Sunday, August 26, 2018
“I say this sincerely: Read it attentively and make your own judgment. I will not say a word about this. I believe the document speaks for itself.” —Pope Francis, on Sunday evening, August 26, while flying back from Ireland to Rome, in response to reporters’ questions about his reaction to allegations made in an 11-page “Testimony” released the previous day in Italy by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Vatican nuncio to the United States under Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, from October 19, 2011, until end of May 2016, in which the retired nuncio alleges that Pope Francis knew five years ago that former Cardinal McCarrick sexually molested seminarians, and did nothing about it
The Pope and Vigano
Things tonight are out of balance, unclear, confusing.
And yet, the matter is of the utmost importance, so the need to gain clarity is very great. (photo left: Archbishop Vigano with Cardinal Cupich)
Who is telling the truth, and what is that truth, in the matter of the Church’s response to the abuse of children (pedophilia), and, in general, in response to the seeming increased acceptance of “non-chastity” (whether heterosexual, or homosexual), among seminarians and in the ranks of the ordained clergy, in recent decades of Church history?
The Vigano Allegations and the Silence of Francis
There are many things that cannot yet be known about the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano yesterday, which the Pope refused to comment on today.
So here is an attempt to set forth some markers. But it is not, yet, an attempt to fully set forth the truth of the events that have transpired. And already it seems that that may never be possible, for there are archives that must be opened, which seem unlikely ever to open, if we are to truly progress in our knowledge of the truth of these matters.
Here are simply a few “fixed points” in a vast sea of confusion and uncertainty.
On Saturday, a former Vatican nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, now 77, a lifetime Vatican “insider” and a man entrusted by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis with a number of significant posts in the Church — so, arguably, generally esteemed by good and holy men during his career — published a signed text (I have confirmed with Vigano that the text is his) in which he makes absolutely shocking allegations.
Among them, that Pope Francis, along with other high Vatican officials, despite being informed more than five years ago (on June 23, 2013, Vigano affirms, saying it was he himself who told the Pope) that the Vatican already for some years prior to that had compiled a “thick” dossier of alleged acts of sexual molestation committed by then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick against numerous seminarians (none of them children, so, none of them acts of pedophilia — though there has now emerged an allegation that McCarrick sexually molested an 11-year-old altar boy in a church decades ago), did nothing.
That is, he affirms that, during these past 5 years, the Vatican, under Pope Francis, did not open any canonical process against McCarrick, that is, ignored the many allegations of misconduct.
McCarrick this summer resigned from the College of Cardinals and is no longer a cardinal — this itself is very shocking, very unusual, hasn’t happened in decades — and so, as a consequence, McCarrick should no longer be called “Cardinal McCarrick.”
McCarrick resigned following a ruling in June on two of the allegations against him by a New York Archdiocesan tribunal, which judged the allegations “credible.”
However, and note well, there has still never been any trial or judgment on any of the accusations against McCarrick, so even what is really true or false here has not been adjudicated.
McCarrick has said he “does not remember” the cases; and, as I understand it, it is not even yet clear what will happen with regard to these cases, whether we will ever get any clarity as to exactly what McCarrick did or did not do.
For Vigano, in any case, this lack of displaying “zero tolerance” by Pope Francis, in the face of the many allegations against a man seemingly credibly accused of serial acts of sexual abuse, was evidently sufficiently outrageous that Vigano decided to call for Francis to resign his post as head of the Church.
This is of course another shocking “fact” among so many.
How could a career Vatican official publicly call for the Pope to resign? And do it alone, without any others associated with him? Was he out of his mind? What were his true motivations?
Logically, it would seem, there must be some reasons to explain his decision at this time to come forward and be a “truth-teller” — like the many victims in the US in recent months who have come forward to “speak truth” about sexual molestation and abuse in Hollywood, etc.
We can tick off some of those reasons simply based on “common sense.”
Perhaps three principal ones might be these (but everything in what follows is of necessity very partial and very speculative):
1) Vigano has personal reasons, like a personal vendetta against Pope Francis; for example, he has been an archbishop for many years, and is now 77, has never been made a cardinal; perhaps he is irritated by that oversight; or perhaps Francis has overlooked some of Vigano’s friends as well; there could be many factors and variations, but the bottom line would be, Vigano has a personal motivation (that we do not know, yet).
I believe such factors may play a role in these events, but not the principal role. The way Vigano has written his letter is at times emotional, but it also written in a way that speaks to ecclesial issues, not to his own personal issues. I would exclude this as a major factor.
2) Vigano is serving someone else, some group or lobby, ecclesial or political, financial or theological, that has “put him up to it” — for many possible reasons; perhaps this is the “old Guard” in the Curia, men who feel Francis threatens their positions, their beliefs, their vision for the Church; perhaps Vigano is or would like to become the leader of this hypothetical group… even propose himself as a possible leader for the Church(!); stranger things have happened. On this point, there are of course multiple variations., almost infinite variations, I might say…
But, Vigano comes from an old and wealthy Catholic Milanese family; he has no need of personal wealth, so there seems to me little likelihood that he would act as anyone’s “agent” in this matter; I do not think he has been “paid off.” I would exclude that idea. I think he is acting in prima persona — as an independent agent. I could be wrong. And I do not know if he has allies, and if so, who they might be. But I would exclude that he is acting for others, as a “stalking horse.”
What then? Perhaps….
3) Vigano has theological or ecclesial reasons; that is, he really believes the situation in the Church, and in the world, is today so serious, so dangerous for souls, that the Church must have leaders who lead with courage and vision and coherence between their action and their words to protect the faith and the flock; and he believes the leadership of Francis has, for various reasons, become so dangerous and harmful to the Church, in this historical situation, that Francis should voluntarily set aside the papacy — because chaos would result from any attempt to remove him against his will — and so Vigano has, as it were, “hit upon” the McCarrick case — where Vigano believes he has personal knowledge of Francis’ lack of coherent leadership — as a convenient “wedge case” to help “dislodge” Francis from the high post he holds — asking Francis to do this of his own free will…
Does this third scenario have some likelihood of being true?
Perhaps. We will have to wait and see.
For the moment, there is quiet.
From Saturday evening through Sunday evening, for about 24 hours, Vigano’s allegations spread around the world on the internet.
On Sunday evening, Pope Francis, on his papal airplane returning from Ireland to Rome after a two-day visit to the Emerald Isle for The World Meeting of Families was asked about Vigano’s open letter: “Read attentively and make your own judgment. I will not say a word about this.”
That is where we are at the moment.
What is at stake
Determining who is telling the truth matters, and determining what that truth is matters, because the present intolerable confusion is destroying the Church.
It is destroying the faith of many. It is leading to an exodus of good men from seminaries. It is leading good priests to suffer throughout their lives under false suspicions about them. It is leading to bitter divisions in the Church. It may split the Church. And there are forces in the world that would love that to happen.
In shepherding, the role of pastors, shepherds, is to protect flocks of sheep, who cannot protect themselves from cunning, rapacious wolves. The wolves come and eat them quite easily, without vigilant shepherds with staffs, and other weapons.
The chief pastors of the Church are bishops. They are led by the man elected Pope, Bishop of Rome (we have two of them now, one active, one praying, which is a further cause of our disorientation, because such a situation has never existed before).
And now we are on the verge of two Synods, one in one month’s time on young people and their discernment of their life “vocation,” and the other next October on the evangelization of the Amazon region.
And at both of these Synods it is expected that proposals will be brought forward for a married priesthood, in part as a response to the scandals that have been so widely and devastatingly publicized since 2001 in the Church and in the world.
So the “army” of the Latin Church, those 400,000 or so priests who act as vigilant shepherds to protect the flock, and who have done so while sacrificing things they may have desired, like wives and families, but who through their dedication have in past centuries made the Church a formidable institution — the longest-lived continuing human institution in the world — may begin to have a new discipline, with unpredictable consequences.
But this is not all.
It is not simply a matter of a holy, chaste priesthood dedicated to protecting the “flock” who are little prepared to protect themselves (I speak of sheep trying to avoid being eaten by wolves).
Not only is that priesthood in danger, but also in danger is the entire concept of holiness as something desired by the absolute ground of our being, which we believe to be personal, a Person (as mysterious as that evidently is) whom we call God… desired by God because He Himself is Holy, and He wishes us to be “like Him.”
So, the absolute centrality of holiness.
Without holiness, nothing.
In other words, all of traditional Christian teaching on how to live holy lives, sacrificing one’s own “desires” and “passions” in order to “conform oneself” to Christ, to love one’s neighbor as a brother or a sister, with a profound love, as one loves a brother, a son, a sister, a daughter, a father, a mother, is now being challenged… all of this is at stake…
And this is where an appeal seems in order, at this juncture.
An appeal above the heads of the priest and bishops to the chief bishops, to Francis, and also to Benedict, the bishop and former bishop of Rome… an appeal to notice something real, but not yet fully recognized by many….
An appeal to recognize that a flood of money, a tsunami of propaganda, a lava-flow of media imagery and interconnected argumentation of favor of “self-expression,” “individual fulfillment,” without any thought of conformity to Christ has altered the equations of out culture.
For this reason, ours is no longer an age when we can dialogue with the world to gain insight into the nobility of the human aspiration for self-fulfillment “by any means possible” while leaving Christ out of the equation.
We must return to His teaching, to the discipline of “conforming ourselves to Christ,” no matter how difficult.
Do Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict see this?
Do they see the risk of not keep Christ at the center of our teaching?
Do they see that the greatest poverty is the loss of Christ as our model, as our life, as our inspiration, as our savior, as our very being?
Do they see that yielding to “the world” on all of the points that are being proposed with ever greater insistence, with very clever and eloquent and persuasive arguments, backed by mountains of money, is yielding to a spirit that forgets Christ, ignores Christ, betrays Christ, is “anti-Christ”?
Do they not see that the greatest abuse of our children is to leave them alone in front of the winds of the doctrines of this world of 2018, not protecting them from the whirlwind of confusion, and lifelong misery, and alienation from Christ Himself, that these new doctrines bring in their wake?
This is what threatens us; this is what our shepherds must discern; this is what we expect and need from Rome, from the bishops of Rome.
Here is an article that contains a response to Vigano’s “Testimony” from Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago. It was reported by NBC Chicago (link).
Cardinal Blase Cupich Responds to Allegations Levied by Former Church Official
Cardinal Cupich strongly disputed the nuncio’s remarks
By Mary Ann Ahern
Cardinal Blase Cupich is speaking out against claims made by the Vatican’s former representative in Washington, D.C.
After the Vatican’s retired ambassador to the United States levied serious accusations against senior church leadership, including Cardinal Blase Cupich, the head of the Chicago Archdiocese issued a strong response to the allegations.
Cardinal Cupich, in Ireland for Pope Francis’s visit there, issued a statement concerning the shocking memo, which was critical of Pope Francis.
Retired Cardinal [Note: this is an error, he is an archbishop] Carlo Maria Vigano, who had been the nuncio, the Pope’s representative in Washington DC, confirmed the release of the 11-page memo released late Saturday.
His testimony states both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis were aware of allegations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused seminarians and regularly invited them into his bed.
Vigano says while Benedict sanctioned McCarrick, Francis lifted those sanctions and McCarrick went on to play an important role as an adviser.
Vigano was critical of the appointments of both Cardinal Cupich and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark. Vigano suggests that Cupich and Tobin’s appointments were orchestrated by McCarrick, and Cardinals Maradiaga and Wuerl.
In his statement Cupich says “the former nuncio is confused about the sequence of these events.” He calls Vigano’s remarks “astonishing” and notes any conversations they had were supportive and congratulatory.
“Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants pastoral bishops, and I work each day to live up to that expectation in collaboration with many fine lay and religious women and men, my brother priests and brother bishops,” Cupich said. “I am proud to serve the church in Chicago and I am grateful for the help I receive.”
Cupich also responded to Vigano’s remarks concerning “the causes of clerical sexual abuse as it relates to homosexuality.”
The cardinal pointed to the study done by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice which states “the clinical dates do not support the hypothesis identity or those who committed homosexual sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior.”
Finally, Cupich says the Vigano testimony, which he places the word “testimony” in quotation marks, needs “a thorough vetting” before “any assessment of their credibility can be made.”
Here is the full statement made by Cardinal Cupich:
“The former nuncio makes a number of references to me in his ‘testimony.’
“The first is in the sentence: ‘This is how one explains that, as members of the Congregation for Bishops, the Pope replaced Cardinal Burke with Wuerl and immediately appointed Cupich right after he was made a cardinal.’
“The former nuncio is confused about the sequence of these events. In fact, I was appointed to the Congregation for Bishops on July 7, 2016, and was named a cardinal on October 9, 2016.
“The second reference to me is in the sentence: ‘The appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick, Maradiaga and Wuerl, united by a wicked pact of abuses by the first, and at least of coverup of abuses by the other two. Their names were not among those presented by the Nunciature for Chicago and Newark.’
“I consider these remarks astonishing. The only substantial conversation I have ever had about my appointment to Chicago with the former nuncio was on September 11, 2014, when he called to inform me of the appointment. The former nuncio started the conversation by saying: ‘I call with news of great joy. The Holy Father has appointed you the archbishop of Chicago.’ He then congratulated me upon hearing of my acceptance. That is the extent of any conversation I have ever had about this matter with the former nuncio.
“Moreover, the former nuncio personally participated in my installation ceremony in Chicago in November 2014 and personally presided at the imposition of the pallium the following summer, and on both occasions offered only supportive remarks and congratulations.
“As to the issue of my appointment to Chicago as well as the question of episcopal appointments in general, I do not know who recommended me for the Archdiocese of Chicago, but I do know that Pope Francis, like his predecessors, takes seriously the appointment of bishops as one of his major responsibilities.
“Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants pastoral bishops, and I work each day to live up to that expectation in collaboration with many fine lay and religious women and men, my brother priests and brother bishops. I am proud to serve the church in Chicago and I am grateful for the help I receive.
“The third and fourth references to me deal with my statements on the causes of clerical sexual abuse as it relates to homosexuality. Any reference I have ever made on this subject has always been based on the conclusions of the ‘Causes and Context’ study by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, released in 2011, which states: ‘The clinical data do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity or those who committed homosexual sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior.’
John Jay researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing many studies on the topic. Their scholarly work is not to be dismissed out of hand.
“As for the rest of the ‘testimony,’ a thorough vetting of the former nuncio’s many claims is required before any assessment of their credibility can be made.”
Letter from a reader
“Yet this story will die… unless Vigano is given a stage to further elaborate on his testimony.
“He needs to answer why he decided to come clean only now. Is he ill and truly afraid to meet his Maker? Or is there more to it?
“The interviews should not come from so called Catholic right wing/Francis hater media, but from serious and balanced journalists such as you who will not just lob soft ball questions at him.
“Finally, it will die if other bishops and cardinals are not becoming vocal 1) to give testimony to Vigano’s good character as a faithful priest (as did Chaput today), 2) come clean about what they knew (somebody should interview Cardinal Re for example, or Wuerl 3) to ask the Pope hard questions about what he knew and when.
“At this stage we should not rush to judgment but ask hard questions to help the Truth to come out.”
Letter from a reader
“How certain do we feel of the veracity of Archbishop Viganò story. He seems very trustworthy overall. No doubt Pope Bergoglio will go after him with full merciless vengeance.”
—from a reader
My reply: Some years ago I met a Vatican employee who was an old friend whom I had not seen for years because she had left Rome. But she had returned and was working closely with Vigano. I asked her about him — it was the time of the “Vaticleaks” scandal. She said: “Of all the officials in the Roman Curia, he is the most honest, the man of greatest integrity, that it has been my pleasure to come to know.” It was her opinion. But there were elements in the description that corroborated what I myself knew — that he had fought against cronyism and corruption in the Roman Curia with great vigor for many years.
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” —Blaise Pascal (French mathematician, philosopher, physicist and writer, 1623-1662)
Note to Readers
P.S. If you have any interest in joining one of our upcoming pilgrimages, we have information packets on pilgrimages later this year, and in 2019 and 2020. The pilgrimages visit:
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