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Pope_Francis_in_flight_press_conference_3_Jan_18_2015_Vatican_Catholic_News_Credit_Alan_Holdren_CNA_CNA.jpegWhen questioned about the accusations in the letter written by Archbishop Carlo Viganó on the return flight to Rome after the World Meeting of Families in Ireland, Pope Francis did something quite revolutionary I think. He did not just say, “I will not say a single word on this” as many people have been focusing on. He went on to do something else, he opened a door and he made an invitation.

Although specifically addressing the crowd of journalists on the plane, he invited anyone who is interested to read the letter for him or herself and to come to their own conclusions but then he went further and made a specific invitation to the journalists (both on the plane and world-wide I think), “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…”

If the pope had countered the archbishop’s claims right then, the press would have been left reporting from the sidelines about the latest scandal in the Church and the latest skirmish between opposing Church factions. The image that comes to me is that of a tennis match – people passively watching from the stands and giving commentary as the two players on the court battle it out. By making his invitation, Pope Francis is welcoming the journalists (and through them the laity) onto the court itself and, in essence, is saying “You, also, have a role to play both in this game and for the good of the Church!” This is quite revolutionary.

“But I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you…”

It was a group of reporters (trained to investigate and uncover) who doggedly pursued and exposed the abuse scandal in Boston. It has been reporters who have helped to uncover abuses of power that have occurred in Ireland of which the pope just saw and heard firsthand prior to boarding that flight to Rome. Reporters are trained investigators. Inviting them onto the court and into the game carries ramifications.

It is not wise I think to try to judge the intentions of another person. Only God can see into the soul of a person and usually when we try to judge another’s intentions the only thing we do is hold up a mirror reflecting ourselves. But actions and words can be evaluated, judged and weighed. An invitation (especially at this level of power and authority) is an action. Inviting trained journalists into the game and onto the court does not strike me as the action of someone who is trying to hide something. Just my own thought.

Priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes might be wonderful Christians with amazing gifts and possibly even saints but that does not mean that they are skilled in the work of investigation and neither are Catholic bloggers and pundits despite their love for the faith and the Church. I do not know what has occurred in regards to these allegations nor who knew what at whatever level and (if true) when and as I watch all these things unfold I am extremely grateful that I am a priest in a parish. One thing I do believe though is that what appears to be needed at this time is a specific skillset. The skill to be tenacious in pursuing truth and uncovering abuse. This is the skill of the investigative journalist.

I must admit that I do not know all the details of what goes into an Apostolic Visitation (an action that is currently being requested of Rome by the U.S. Bishops). I do not know if it is set in stone that such a visitation be comprised of certain members of the church hierarchy alone but maybe an option in Rome’s response to this request would be to send a visitation team of which some members are faith-filled lay men and women who love the Church and who bring with them the skills of investigation – perhaps even some investigative reporters.

“But I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you…”

… and it will be good for the Church.