Today was the second day after the release on Saturday, August 25, of the accusations by the long-time Vatican insider and now whistle-blower, retired Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77.
Here for reference is the full text of Vigano’s “J’accuse!” (“I accuse!”)
A day of statements.
A day of positioning.
A day of assessing, strategising, posturing.
A day of analyses by many different writers from many different perspectives, all reacting to Vigano’s allegations.
And most missing the main point.
Which is this: that this is not about Vigano, and not even about Pope Francis, but about the Church.
For Vigano is not simply denouncing one or two men — a cardinal here, an archbishop there, even a Pope — for allowing, even enabling, the sexual abuse of young people over decades, he is denouncing an entire culture of cover-ups and deceit in the Catholic Church.
Vigano is denouncing the existance in the Church today an influential, mutually supportive, self-protective network or “lobby” of Church prelates who, in alliance with groups outside of the Church, would like to revise perennial Church teaching about human sexuality.
Vigano’s statement is really a denunciation of massive ecclesial corruption — and in this sense, it is not unlike Pope Benedict’s memorable denunciation of “filth” in the Church in 2005, just before he was elected Pope in April of that year (only to resign 8 years later), and little different, even, from Pope Francis’ denunciation of sexual abuse on many occasions in recent years.
The difference is, Vigano has named names.
He has broken the code.
He has accused his own fellow-Vatican officials of having done too little, too late.
Vigano is not suggesting that this global, ancient institution, the Church, is his institution to lead or guide, or even that it is Pope Francis’s institution (though Vigano clearly acknowledges that it is Pope Francis to whom the present leadership of the Church has been entrusted), and certainly he is not suggesting that it our institution — bloggers, writers, parents, fathers and mothers and children, simple believers — no, not ours, though we are part of it , we are in it, we draw our life from it… but that it is Christ’s institution.
Christ “instituted” the Church, that is, founded it, gave it life, and being, and spirit. His Spirit. It is His Church.
What Vigano has been crying out with great passion is that children have been abused and that the men entrusted with the leadership in our time of Christ’s Church have allowed it, enabled it, turned a blind eye to it — including Francis.
What Vigano has been crying out is that this is unworthy of Christ, unworthy of the founder of the Church, who gave all for the Church, dying for the Church.
And this present situation, which harms children and which makes a mockery of all of the fine words of Church leaders about their desire to protect children from abuse, cannot continue.
Something must change.
There must be true reform.
That is what Vigano is saying, essentially.
On this fundamental point, he is entirely, courageously, heroically right.
But that does not mean that his cries will not be discounted, and mocked as excessive, exaggerated, unbalanced, impolite, and so ignored, set aside.
Already there are efforts to set aside Vigano’s serious accusations through such means.
So the outcome of these recent events is still very much in the balance.
In regard to the Vatican’s handling of sexual abuse cases over the past quarter century (during the time of Vigano’s own service in the Vatican and for the Vatican), Vigano’s claims are principally two: that high-ranking Church leaders have protected molestors and abusers of children, knowingly, and, that they continue to do so.
So, despite all the meetings, all the commissions, all the guidelines, the crisis has not been adequately addressed.
Children are still in danger.
Still, there is tonight no clarity about what the various actors will do.
And many pundits and spin-doctors are madly spinning this story to shift the main thrust from the abuse and molestation of young people to ecclesial infighting between “reformers” and “hardliners.”
Here are just a few of the “Statements” issued today. I include them here as a type of “Dossier” — regrettably incomplete — to allow you to glimpse what is taking place.
(1) Vigano (link)
Vigano has been widely accused in the press of lacking credibility because he himself is allleged to have mishandled a case of alleged abuse in Minneapolis.
He is accused of blocking an investigation and of suggsting that correspondence be detroyed.
Today Vigano responded to that charge. He denied that he blocked the investigation, and he denied that he had asked for any evidence to be destroyed.
Here below is a piece from Catholic World Report on the matter. (link)
Archbishop Viganò responds to criticisms of handling of 2014 Nienstedt investigation
The former nuncio to the U.S. flatly denies assertions that he ordered a stop to an investigation of then-Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis
August 27, 2018
Carl E. Olson Features, Special Report
In an August 26th written statement seen by some media outlets, including Catholic World Report [Note: I also have seen the written statement, but have been asked not to publish it], Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò responded to reports that he ordered a stop to an investigation of then-Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Viganò flatly denies these assertions, stating, “These accusations – that I would have ordered the two auxiliary bishops of Minneapolis to close the investigation on the life of archbishop Nienstedt – are false.”
The charges against Vigano have circulated for years but his recent criticism of an alleged Vatican and U.S. Catholic coverup of Archbishop McCarrick’s reported sexual misconduct have brought the charges back into general discussion.
According to veteran Vatican reporter John Allen, Jr., in an August 27th CRUX article, “Viganò arguably undercut his credibility by not dealing with his own record on the abuse issue.”
Allen then summarizes the central criticism:
According to a 2014 memo, first made public in 2016, Viganò as nuncio quashed an investigation – going as far as demanding that evidence be destroyed – into then-Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was being investigated for misconduct with seminarians as well as cover-up of sexual abuse. In 2015, Nienstedt stepped down as head of the archdiocese.
Viganò, in his statement, says that in April 2014 he was given affidavits containing accusations that Nienstedt had an affair with a member of the Swiss guard while serving in the Vatican two decades ago.
Viganò says that an inquiry had been conducted by private investigators who were working for a Minneapolis law firm, Greene Espel, that was part of a pro-“homosexual marriage” coalition.
According to Vigano, the inquiry had been conducted in a manner he deemed “unbalanced” and with a “prosecutorial style”.
The investigators, Viganò says, wished to immediately investigate the pontifical Swiss guard without first interviewing Nienstedt.
Viganò says he suggested that Nienstedt be first heard out before further steps be taken: “To the bishops who came at the nunciature on April 12, 2014, I suggested to tell the Greene Espel lawyers that it appeared to me appropriate that archbishop Nienstedt be heard before taking this step – audiatur et altera pars – which they had not yet done. The bishops accepted my suggestion.”
Viganò denies that he said the inquiry should stop or that any documents be destroyed: “I never told anyone that Greene Espel should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document be destroyed: any statement to the contrary is false.”
On July 20, 2016, the New York Times published a story by Laurie Goodstein and Richard Pérez-Peña that reported Viganò had “quashed an independent investigation in 2014 into sexual and possible criminal misconduct by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis and ordered Church officials to destroy a letter they wrote to him protesting the decision, according to a memo made public on Wednesday.”
The memo in question was written by Fr. Dan Griffith who, the Times reported, “wrote that the ambassador’s order to call off the investigation and destroy evidence amounted to ‘a good old fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal.’”
Viganò, in his statement, says that Griffith was not present at the meeting at the nunciature, which included the archbishop and the two auxiliary bishops.
It was Griffith, writes Viganò, who had retained Greene Espel to investigate Nienstedt on behalf of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
The Times, in its 2014 report, stated, “The document offers a grave indictment of the conduct of the Vatican’s ambassador, and will probably put pressure on Pope Francis to discipline him and Archbishop Nienstedt.”
Viganò states that on July 21, 2016, the nuncio in Washington, DC, Archbishop Christophe Pierre—who had succeeded Viganò three months prior after Viganò had reached the traditional retirement age of 75—was ordered by Pope Francis, via Cardinal Parolin, to immediately open an investigation into Viganò’s alleged coverup.
Viganò says that an American lawyer, Mr. Jeffrey Lena, working for the Holy See, acquired documents from the Congregation for Bishops upholding Viganò’s account of events.
Mr. Lena delivered a report to Pope Francis, according to Viganò, but the Vatican did not make any statement refuting what was reported by the New York Times.
Viganò further says that a report was also given by the nunciature to Cardinal Parolin, and that report is on file at the Secretariat of State and at the nunciature in Washington, DC.
Viganò concludes by stating that he asked both Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop Hebda to correct Griffith’s memo: “On January 28, 2017 I wrote to both Archbishop Pierre and to Archbishop Hebda (who had succeeded Nienstedt) asking them to publicly correct the memorandum of father Griffith. In spite of repeated emails and phone calls, I never heard back from them.”
(2) Mons. Jean-Francois Lantheaume (link)
Former nunciature official: ‘Vigano said the truth’
By Ed Condon, Aug 27, 2018, CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counselor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., has said that the former nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, told “the truth” in his explosive statement released to the press on Aug. 25.
The 11-page document contains specific allegations that senior bishops and cardinals have been aware of the allegations of sexual abuse against former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for more than a decade.
Viganò also states that, in either 2009 or 2010, Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on McCarrick “similar to those now imposed upon him by Pope Francis” and that McCarrick was forbidden from traveling and speaking in public.
In his statement, Viganò says that these were communicated to McCarrick in a stormy meeting at the nunciature in Washington, D.C. by then-nuncio Pietro Sambi.
Viganò directly cites Lantheaume as having told him about the encounter, following his arrival in D.C to replace Sambi as nuncio in 2011.
“Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, then first Counsellor of the Nunciature in Washington and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim after the unexpected death of Nuncio Sambi in Baltimore, told me when I arrived in Washington — and he is ready to testify to it — about a stormy conversation, lasting over an hour, that Nuncio Sambi had with Cardinal McCarrick whom he had summoned to the Nunciature. Monsignor Lantheaume told me that ‘the Nuncio’s voice could be heard all the way out in the corridor.’”
CNA contacted Lantheaume and requested an interview with him to discuss the account attributed to him by Viganò.
Lantheaume, who has now left the Vatican diplomatic corps and serves in priestly ministry in France, declined to give an interview, and said he had no intentions of speaking further on the matter.
“Viganò said the truth. That’s all,” he wrote to CNA.
The full text of Viganò’s statement lists numerous senior curial cardinals, during the last three pontificates, as being aware of McCarrick’s alleged predatory behavior but either failing to act, or in some cases deliberately acting to cover up McCarrick’s alleged crimes.
The former nuncio names three different Vatican Secretaries of State — Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Tarcisio Bertone, and Pietro Parolin — as having failed to curtail McCarrick’s behavior, or positively acting to support him.
“Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State, was also complicit in covering up the misdeeds of McCarrick who had, after the election of Pope Francis, boasted openly of his travels and missions to various continents,” Viganò wrote.
Most controversially, Viganò alleges that Francis acted to lift the restrictions on McCarrick shortly after his election as Pope, in 2013.
Viganò says that he met McCarrick in June 2013 and was told by the then-cardinal, “The Pope received me yesterday, tomorrow I am going to China.” In a subsequent meeting with Francis, Viganò says he warned the pope about the long list of allegations against McCarrick but that the the pontiff did not respond.
McCarrick is believed to still be residing within the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., under conditions of “prayer, penance, and seclusion” imposed by Francis.
(3) Burke (link)
Cardinal Burke responds to former US nuncio’s explosive letter about Pope Francis
ROME, August 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — “The corruption and filth which have entered into the life of the Church must be purified at their roots,” said Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke in response to a LifeSite request for comment on the release of Archbishop Carlo Viganò’s testimony.
The 11-page letter issued by the former papal representative in the United States released to LifeSiteNews and a few other outlets is filled with revelations of scandals within the hierarchy.
“The declarations made by a prelate of the authority of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò must be totally taken to heart by those responsible in the Church,” said Burke. “Each declaration must be subject to investigation, according to the Church’s time-tried procedural law.”
In addition to the main charges that Pope Francis knew of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuse and nevertheless lifted sanctions that Pope Benedict had secretly imposed on McCarrick, some of the other explosive declarations include:
• Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State under Pope Benedict XVI, “notoriously favored promoting homosexuals into positions of responsibility.”
• Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State and thought to be the top contender to replace Francis, “was also complicit in covering up the misdeeds of McCarrick.”
• Cardinal Parolin ordered the reservation of the Diocese of San Diego for the notoriously left-wing Bishop Robert McElroy
• Pope Francis warned Viganò as nuncio that he did not want bishops in the United States like Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput: “They must not be right-wing like the Archbishop of Philadelphia,” he quotes the Pope as telling him.
“After the truth of each declaration has been established, then the appropriate sanctions must be applied both for the healing of the horrible wounds inflicted upon the Church and her members, and for the reparation of the grave scandal caused,” says Cardinal Burke.
Cardinal Burke called on “all good Catholics” to “insist upon knowing the truth” and added that they “must pray and sacrifice for the Church at this tumultous time.”
A purification, he said, “Such purification can only take place with the full and uncompromised respect for the truth.”
(4) Strickland (link)
Catholic Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, issued a statement in support of Vigano. He was the first American bishop to do so.
Bishop Strickland’s Public Statement to the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, USA
Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and all Holy Faithful of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas
A letter (see below) by Archbishop Vigano, former Nuncio to the United States, raises grave allegations and calls for the resignation of numerous high ranking prelates including Pope Francis.
Let us be clear that they are still allegations but as your shepherd I find them to be credible.
Using this standard, the response must be a thorough investigation similar to those conducted any time allegations are deemed to be credible.
I do not have the authority to launch such an investigation but I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that it’s findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the Church.
As this unfolds I urge all in the Diocese of Tyler to pray fervently for Holy Mother Church and beg the Intercession of Our Blessed Mother. We are the flock of Jesus Christ. He is Lord of His Church and His Holy Spirit will guide us through this darkness.
Almighty God Father, Son and Spirit have mercy on your Church and cleanse her in the fires of your Love.
Blessed Virgin Mary, Pray for us
All Sainted Popes & Bishops in Heaven, Pray for us
All Holy Men and Women, Pray for us
I direct all priests to include this notice in the masses on August 26, and post it on their websites and other social media immediately.
—Most Reverend Joseph E. Strickland
Bishop of Tyler
(5) Olmsted (link)
The second bishop to issue a statement of support of Vigano was Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Olmsted knows Vigano personally from the time when he worked in Rome at the Vatican alongside of him.
Statement from Bishop Thomas Olmsted Regarding Archbishop Viganò’s Recent Testimony
PHOENIX (Aug. 27, 2018) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has released the following statement today from the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix:
“I have known Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò for 39 years. We became colleagues in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See in August 1979, where he had been serving prior to my entrance into this work in service to the ministry of Pope John Paul II.
“Although I have no knowledge of the information that he reveals in his written testimony of August 22, 2018, so I cannot personally verify its truthfulness, I have always known and respected him as a man of truthfulness, faith and integrity.
“St. Paul says of priests: ‘This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy’ (1 Cor 4:1-2). That is how I have consistently found Archbishop Viganò.
“For this reason, I ask that Archbishop Viganò’s testimony be taken seriously by all, and that every claim that he makes be investigated thoroughly. Many innocent people have been seriously harmed by clerics like Archbishop McCarrick; whoever has covered up these shameful acts must be brought to the light of day.”
+Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix
(6) Di Nardo (link)
The President of the US Bishops’ Conference issued a balanced statement on the matter, saying the questions raised by Vigano “deserved answers.”
President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Renews Commitment for Greater Effectiveness and Transparency in Disciplining Bishops
August 27, 2018
WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued the following statement.
Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:
“In communion with the Holy Father, I join the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in taking upon ourselves his exhortation, ‘this open wound [of abuse] challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.’
“On August 1st, I promised that USCCB would exercise the full extent of its authority, and would advocate before those with greater authority, to pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth. Yesterday, I convened our Executive Committee once again, and it reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.
“The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. [Emphasis added]
“Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.
“I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action. That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops. Inspired by his recent letter to the people of God, and his motu proprio of two years ago, As a Loving Mother, I am confident Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparency in the matter of disciplining bishops. We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days.
“To the survivors of abuse and the families who have lost a loved one to abuse, I am sorry. You are no longer alone. Since 2002, hundreds of professionally trained staff across the country have been working with the Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse. Nationwide, the Church has a zero-tolerance policy toward priests and deacons who abuse, safe environment training, background checks for those working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities, and lay review boards in dioceses.
“In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church’s firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation.”
(7) Cupich (link)
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago issued a statement yesterday. (It was included in the letter sent yesterday, #39.) But, for the sake of ease and completeness, I include it again here below today:
Statement of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in Response to the “Testimony” of Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States Carlo Maria Viganò
August 26, 2018
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.
(8) Tobin (link)
Here is Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s response to Archbishop Vigano’s testimony. Tobin is the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and also served in the Vatican for a period of time.
Statement in Response to “Testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
August 27, 2018
The Archdiocese of Newark and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. express shock, sadness and consternation at the wide-ranging array of allegations published by the former apostolic nuncio to the United States of America, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, which cannot be understood as contributing to the healing of survivors of sexual abuse.
The factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology of the “testimony” serve to strengthen our conviction to move ahead resolutely in protecting the young and vulnerable from any sort of abuse, while guaranteeing a safe and respectful environment where all are welcome and breaking down the structures and cultures that enable abuse.
Together with Pope Francis, we are confident that scrutiny of the claims of the former nuncio will help to establish the truth.
—Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R
(9) Wuerl (link)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl: Statement Regarding Archbishop Viganò’s “Testimony”
Archdiocese of Washington
August 27, 2018 — WASHINGTON, D.C. — Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, has published a “testimony” in which he presents his views on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and his appointment to Washington.
Archbishop Viganò states that he “learned with certainty” that “Pope Benedict XVI had imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis.” He then says that he (Archbishop Viganò) “repeated them to Cardinal McCarrick” at the Archbishop’s first meeting with him at the Nunciature.
Cardinal Wuerl has categorically denied that any of this information was communicated to him.
Archbishop Viganò at no time provided Cardinal Wuerl any information about an alleged document from Pope Benedict XVI with directives of any sort from Rome regarding Archbishop McCarrick.
Archbishop Viganò has not produced in his testimony any objectively verifiable proof that he in any way communicated to Cardinal Wuerl restrictions imposed on Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, Archbishop Viganò’s testimony says that he did not.
Cardinal Wuerl has indicated that during his entire tenure as Archbishop of Washington no one has come forward to say to him, “Cardinal McCarrick abused me” or made any other like claim.
The only ground for Cardinal Wuerl to challenge the ministry of Archbishop McCarrick would have been information from Archbishop Viganò or other communications from the Holy See. Such information was never provided.
Perhaps the starting point for a serene and objective review of this testimony is the inclusion of Archbishop Viganò’s tenure as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States in the mandate of the Apostolic Visitation already called for by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
—Archdiocese of Washington
The New York Times/AP, citing Wuerl’s denial that Vigano had informed him of the sanctions placed on McCarrick, published a piece that argued that Vigano’s accusations will stand or fall depending on whether it is true, and proven, that Pope Benedict actually sanctioned McCarrick in 2009 or 2010 as Vignao affirms.
AP/New York Times (link)
Pope’s Alleged Cover-Up Pivots on When, if Sanctions Imposed
By The Associated Press
Aug. 27, 2018
VATICAN CITY — The archbishop of Washington on Monday “categorically denied” ever being informed that his predecessor had been sanctioned for sexual misconduct, undercutting a key element of a bombshell allegation that Pope Francis covered up clergy abuse.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl issued a statement after the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States accused Pope Francis of effectively freeing ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the sanctions in 2013 despite knowing of McCarrick’s sexual predations against seminarians.
Wuerl’s denial corresponds with the public record, which provides ample evidence that McCarrick lived a life completely devoid of ecclesiastic restriction after the sanctions were said to have been imposed in 2009 or 2010. That suggests that Pope Benedict XVI either didn’t impose sanctions or never conveyed them in any official way to the people who could enforce them — or that McCarrick simply flouted them and Benedict’s Vatican was unwilling or unable to stop him.
The claims of the former Vatican ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, have thrown Francis’ papacy into crisis, undermining once again his insistence that he is intent on ridding the church of sex abuse and cover-up.
His record has taken several hits of late, including his extraordinary misjudgment involving a Chilean bishop, for which he has apologized and taken measures to address.
But the McCarrick case is something else entirely, implicating the powerful U.S. hierarchy and the Vatican itself.
The core of Vigano’s cover-up charge against Francis rests on what sanctions, if any, Benedict imposed on McCarrick and what if anything Francis did to alter them, when armed with the same knowledge of McCarrick’s misdeeds that Benedict had.
Vigano, who was Vatican ambassador from 2011-2016, said he had been told that Benedict imposed sanctions on McCarrick starting in 2009 or 2010, after a decade’s worth of allegations of misconduct involving adult seminarians had reached the Vatican.
By that time, two New Jersey dioceses had settled complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct against McCarrick lodged by two former seminarians. It was apparently common knowledge that McCarrick would invite seminarians to his New Jersey beach house, and into his bed.
“The cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance,” Vigano wrote of the Benedict sanctions.
Vigano said he informed Francis of the sanctions in a meeting June 23, 2013.
“Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests, and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance,” Vigano said.
His version of events was corroborated Monday by a former official in the Vatican embassy in Washington, Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume, who told Catholic News Agency: “Vigano said the truth. That is all.”
The historic record is rife with evidence that McCarrick had lived under no such restrictions. He traveled widely, including for Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian branch of the U.S. church. He went to Iran in 2011 with a religious delegation to try to win the release of two American hikers arrested after crossing the border. He celebrated Mass publicly. He traveled to Rome with the entire U.S. conference of bishops for their once-every-five-year visit in 2012 and was even on hand for Benedict’s final general audience on Feb. 27, 2013.
In a 2010 video posted on YouTube, McCarrick was shown visiting the national seminary in Haiti that had been damaged earlier by the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake. “The boys are still living in tents,” McCarrick said as young Haitian seminarians were shown milling about.
If such sanctions existed, “then McCarrick himself has either somehow forgotten he was under sanction, or he is being woefully disobedient,” said the Rev. Matt Malone, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, who in a series of 13 tweets provided links to news reports, photos and other evidence of McCarrick’s very public ministry in the years that he was supposed to be living a lifetime of prayer and penance.
Vigano called for Francis’ resignation over what he said was his complicity in covering up McCarrick’s crimes. But if Benedict had the same information and either didn’t impose sanctions on him or didn’t enforce them, Benedict too could be accused of complicity, or at least negligence.
As the archbishop of Washington, where McCarrick lived, Wuerl presumably would have known about any restrictions on McCarrick’s ministry, though it would have actually been up to Vigano and his predecessor to impose and enforce them.
“The only ground for Cardinal Wuerl to challenge the ministry of Archbishop McCarrick would have been information from Archbishop Vigano or other communications from the Holy See,” said a statement from the Washington archdiocese. “Such information was never provided.”
Canon lawyer Kurt Martens concurred.
“Cardinals are exempt from the jurisdiction of the local ordinary,” or bishop, Martens said. “That’s why a nuncio has to step in on behalf of the Holy Father. A local bishop has no authority over other bishops. You can’t control your predecessor.”
The Vatican spokesman didn’t immediately respond Monday when asked to confirm or deny the existence of any sanctions imposed by Benedict. Francis, for his part, declined to confirm or deny Vigano’s claims when asked by reporters on the flight home from Ireland on Sunday.
“I won’t say a word about it,” Francis said, urging journalists to read Vigano’s text and come to a judgment themselves. “I think the text speaks for itself.”
Vigano’s bombshell has laid bare how the ideological battle lines drawn between conservatives and progressives over Francis’ papacy have turned into a full-fledged civil war.
“A new episode of internal opposition,” the Vatican newspaper l’Osservatore Romano said Monday of Vigano’s allegations.
Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal last month, after a U.S. church investigation determined that an accusation he had groped a teenager in the 1970s was credible. Up until that allegation involving a minor, the allegations against McCarrick had involved accusations that he slept with adult seminarians — a clear abuse of power, but a much less serious crime in the Church’s eyes.
— Dreher (link)
American author and journalist Rod Dreher, who has converted to Orthodoxy, now writing for the American Conservative, has been among the most passionate and influential American chroniclers of this entire story. Dreher wrote a piece today that strongly defended Vignao — but the defense makes clear that there are also attacks, and very strong ones. Here is Dreher’s piece:
It has been only two days since Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano published his damning indictment of Pope Francis and some senior cardinals in the Catholic hierarchy.
Below, in boldface, I offer defenses offered by Francis supporters, and reasons why these claims don’t hold up.
“Vigano’s statement is nothing but politics, and should therefore be dismissed.”
It is undoubtedly the case that Vigano is playing church politics with his statement. In fact, Vigano did himself no favors by framing his charges in terms that align with the civil war inside the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the truth or falsity of these claims does not stand or fall based on Vigano’s motives. Whistleblowers are rarely disinterested parties. One must separate Vigano’s motives from the substance of the claims themselves. This morning, a former nunciature official in Washington confirmed to Catholic News Agency that “Vigano said the truth.”
One of the first truths I learned in covering the abuse scandal in the early 2000s is that the left-right framework is fairly useless as a guide to understanding matters. Conservative prelates like Cardinal Law covered up, as did liberal prelates like Archbishop Rembert Weakland (who used church money to pay off his gay lover). If you decide that the only bad guys are those on the other side, you commit yourself to believing all manner of lies to maintain that fiction.
Michael Sean Winters, the Pasionaria of the US Catholic left, throws everything he has at Vigano in an ad hominem attempt to discredit him. This is crude, Trump-worthy obfuscation by a partisan who would stand by Francis even if the pontiff rogered a seminarian on Fifth Avenue while whistling “On Eagle’s Wings.” Nevertheless, there is one nugget of information worth pursuing here: “But why does Vigano fail to mention the key role played by Cardinal Stanislaus Dsiwisz (sic) in protecting McCarrick?” Dziwisz was John Paul II’s private secretary. I had not heard that he protected McCarrick, but if there’s merit to the charge, then it needs to be investigated without fear or favor. Recognizing the inherent political nature of Vigano’s allegations requires us to consider what Vigano may be leaving out for political reasons. But it by no means discredits the claims made in the document.
“Vigano can’t be believed because as Washington nuncio, he ordered a cover-up of an investigation into the alleged secret gay life of Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul.”
Yes, he did this. Shame on him. This makes Vigano a hypocrite, but not a liar.
“Vigano says that Benedict XVI put Cardinal McCarrick on a secret disciplinary plan around 2009 or 2010. If that’s true, then why was McCarrick seen in public ministry at that time?”
Because McCarrick defied the pope’s order. One main theme of the Vigano statement is that these curial cardinals and their allies (Wuerl, McCarrick, et al.) are laws unto themselves. In 2005, shortly after becoming Pope, Benedict reportedly pointed to the entrance to his office and told a visitor, “My authority ends at that door.” In one sense this is false. The Catholic Church officially teaches that the Pope has universal authority over the governance of the Church. Benedict was talking about de facto authority. He was talking about how he was, in reality, a figurehead. His 2013 resignation was said to have come about after he realized how thoroughly the pro-gay lobby within the Roman curia had seized the reigns of power.
What this scandal reveals (among other things) is a core crisis in governance of the Catholic Church. Five years ago, Jose Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, publicly rebuked his predecessor, Cardinal Mahony, for his unspeakable behavior in the child sex abuse scandal, and restricted his public ministry. Mahony, one of the lavender mafiosi, is still out and about. These are lawless men.
Back in 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the CDF, sent a letter to US bishops saying that they are to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians. Right or wrong, that was the order from Rome. But Cardinal McCarrick, who was in charge of communicating that directive to the American bishops, lied about it, and misled the American bishops. He faced no sanctions from Rome for having done so.
Though his was an improvement on his predecessor’s, Pope Benedict’s governing style was weak. It is a matter of speculation as to whether that was a matter of recognizing painful realities (“My authority ends at that door”), or whether it was a case of personal weakness — in particular, a fear of giving public scandal by challenging prelates publicly.
The point is, McCarrick’s public activities during which time he was supposed to be restricted from public ministry do not put the lie to the claim that Benedict restricted him. They may only testify to the fact that McCarrick was defiant.
Benedict should speak on the record to clarify this matter. Admirers of Benedict XVI — including me — should not be afraid to concede that he does not come out of this affair looking great.
“We shouldn’t believe Vigano because he’s obviously pursuing a personal vendetta.”
It is undeniable that Vigano has personal motive to strike out at his enemies within the Curia. Benedict XVI had put Vigano in charge of governing the Vatican, including cleaning up the scandal-plagued Vatican Bank. When Vigano started uncovering corruption and making a stink about it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the No. 2 figure in Benedict’s Vatican, had Vigano removed and exiled to Washington, against his will. Benedict accepted this decision (the Guardian‘s Paul Vallely tells that story here). Bertone is an archvillain in the Vigano statement of the weekend. There can be no question that Vigano is striking back at him — but again, motive is beside the point. Are the allegations true?
“Vigano calls on the Pope to resign. He’s pursuing a coup to advance his own career in the Vatican. Who can believe him?”
Vigano is 77 years old, and retired. His career is over. Whatever he stands to gain from this statement, career advancement is not among them.
“Unless Vigano produces evidence to back up his claims, I’m going to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt.”
From 1998 to 2009, Vigano was in charge of the Vatican office overseeing all the Vatican nunciatures (embassies) around the world. From 2011 to 2016, he ran the Washington nunciature. He claimed in his statement:
All the memos, letters and other documentation mentioned here are available at the Secretariat of State of the Holy See or at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.
I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Vatican or the DC nunciature to release those documents. Still, keep in mind that Vigano was a senior Vatican diplomat who was in a position to have all this knowledge, and to see the documents. His extraordinary claims in the statement over the weekend ought to be investigated, but to say you won’t credit him until and unless he hands over documents is defense not from a position of strength, but from weakness. If he had been a low-level functionary, such a stance would be more plausible. But he was at the heart of the Vatican’s office that dealt with such matters.
Besides, if these Vigano claims were false, it would have been very easy for Pope Francis to have denied them. Instead, on the papal plane back from Dublin yesterday, he issued a weird statement claiming that he wouldn’t have a single word to say about it, and calling on reporters to read Vigano’s document and to exercise their “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”
Again: if the allegations are false, you say, “They’re false.” But that’s not what the Pope said. At all. If the Pope thinks he can ignore Vigano as he has ignored the dubia cardinals, he is gravely mistaken.
In fact, all of these prelates named by Vigano should respond to his extremely serious charges. When charges as explosive as these are leveled by a man who was in Vigano’s senior position within the Vatican apparatus, they cannot be ignored. Silence speaks volumes.
Letter from a reader
Thoughts of today:
In many ways more scandalous than Vigano‘s accusations are the Pope‘s reaction and the defeaning silence among the Church hierarchy (with few notable exceptions):
Vigano directed his testimony to the flock of God because they deserved to know the truth.
The Pope directs his non-answer to the journalists telling them to study the testimony “which speaks for itself” and tells them that “it will do them good.” Thus, the Pope completely ignores his flock which is left more confused than ever.
It is hard to imagine such a virulent attack directed at any previous Pope by a supposed respected member of the higher clergy for such egregious behaviour as protecting and promoting a sexual predator. It is even harder to imagine such a vicious attack being left with no reaction by the Church other than a no comment. Surely such accusations, if not true, would qualify as serious sin and carry with them some severe sanctions.
Also, fellow members of the hierarchy would have come out in droves to condemn the miscreant and defend the Pope and the many bishops and cardinals who had been vilified. Yet except for Cupich and America ( who promote the gay agenda) the hierarchy is shockingly silent. This silence could change but the lack of a spontaneous condemnation of Vigano is more like an indictment of Francis and his acolytes.
The voices who have defended Vigano, however few (Chaput, Burke, Strickland, Lantheaume) seem to outnumber the Pope‘s defenders.
Good night and keep the Faith
Note to Readers
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