WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A group of American laity wants to investigate every cardinal in the world who is young enough to be eligible to vote in a conclave.
The Better Church Governance Group kicked off with an RSVP-only event Sunday evening on the campus of the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. Crux reported on it as did other Catholic media outlets.
The new organization's goal is to produce a "Red Hat Report," a dossier on all the cardinals of the world who could vote in a papal conclave, by the year 2020. The group will incorporate the efforts of former FBI agents, Catholic journalists and others to investigate cardinals under the age of 80 — the cut-off point for participating in a papal conclave. The latest count puts the number of cardinal electors worldwide at 124.
Jacob Imam, the Better Church Governance Group's operations director, is a scholar at the University of Oxford who converted to Catholicism three years ago. He said at the launch event Sunday night, "Cardinals need to be held accountable publicly."
The group predicts its work will cost over $1 million in the next year.
Imam asked the audience during his presentation Sunday night, "What if we would have had someone else in 2013 who would have been more proactive in protecting the innocent and the young?"
This is referring to Pope Francis' poor track record on handling allegations of clerical sex abuse. In his native Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was accused of protecting pedophile priest Fr. Julio César Grassi.
In the slideshow accompanying Imam's presentation, one of the slides reportedly stated, "Had we had the Red Hat Report, we may not have had Pope Francis."
This is similar to what Henry Sire, author of The Dictator Pope, told Church Militant in a recent Mic'd Up episode. Sire opined about Francis' election at the 2013 conclave, "If they'd known what sort of man he was, they wouldn't have voted for him."
Among other things, the Red Hat Report will list cardinals under rankings of "Strong Evidence of Abuse/Corruption, Some Evidence, Positive Evidence Against Abuse/Corruption."
One of the things that spurred the organizing of the Red Hat Report was the Pennsylvania grand jury report. August's bombshell report detailed allegations of child sex abuse against 301 priests and religious across six of Pennsylvania's eight Catholic dioceses.
Implicated in the grand jury report was Cdl. Donald Wuerl, currently head of the Washington, D.C. archdiocese. There have been widespread calls for Wuerl's resignation. Wuerl himself even met with Pope Francis to discuss the possibility of his resignation. Despite Wuerl having already submitted his resignation when he turned 75 years old (as is standard), the Pope is keeping Wuerl in the position.
Philip Nielsen, managing editor of the Red Hat Report, said in an email to supporters that was obtained by Catholic media, "This final verdict on each will be based on our best evidence and the recommendations of best experts."
There was some controversy about the Better Church Governance Group's event taking place at CUA, given the university's close ties with U.S. bishops and cardinals. CUA was founded by the U.S. bishops, and there are six cardinals on the university's board.
CUA officials distanced the university from the event, saying in a statement to media, "A space on campus was reserved by a student in accordance with our space reservation procedures. The event was not sponsored by The Catholic University of America, nor a university-sponsored organization."