I held the November issue up until the date of the US election, November 3, thinking it would be appropriate to discuss the results in this space. Now, as I close the magazine on November 15, the result is still unclear.
By Robert Moynihan
November 15, Feast of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
I held back publication of this November issue of Inside the Vatican because I thought it would be appropriate to include some mention of the results of the November 3 presidential election in the United States. I watched the election returns on the night of November 3, and watched the halting of the counting of the ballots a little after midnight, and went to sleep thinking the results would be clarified on November 4. Now it is November 15, and the result of the election still seems unclear, as there are charges of irregularities in the voting, but there is as yet no firm evidence to prove the charges.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, with whom I have been in touch throughout these past two years, is persuaded that there may very well have been irregularities in the election. Viganò was for five years the Holy See’s nuncio, or ambassador, to the United States (2011-2016, named by Pope Benedict XVI), and in that post he became quite familiar with US politics and the “culture wars” which have marked our time. Viganò therefore sent a public message on November 13 to a large gathering of pro-Trump Americans gathered in Washington D.C., saying:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am with you at this historic moment for the future of the United States of America and the whole world. The forces of Evil have gathered in a coalition against God, against our Christian Civilization, against our beloved Country, against the family, against order and law, against the values for which our forefathers fought and gave their lives. Against all mankind, in order to subjugate it to its infernal tyranny.
As Christians, we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem; as Americans, you are citizens—under God—of this great Nation. Be proud to courageously defend, as true patriots, the values that have made America great and which form the basis of your country’s freedom and peace, harmony and prosperity.
The children of darkness have sought to subvert the outcome of the presidential elections, through such deception and fraud as to suggest a real attack on the very foundations of human social coexistence. As lawyers and magistrates investigate the abuses and crimes committed, let us turn to the Lord, the Supreme Judge, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, our powerful Advocate. This is the “Supreme Court” to which we can and must appeal, that the Will of God may be fulfilled, and Truth may triumph over falsehood.
+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop
At about the same time, on November 10, after more than two years of investigation, the Vatican Secretariat of State — without holding any press conference (as would be usual in such a case) — published a more than 400-page document on the results of its investigations into the case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (1930-present, now age 90). We will have a full analysis of the Report in the upcoming December issue, but here there is space for a brief summary.
Pope Francis removed McCarrick from the College of Cardinals in the summer of 2018, and in early 2019 reduced McCarrick to the lay state. These actions came after the emergence of a charge that he had sexually abused a minor in the 1970s (the statute of limitations had expired because 40 years had passed). The Archdiocese of New York said in June 2018 that it deemed the charge “credible.” In that moment, after decades of “rumors” about McCarrick and his tendency to molest his own seminarians, his career was brought to a screeching halt.
McCarrick has never been brought before any tribunal or faced any trial — indeed, he has maintained he is innocent of the charges — but Pope Francis himself decided to remove him from the College of Cardinals and reduce him to the status of a layperson on the basis of those 1970s charges.
What remained unclear after a reading of the “McCarrick Report” is who, exactly, favored McCarrick’s rise from simple priest, to auxiliary bishop, to the bishop of Metuchen and then Newark, New Jersey, to Archbishop of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, from 2000 to 2006, and then to the cardinalate in 2001. The Report attributes McCarrick’s rise primarily to his extraordinary “work ethic” (he evidently awoke at 5 a.m. and worked until 10 p.m. almost every day) and to the lack of specific, proven charges against him ever coming to the eyes of his superiors, especially Pope John Paul II. But an American Catholic researcher, Randy Engel of Pittsburgh, wrote in June 2018 that McCarrick’s career was “shepherded” by powerful ecclesiastics who together formed a type of “homosexual lobby” in the Church. Her dramatic allegation is not addressed in the Vatican’s Report, leading some to say the Report is incomplete.
McCarrick was ordained in 1958 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York from 1939 to 1967. He then was a secretary from 1971 to 1977 to Spellman’s successor, New York’s archbishop Terence Cardinal Cooke. It was Cooke who consecrated McCarrick an auxiliary bishop in 1977. McCarrick’s successive promotions were all approved by St. John Paul II (Pope from 1978 to 2005). The Vatican’s Report seems to suggest that John Paul, and his personal secretary, Fr. Stanislaw Dziwisz (now a cardinal, and retired archbishop of Krakow, Poland), were responsible for promoting McCarrick. Archbishop Viganò, however, has suggested that Cardinal Angelo Sodano was one of the Church’s leaders who championed McCarrick’s promotion.
In the December issue, we will return to all these matters, not to dwell on scandals which are not edifying, but to attempt to discern a way forward for our Church so that She is able to reform Herself and walk courageously in the footsteps of Her Lord.