Officials are adrift as the Vatican reels from one crisis to the next

Back in January, the question on everyone’s mind was: will the curial reform finally take shape this year? It was clear that 2018 would be a make-or-break one for Pope Francis – a year in which he would have to decide whether to use his gifts to set his project of curial reform and Church renewal back on track.

That was before Chile, before the crisis of clerical sex abuse and cover-up exploded in his face, and became the focus of new and sustained media attention. By March, the fifth anniversary of Francis’s election, it was clear that 2018 was off to a rocky start. Still, we were in the first quarter. There was time, if there was will, to turn the thing around.

Then focus on the Chilean theatre of the global crisis brought with it scrutiny of one of the “C9” Council of Cardinal Advisers drafting the blueprint for the new, improved Roman Curia, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz. The victims Pope Francis repeatedly accused of calumny and then invited to his house for the weekend, so he could apologise to them and promise firm action after a Vatican investigation, made papal denial of the rot in Chilean Church leadership culture impossible.

The victims accused Cardinal Errázuriz of being an architect of the cover-up. The cardinal denies the claims, and the attention and criticism Cardinal Errázuriz he faced after the investigation were not enough to move the pope to dismiss him from his hand-picked kitchen cabinet advisers.

Other members of the C9 are also in hot water. Cardinal George Pell is on extended leave while he fights abuse charges back home in Australia. The moderator of the C9, Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, has faced criticism after an auxiliary was forced to resign earlier this year in connection with accusations of moral turpitude not dissimilar in some respects to those levelled against the disgraced former Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick.

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