Pope Asks Forgiveness for Church Scandals; Questions Raised About Cardinal Danneels

Cardinal Godfried Dannels
Cardinal Godfried Dannels (photo: Screenshot)

Pope Francis today asked for forgiveness for scandals that have taken place in the Church, the Vatican and also in the city of Rome.

Before beginning his catechesis at his weekly general audience, in which he underlined the need to remain loyal to the promises we give to our children, the Holy Father said:

“In the name of the Church, I would like to ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have happened in these recent times, whether in Rome or in the Vatican, for which I ask forgiveness.”

A slew of scandals have plagued the Church and the Vatican over the past few years, including most obviously the clerical sex abuse crisis, but also scandals over Vatican finances, and the Vatileaks farrago.

Others scandals the Pope might have had in mind involve bishops primarily in parts of German-speaking Europe who seemingly show little or no regard for the sixth commandment by pushing for Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, and are accused of undermining the Church’s teaching by supporting same-sex relationships.

A letter to Pope Francis, signed last week by 11 cardinal synod fathers (there were only ever 11 according to the chief signatory, the Register has learned), was also considered by some to be a scandal.

But the private, confidential letter, which recommended the Pope introduce a few measures to ensure the current Synod on the Family taking place in Rome runs better, was in line with the Pope’s wish for a free and open discussion. The scandal, if there was any, was that it was leaked.

The intrigue surrounding that story is therefore not as serious as some would like it to seem.

More seriously, the Pope’s comments come in the face of his decision to personally choose Cardinal Godfried Danneels, a former Archbishop of Brussels, Belgium, to take part in the current Synod on the Family. Critics say the actions of the cardinal, considered to be a close confidant of Francis, have been a great cause of scandal.  Pope Francis chose him to be one of his 45 papal delegates at the meeting. The cardinal also took part in last year's extraordinary session. 

Among a list of abuses, the cardinal is accused of covering up a sex abuse case, urging the King of Belgium to sign a law permitting abortion, and has confessed to being a member of a secretive, so-called St Gallen group that opposed Pope Benedict and sought to have Cardinal Bergoglio elected in 2005 (also very possibly in 2013, too, although the group officially disbanded in 2006). The cardinal has referred to it jokingly as a kind of “mafia.”

Respected German journalist and author Paul Badde told CNA Oct. 10 that having such a prelate take part in a synod on "the vocation and mission of marriage and family" is a “mystery to many, to say the least.”

Asked why he is present at the synod at a briefing at the Vatican today, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, said he didn’t “have any comment on that. He was invited and he accepted. The matter’s for him.”

No other synod father present, nor Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, offered any explanation.