The new pope's first crisis is not related to the Church's controversial position on contraceptives or proposals for female clergy.
Francis' first major quandary is getting rid of a Puerto Rican
archbishop who, despite the Vatican's numerous requests, has repeatedly
refused to step down.
The source of Pope Francis' current ordeal is Roberto Octavio González
Nieves, the outspoken Archbishop of San Juan, who has been accused by
Vatican emissaries of allegedly protecting pedophile priests, abusing
his power, promoting Puerto Rican independence from the U.S., and
supporting a law that could grant same-sex couples living together
hereditary rights and health benefits, according to the Vatican Insider.
González Nieves was confronted by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the current
prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and denied the allegations
during a tense meeting in Puerto Rico on December 15, 2012.
course of the discussion, the Vatican envoy subtly asked González Nieves
to resign and to ask the Church for a new position elsewhere.
Nearly two months later, González Nieves sent Ouellet an angry missive that was recently leaked to the Puerto Rican press.
"Injustices, persecutions, defamations, fact-meddling, and unjust and
biased enquiries should never amount to legal sources or just causes for
a Bishop to resign," González Nieves wrote. "Therefore, this servant
[of the Church] wants to state that he will never resign to the
Archbishopric of San Juan de Puerto Rico when there is no reason to do
"Moreover, the accusations against me being so grave, that if they were
true, how is it possible that I would be able to occupy another position
in the Church?" he added.
González Nieves has suggested that the accusations against him are politically motivated,
according to Argentinian newspaper El Clarín. He mentioned fellow
Cardinal Josef Wesolowski and former Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño,
staunch supporters of Puerto Rican statehood, as two of the
masterminds behind the allegations against him.
Thus far, none of the accusations against him have been confirmed, so
it's not clear whether Pope Francis will strip Gonzalez Nieves of his
title or allow the scandal to simply fade away.
Until then, the Vatican
and González Nieves are set to maintain a tense relationship.
"Many people have come up to me or called my office asking, 'What can we
do?'" González Nieves, who tonight is celebrating 14 years as
Archbishop with a mass in San Juan, wrote in an open letter to his flock last weekend.
"On the one hand, I beg you not send letters to the Holy See expressing
your support [on my behalf]. On the other hand, I bid you to pray,
which is the only thing that can be done in this kind of situations.
Let's pray for the truth to prevail."