"Come down from the cross"

In December, I wrote a post here at dotCommonweal about how Pope Francis's leadership is having an impact on the bishops of Spain. The sex abuse scandal in Granada is one of the instances in which Pope Francis's personal initiative has made a difference. The story continues today with an update in the New York Times.

As you may recall, one of the remarkable features of the case was that the Pope himself contacted the victim, identified at the time only by the name of "Daniel," and followed up with him.

Francis phoned him, first on August 10, to apologize, a call in which he expressed great compassion for Daniel’s suffering and told him the process was underway to address the situation. Then, on October 10, he phoned a second time to urge him to ask that sanctions be enacted. Daniel then went to a public prosecutor. It appears that the Archbishop of Granada, Francisco Xavier Martínez Fernández, had dragged his feet, doing no more than suspending three priests, a decision he defended, saying the young man had asked him to do no more than this. It has since emerged that others are involved in the scandal in Granada. As many as a dozen priests (10% of the secular clergy of the diocese) may now be facing sanctions in what is the first major scandal of its kind in Spain.

El Diario predicted on December 1 that Archbishop Martinez of Granada would be out of his post after Christmas. His successor had "virtually been named," the story said, and further claimed that Martinez himself was looking for a way to ease the transition, rather than leaving in disgrace. (He is a biblical studies scholar and said he would welcome an assignment in the Holy Land.)

Well, here we are in February and Martinez is still Archbishop of Granada. The New York Times takes up the story today, with a fresh summary and update on what's happening with the case. The report reveals the real name of the plaintiff: David Ramírez Castillo, and tells more about the lawsuit. It does not offer much news on the church front. Nevertheless, this quote from a spokeswoman for the Granada Archdiocese caught my eye. 

Last month, Granada’s archbishop met Pope Francis in Rome, prompting speculation that he would be asked to resign.

But Paqui Pallarés, a spokeswoman for the Granada diocese, said that the pope had instead urged the archbishop to “come down from the cross” and face up to problems within his diocese.

Presuming Pope Francis is indeed keeping Martinez on the job in Granada, what do you think? Is it better for a prelate in his situation to be removed, or to stay and "face the music"?

Archbishop Martinez is 57 years old, too young to retire. This is the second scandal he has been embroiled in. The first, in 2013, was sparked by his decision to publish a Spanish translation of a controversial book entitled, Marry and Be Submissive, by an Italian author. He defended the thesis of the book as based on the Bible.


Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press). She is a contributing writer to Commonweal.

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