Pope Francis has doubled down in his insistence that accusations and cries for justice and accountability are fruit of a diabolical spirit, saying Thursday that the only legitimate accusation is against oneself.
Before his meeting with the leadership of the U.S. Bishops Conference Thursday to discuss recent allegations of serious mishandling of clerical sex abuse reaching up to the pontiff himself, the pope used his homily at morning Mass to once again condemn accusers as allies of the devil.
Not accusing others “goes against the spirit of the world,” the pope told his small congregation in the chapel of his Santa Marta residence. “Among us is the great accuser, who always goes to accuse us before God, in order to destroy us. Satan: He is the great accuser.”
“When I enter into this logic of accusing, cursing, trying to hurt the other, I enter into the logic of the great accuser who is destructive,” he said, “who does not know the word ‘mercy.’ He does not know it and has never lived it.”
The Christian path always presents a crossroads, Francis said. On the one hand there us “the invitation of the Lord” to be merciful, an invitation that is a grace, a grace of sonship, to resemble the father. On the other hand, there is “the great accuser, Satan, who urges us to accuse others, to destroy them.”
We cannot “enter into the logic of the accuser,” he continued, because “the only legitimate accusation that we Christians have is to accuse ourselves. For others there is only mercy, for we are children of the father who is merciful.”
The pope’s pointed reflections came just two days after he preached a similar homily in which he said that Satan, the “Great Accuser,” has been unleashed against the bishops of the Church.
On August 25, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused a number of prelates of dereliction of duty in dealing with clerical sex abuse and accused the pope himself of rehabilitating serial homosexual abuser Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, elevating him to a position of influence despite knowledge of his misdeeds.
In his 11-page testimony, Viganò alleged that he had personally informed Pope Francis in 2013 of McCarrick’s history of abuse, along with sanctions imposed on his ministry by Pope Benedict XVI, and yet the pope lifted those sanctions and involved McCarrick in the naming of future bishops.
The pope’s has frequently calls for transparency and accountability for those responsible for committing or covering up sex abuse, and yet now seems to suggest that accusations involving bishops or the pope are in some way Satanic.
In the past, Francis has encouraged victims of abuse or those who had knowledge of abuse should come forward to seek justice and accountability. His recent denunciation of “accusers” now seems to present a contrary message: that accusers are followers of Satan.
The pope’s change in message will inevitably come across to some as self-serving, since recent accusations have directly involved him and his manner of handing the serial abuse of a personal friend and high-ranking prelate.