Watch Evening News weeknights at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The Pope is supposed to act as the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth. The word "vicar" denotes someone acting as the agent or representative of another, doing on their behalf what they would do if they were present in the flesh. This understanding of the word suggests that a simple question conveys the standard for Papal words and actions: What would Jesus do?
Now, formally speaking, under the law of the Roman Empire, Christ suffered the death penalty for challenging the superior authority of the Roman emperor with the claim that He was King of the Jews. So when the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked Christ if He was the King of the Jews, the question went to the crux of the legal question of whether He was guilty of a capital crime.
In none of the gospels does Christ simply answer yes or no. In three of them, Christ makes the terse observation, "You say so," ignoring the fact that Pilate has asked Him to deny or affirm the truth of the accusation. In the fourth gospel, Christ answers Pilate's question with a question about the information that leads Pilate to ask it: "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you?" In his answer, Pilate points to Christ's people, the Jews, and the chief priests of their religion.
At this point, if Christ simply denies that He is a king, He places responsibility for the assertion on others who make or accept it. But he knows that, insofar as His own followers bear witness to its truth, they do so on account of their vocation from God. ("No one is given the ability to come to me unless the Father has granted it to him" John 6:65.) But Jesus cannot deny the vocation of God's will in respect of His kingdom since it is also His vocation. Denying it would betray those who trust in Him. So He answers without denying it, thus keeping faith with God and those God has entrusted to his care:
"My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world." Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose, I was born, and for this purpose, I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."
Christ's otherworldly affirmation keeps faith with God and those who believe in Him. But by accepting kingly status, He gives credence to the charge against Him. For a decree of the Roman Senate accorded divine status to Rome's princeps — his authority was, therefore, divine. Christ's reference to His true kingdom was, therefore, an admission of guilt. With this admission in hand, the question of guilt was, from Pilate's perspective, thereby decided as a matter of law. With his last rueful question — "What is truth?" — he dismissed Christ's true vocation as irrelevant.
Christ emphatically did not. He knew that His statement exemplified the charge against Him. He refused to save his own life by betraying the lives, reborn in faith God that meant for Him to save. To relieve all who believed in Him of the penalty of death God's law requires, He exposed himself to the penalty of death at human hands. He thus put the work of God's salvation above all works of human making, approving in Himself the love of God that conquers death, to restore true life forever.
What is truth? As the living body of Christ, gloriously resurrected, the Church affirms it is the way and life of Christ the Lord. Given this affirmation, how are those who profess to be members of His body to construe the word's of Cdl. Blase Cupich when he said (speaking of the furor over clerical sex abuse, and high clerics who concealed, aided and abetted it)?
Cupich characterized the accusations made against the Pope by Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò as a "rabbit hole."
For the Holy Father, I think, to get into each and every one of those aspects, in some way is inappropriate, and secondly, the Pope has a bigger agenda. He's got to get on with other things of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.
Leave aside, if you like, the ideological agenda these words prioritize. Given the context, the reference to "the work of the Church," arrests our attention. The report of former Papal nuncio Abp. Viganò alleges woefully scandalous activities at the highest levels of the Church. These alleged activities are such as to corrupt good faith and morals in the Chruch, among clerics and laity alike. They particularly involve teachers and leaders of the Church especially entrusted with the administration of the sacraments and the evangelization and care of souls throughout the world, drawn by God to the truth of Christ and His Gospel of salvation.
Isn't this the core purpose and meaning of "the work of the Church"? If those particularly avowed and charged with "carry on" that work are instead destroying it, or helping to conceal its destruction, what "agenda" is more important than uprooting this enterprise of evil, reversing its ill effects and preventing any recurrence in future? Christ Himself established this priority:
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (John 10:3–7)
Today, the Catholic Church confronts the possibility sheep are not just getting lost. Their supposed shepherds who are misleading them into gaping maw of sin and iniquity, where both their bodies will be denatured and abused in ways that cajole them to follow secular signposts to perdition, instead of Christ's way of life and truth. Are those intended to preserve the savor of the salt poisoning it instead? Until the Body of Christ confirms and acts to end the crisis, what work is more urgently "the work of the Church" than restoring its savor of Christ's truth, so that good seed will once again be drawn to feed upon it and flourish?