The Council of Cardinals has issued an unusual statement of support for Pope Francis, while also suggesting that the Pontiff consider replacing some of its members.

Gathering in Rome for a 3-day series of meetings that began on September 10, the Council promptly issued a public statement expressing “full solidarity with Pope Francis in the face of what has happened in the last weeks.” The statement went on to say that “the Holy See is about to formulate any necessary clarifications.” The Council was obviously responding to public criticism of the Pope’s handling of sex-abuse complaints. The statement did not allude directly to charges raised by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Pope Francis himself has said that he will not respond to the charges, but the Council’s statement seemed to indicate that some response from the Vatican can be expected.

The Council also said that it had “decided to ask the pope for a reflection on the work, the structure, and composition of the Council itself, taking into account the advanced age of some members.” Five members of the group are beyond the statutory retirement age of 75: Cardinals Maradiaga, Errazuriz, Monsengwo, Pell, and Bertello.

The Council’s statement did not reflect the fact that three members—Cardinals Errazuriz, Maradiaga, and O’Malley—have also been criticized for failure to respond to sex-abuse complaints. Cardinal Pell himself has been charged with sexual abuse, and has taken a leave from his duties while answering criminal charges in his native Australia.

Pope Francis created the Council of Cardinals in 2013, and named the original eight members to 5-year terms. (He later added Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, to make a 9-member council.) Those original terms have now expired, but the Pontiff has not made any changes in the group.

The September 10 public statement by the Council of Cardinals, issued on the opening day of the group’s meeting, was itself unusual. In his 25 previous public meetings, the Council has usually not issued any statement until the conclusion of its 3-day session.

From Catholic Culture.