The world knows Pope Francis can do surprising things.
He is not hide bound to tradition. The evidence is clear on a number of fronts, the latest of which being his Sunday announcement of the second round of cardinal appointments of his papacy.
Now, how about a surprise that might shake some sense into his hierarchy: un-hatting.
Today, January 6, 2015, — thirteen years into the Boston revelations of the sexual abuse scandal that became the tidal wave of revelations throughout the United States and rippling, then flooding across the world, — seems a most fitting day to consider un-hatting.
Cardinals who don’t deserve their station should have their red hats rescinded. If accountability is a real end of Francis the Reformer, then Francis the Giver should also be Francis the Taker Awayer – and no hat should come with a lifetime guarantee.
If the affront of a naked head would be too much to bear for those who made deliberate decisions not to protect children, then let Pope Francis create a switching-out day as well as a cardinal-making day. Switching out day could swap red hats for black ones.
Good Friday seems a fitting day for that — without a third day return policy built in, of course.
If not Good Friday, then any day that is a cause for fireworks. Or how about Chinese New Year which this year falls on February 19, just five days beyond the hatting of Francis’ new crop of cardinals. And interestingly enough, this year it’s the Year of the Sheep.
Un-hatting for the dereliction of duty which allowed and then turned a blind eye to the rape and sodomy of children seems a balanced opposite of what cardinals hear they are supposed to live up to when they kneel before a pope and receive a red hat:
“To the glory of Almighty God and the honour of the Apostolic See, receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of Holy Roman Church.”
Indeed, it must be said that for what is passed off as courage by most cardinals when juxtaposed to those in the world who daily are under the threat of the shedding of their blood, these words are betrayed by pomposity and eviscerated of the nobility of their promise.
What peace and tranquility is promoted when victims and their families are rent asunder by the savageness of the physical and psychological wounds of sexual abuse?
Who are the poor, if not the victims of sexual abuse?
Who are human trafficking victims, if not these?
Who are those whose freedom was unmercifully, selfishly, cruelly taken, if not these?
Pope Francis may say as many times as he wishes that being named a cardinal is not a promotion, but the perception of reality is reality and, make no mistake, news stories, conversation, comment and convention regarding these men will carry the words “elevated, prince, ceremony , celebration and exclusivity and privilege.”
Thirteen long years into a major revelations of the sexual abuse scandal in the United States, not to mention the revelations from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina, to mention a few — and three popes on — we’ve got a papal commission peopled by only two survivors.
Surely that does not measure up to anyone’s definition of courage.
If the singular role of cardinals in the Church is the election of a pope can we really not find better people than these among more than a billion Catholics to elect the Church’s leader? Really?
This list of the un-hatted should begin with Bernard Law and Roger Mahony but certainly should not end with them — and it should not end within the ranks of cardinals. The list of bishops that should be un-hatted should begin with Robert Finn.
Isn’t it time for a real epiphany?
Think anew, St. Paul tells us.
Let the un-hatting begin.
— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com