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During the past few years, a number of priests and seminarians have been dismissed or suspended by bishops, who retaliated against them for exposing sexual predation or clerical homosexual misconduct. These canceled whistleblowers were recently thrown a bombshell with the news that Pope Francis removed Bp. Daniel Fernández Torres of Puerto Rico. While it seems to have been mainly priests and seminarians who've been targeted for exposing the sins of their superiors, Pope Francis appears to have escalated the reprisals by disrupting the career of a bishop who would not keep the so-called code of silence.
When Dublin's now-retired Abp. Diarmuid Martin turned over some 65,000 documents to the Murphy Commission revealing how numerous Irish prelates covered up the sexual abuse of minors for decades, he became the hero of the Irish media — but the pariah of Church leaders. If Martin's transparency, which proved very embarrassing to the Church, killed his chances of ever becoming a cardinal, then his chances were further destroyed when he broke ties with fellow prelates in Ireland by removing his Dublin seminarians from St. Patrick's College seminary in Maynooth. Martin had his seminarians moved to the Irish College in Rome after the Maynooth seminary was alleged to be the site of scandalous homosexual activity.
Like Martin in Maynooth, Bp. Torres refused to send his seminarians to Puerto Rico's inter-diocesan seminary — fearing they may be groomed, harassed or abused. The pro-family Torres also upset members of the LGBTQ+ community for opposing a bill that would have banned reparative therapy for homosexuals.
In 2021, Torres also described gender ideology as a violation of parental rights and as "religious persecution."
Prior to Francis' actions against Torres, prelates who criticized fellow Churchmen for covering up clerical abuse or misconduct were not dealt with so heavy-handedly. Most bishops like Torres, if they were not allowed to reach retirement age like Martin, were urged to resign of their own volition. Dutch auxiliary bishop Rob Mutsaerts resigned after Bp. Gerard de Korte opened his cathedral for a "Pink Saturday" LGBTQ event. Upset with de Korte's pro-gay agenda, Mutsaerts wrote in his blog, "They want to change the doctrine on homosexuality, not because they want to be merciful toward the heavy burden of sin, but to say sin is no longer sin."
While Pope Francis was reported to have accepted Mutsaerts' resignation, he rejected the resignations of pro-LGBTQ prelates like German cardinal Reinhard Marx (who admitted to having covered up countless sex abuse cases when he was the bishop of Trier) and German abp. Stefan Hesse (who came under fire for his handling of sex abuse cases).
Even though Francis has rejected the resignations of those who cover up abuse, his recent removal of Torres reminds Vatican observers of how Francis got Cdl. Gerhard Müller to step down as the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Müller's resignation came after Francis ordered him to cease his investigation into allegations of sexual abuse involving British cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor who, as a member of the St. Gallen Mafia, reportedly helped secure Francis' election.
Like every bishop in the world, Torres knows that Pope Francis lied when he asserted that sex abuse was never a problem when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. While Torres was left out in the cold, Francis defended the Argentine predator, Bp. Gustavo Zanchetta, who was recently convicted of abusing seminarians. Francis also attempted to get a 15-year prison sentence overturned for his close friend, homosexual predator Fr. Julio César Grassi. Throughout his trial, Grassi claimed to be supported especially by Bergoglio, who, he said, "never let go of my hand [and] is always at my side."
Francis is very popular among the members of the LGBTQ community in Buenos Aires, including some of his former seminarians. But some attribute his reluctance to return to Argentina following his papal election to the fact that he is hated by Argentine abuse victims and their families, who may not give him a warm welcome. It's been reported that while serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, "[Bergoglio] released no documents, no names of accused priests, no tallies of accused priests, no policy for handling abuse, not even an apology to victims."
Francis fired Torres just like Cdl. Blase Cupich got rid of Fr. Paul Kalchik, like Bp. Barry Knestout suspended Fr. Mark White, like Bp. William Callahan withdrew the faculties of Fr. James Altman, and like Cdl. Timothy Dolan allegedly coerced former seminarian Anthony Gorgia into leaving formation. In Gorgia's case, seminary officials sought to prevent him from exposing sexual predation by former NAC vice rector and Washington, D.C., priest Fr. Adam Park; and homosexual misconduct by the outgoing NAC rector, Springfield, Illinois priest Fr. Peter Harman.
Just as compromised bishops often discard whistleblower priests and seminarians under absurdly false pretenses, so do headlines like this lead some to believe Torres was removed for refusing to sign a statement about vaccines issued by the Puerto Rican bishops' conference. Even if the pope and the Puerto Rican bishops have a different view than Torres on the "moral obligation" to receive the COVID jab, Torres' position is in line with the Vatican's statement issued in 2020 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Because many priests and seminarians have been removed for speaking out against clerical misconduct, there is a fear that Pope Francis will replace Torres with a pro-LGBTQ prelate — one who will support gender ideology, oppose reparative therapy for homosexuals and order his seminarians to study at places believed to foster a homosexual culture.
Gene Thomas Gomulka is a retired (O6) Navy captain and chaplain. He is also an author, screenwriter and abuse victims' advocate. Ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, Gomulka was later made a prelate of honor (monsignor) by Pope John Paul II.