The pattern is by now familiar. Serious criticisms are leveled by serious people against the pope; the pope ignores them; and his associates and defenders disregard the substance of the criticisms while flinging ad hominem attacks at the critics. This happened during the doctrinal controversies over Amoris Laetitia and capital punishment, and it is happening again in the wake of Archbishop Vigano’s astonishing testimony. The pope refuses to answer the charges against him. The Usual Sycophants try to smear the archbishop and his defenders as disgruntled reactionaries. Among Uncle Ted’s boys, Cardinal Cupich leapt almost immediately for the bottom of the rhetorical barrel: “Quite frankly, they also don’t like [the pope] because he’s a Latino.”
This “ignore the message and pillory the messenger” strategy would be contemptible coming from a grubby ward politician. It is, needless to say, utterly unworthy of the Vicar of Christ and his cardinals. But from the point of view of cynical political calculation, it has its advantages. It has, after all, seemed to work so far.