The ferocity of the Vatican’s civil war has less to do with theology or justice than petty office politics.
The present scandal in the Catholic Church in the United States has no obvious precedent. Demands that a sitting pope resign have been unknown since the crises of the late 14th century, when rival popes reigned in Rome and Avignon, and they would have been unthinkable in modern times until 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by resigning. Before then, one would have no recourse but to hope that a pope with whom one disagreed should die. In fact, one British priest who hates Pope Francis assured me last year that the group of priests who oppose him “pray for him to die every day” but that forcing him to resign was out of the bounds of possibility.
So the demand by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, formerly the Vatican’s ambassador to Washington, that Francis resign was a significant escalation of the culture wars now convulsing the U.S. church. The ostensible reason is that Viganò claims that in 2013 Francis restored to favor Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who had, in retirement, been secretly sanctioned by Benedict for his liaisons with seminarians. The problem with this accusation is that the sanctions, if they existed, were so secret that the outside world did not know of their existence and McCarrick ignored them entirely.