had already retired back in 2006–which is how then-Bishop (now Cardinal) Donald Wuerl got his current position. Then Francis allowed McCarrick to fully resign from his rank in July after a church panel discovered evidence revealing his long-standing predations.

But Francis didn’t hand this predator over to the authorities. Instead, he ordered McCarrick to spend his remaining lifetime thinking very hard at the ceiling and feeling very sorry for what he did. He didn’t fully defrock McCarrick, either. We can’t possibly have wishy-washy, no-follow-through, all-quit-and-no-go Francis doing anything so firm. McCarrick remains a priest for now and lives on the Catholic Church’s dime. (He now lives in an idyllic rural Kansas friary–at their post-resignation invitation. Their “Safe Environment” page stresses their concern for sex abuse victims. However, they, um, invited a known sexual predator to come live there.)

And now we hear allegations that Pope Francis had received some kind of list of sanctions meant to rule McCarrick. His predecessor Pope Benedict had imposed them originally. The list included no-brainers like not letting McCarrick celebrate large public Masses and not get to visit the Pope. Benedict did not bother enforcing his own list. When Benedict retired, McCarrick became Francis’ problem. For his part, Francis seems to have handled things in the same lackadaisical way.

I’m sure both popes felt reluctant to tamper with a goose who laid so many millions of golden eggs.

Screencap from the WaPo story about McCarrick’s fundraising.

Predictably, though, nobody at Casa Frankie wanted to chat.

Now the Crisis.

Now that people finally see just how far up the chain of command this child-rape scandal goes, some of them are calling for the (metaphorical) head of their onetime grandpa. But the wave of disapproval runs deeper than that.

In Ireland, where Francis visited in August, the crowds looked way smaller than they had for the rockstar turnout and treatment enjoyed by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Even the homilies and sermons given by the two popes differed markedly in character. Francis marked his visit there with pleas for “forgiveness” from the Irish for the scandals the Catholic Church incurred there (like Tuam). But he undercut his pleas with a certain curt-sounding defensiveness regarding the accusations leveled at him.

Compare and contrast this pretense of shame and reconciliation with the firm drilling-down JP2 gave in 1979!

We can also compare and contrast Francis’ approval ratings over the years of his short reign. CNN’s been running polls about this for a while now. In 2013, 72% of surveyed American adults felt favorably toward him. By January 2017, that number had sunk to two-thirds. And now this past September, only 48% of respondents said their view of him was “favorable.” American Catholics’ approval ran higher than those of Americans as a whole. Still, their approval of him dropped in near-lockstep with non-Catholics.

So thanks, CNN. Only about half my country has a drastically mistaken opinion of the current pope. I’ll take what good news I can get these days.

The Pope’s Shocking Response.

This punchline deserves the setup I gave it.

Stand beside me at the lip of Catholicism’s precipice. Hold my hand. You’re safe. I won’t let you fall. Look down into the abyss of rapidly-deflating power, credibility, membership, and most importantly coffer levels. Now, imagine you’re the leader of one of the biggest and oldest criminal enterprises on the planet. Yes. Imagine that your duplicity–your complicity–has finally begun to peek through your marketing facade.

What do you suppose such a world leader would do, faced with that precipice?

Apparently, if you are Pope Francis, you do what Christians nearly everywhere do when they find themselves faced with a complete refutation of their entire belief system.

Apparently, you blame Satan for everything and hope to “God” that your remaining rubes buy it.

My Even Is Going, Going, GONE.

I don’t even know why I’m even surprised anymore by what Christians do. Seriously, I shouldn’t be. This is so par for the course that they’ve all but got the strategy printed inside their Bible covers surrounded by hearts and kissy lips.

But this took the cake. It ate the whole thing. Then it belched, criticized the frosting choice, and demanded more.

Pope Francis seriously gave an address that blamed Satan for the tumble his church (and its leader) is taking. He declared that Satan was attacking Catholicism. He said, according to Reuters,

(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past.

Yep, you saw that right. He didn’t ask for the thousands of victims of his organization to be “saved.” Instead, he asked for divine protection for the opportunists that helped their abusers avoid justice and keep preying upon children. Remember the ones who put their own power and privilege ahead of children’s innocence? Yeah, Francis’ sympathies lie wholly with the predators and their handlers.

Francis ended by asking faithful Catholics to recite their rosaries every single day in October. He even asked them to recite a magic spell that fell out of fashion in the 1960s.

He’s okay with his organization being made “more aware” of its massive crimes and wrongdoing–but not this way. He doesn’t feel coddled and pampered enough this way. Plus, GAWRSH, SHAGGY, ultra-high-level Catholic leaders like cardinals and archbishops just didn’t knooooooooooooow back in the heady days of what, 2002? (YES) that covering up for kiddie rapists was baaaaaaaaaaad. They must be educated to see that!

And Oh What a Magic Spell!

I will now fisk this magic spell/invocation sentence by sentence:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Translation: Defend my pasty white ancient ass from the consequences of my actions, which have very alarmingly come home to roost at last.

Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

Translation: I want you to silence all those victims who have the boorish bad grace to talk about all my kiddie-raping priests who keep assaulting them and then seeking cover-ups from me and all my pals. I take for granted the idea that anything that pares away my power and forces me to deal with this scandal is the product of an eons-old infernal enemy of my group. This scrutiny is certainly not the direct consequence of the system I lead having been created and honed point by point to become the child-abusing and enabling tribe that it is today.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

The translation bot choked on this but managed to spit this out before it died: We see ourselves, and I specifically include myself in that number, as helpless victims of demonic meddling. We can’t possibly be the criminally-culpable enablers of child abusers. Nor could we possibly deserve all the meaniepie criticism we’ve encountered in recent days and months. We’re not the ones ruining souls forever. That honor belongs to an imaginary boogeyman that we’ve never been able to prove exists.

The Problem With Satan.

I’ve mentioned this before but it was a while ago, so let me briefly discuss why it’s such a problem that Christians point to Satan as the cause of their troubles. At its core, this habit is a deflection attempt to avoid responsibility and blame.

The more fervent and hardline the form of Christianity, the more fundamentally broken it is. By that term, I mean that it cannot actually fulfill its stated purpose anymore. Worse, it causes immense damage to its members and anybody who brushes up against it.

That doesn’t mean it’s doomed, necessarily. Some broken systems last for centuries–even millennia, in Catholicism’s case. But it can no longer live up to its own hype. It fails by every single metric people use to measure such things.

But the people within a broken system can’t closely examine it for shortcomings and flaws. Their leaders disallow such scrutiny. See, scrutiny leads to evaluations. Evaluations lead to blame. Blame leads to the paring-away of unearned power. We can’t have that!

So when problems come up, they blame an imaginary boogeyman. And they declare that that is why their system fails so hugely. That, they tell people, is why so many predators abuse so many victims without getting detected ahead of time–or at least caught and punished afterward.

Nobody needs to (or even may) look further into the system itself. They play Deflection Patty-Cake with this imaginary enemy instead. And the abuse keeps happening, and nothing changes.

This deflection game is exactly how monstrous injustices persist for generations in a system claiming moral superiority over the whole world.

Did They Buy It?

Chances are good that if he’d given that address/message twenty years ago, it would have worked. Twenty years ago, we still only had the vague rumbles of something rotten in the state of Catholicism. (Remember all those “jokes” that held a ghastly truth?) Catholic leaders still enjoyed quite a lot of credibility and power, as well as plausible deniability.

But those years are long gone.

They didn’t require any gods or boogeymen to make that change, either.

All it took was a whole small standing army of priests and their handlers who committed or knew about horrific child abuse and kept quiet about it.

Nope. Nobody’s Buying It.

A couple of weeks ago, Francis was still trotting out his minimization-recentering-moral leveling game. But this time, nobody outside the tribe seems to have been persuaded.

First of all, that archbishop who wrote that huge long accusation letter sure felt personally attacked by Francis’ relatable content. Indeed, Reuters tells us that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said he did not like being equated with “the great accuser.” I’d generally agree that Francis was thinking specifically of Viganò, but dang, it’s not like he doesn’t have an embarrassment of riches in the accusers department.

(Plus, Christians themselves accuse people of all sorts of things. It’s like they’re worshiping the wrong divinity.)

Naturally, the official (and hilarious, and interesting) Twitter feed of the Church of Satan mocked Francis’ attempt to deflect blame onto “a supernatural scapegoat.” They sound supremely unimpressed with his attempt to triangulate like a classic narcissist drama-llama.

Newsweek made its displeasure known–between the lines. A UK news site called Unilad gleefully reported the pushback, however. The Irish sound like they think this blame attempt is simply ridiculous. And The Sun in the UK laid emphasis on “tried” in their headline about Francis trying to lay blame on Satan.

A Quick Game.

Shall we play a game?

OH HEY, let’s play a quick game.

See that map above there? That’s most of Victoria, Kansas, a town of about 1200 a few hops and a skipping jump away from the (comparatively) big city of Hays, Kansas. The red dot marks the address of St. Fidelis Friary. It’s the same address used by the Cathedral of the Plains, the Catholic church in the first photo on this post. Again: They use the same address.

Please look at this map (full URL here, or click to embiggen), and try to figure out how many children live around or hang out near the address for Theodore McCarrick’s new home. Remember, he inhabits this place AT THEIR EXPRESS INVITATION.

Yep. They totally worry about making a safe environment.

It’s just not a sentiment aimed at children.

Most of All.

I’m sure Pope Francis is thinking these days about that Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. If he isn’t, then he is a fool, a coward, and a moral failure. That report was nothing less than a harbinger of doom for American Catholicism.

NBC News has turned up the startling fact that no fewer than thirteen states are now beginning similar investigations. They tell us that Florida just joined the roster. All told, five days ago that roster comprised them plus “Arkansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Vermont.” Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette, has already seized a bunch of files from all seven of the Catholic dioceses in his state. (California might be next.)

I’m not much for gambling, but I rather think the odds are very good that every one of those states will turn up abuse that is just as bad as what Pennsylvania discovered. Nobody is going to end these investigations by wiping their brow and breathing a sigh of relief that none of that was going on in their state.

And this time, I think a lot of people see exactly the same thing I see coming. William Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore, declared that the crisis facing Catholicism was “one of trust.” I know I wasn’t the only person who said out loud to the monitor, “No, it’s one of child rape and cover-ups.”

Catholic leaders avoid that simple reality like it is their one remaining job.

That said, they’ll be avoiding it with fewer and fewer members as time goes on, and with fewer coddled criminals and connivers around–and, very likely, way less money to fritter away on frivolities like canonization committees! None of it will fully satisfy the needs of justice. But it’ll be a decent start.

NEXT UP: Speeeeeeeeaking of avoiding reality, we’ll be looking at how J.D. Greear insists the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is going to fix its long, agonizing decline. See you next time!

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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