Letter #65: Silver Cord

October 7, 2018, Sunday, Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, originally the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, instituted by Pope Paul V after the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571

“Remember him [your Creator] before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it… Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind; for God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” —Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, 13. These verses seem to describe the various ways a man can die. Some believe the golden bowl is the head, the pitcher is the lungs and the wheel is the heart and circulatory system. This is the only place in the Bible where the term “silver cord” is used. The Hebrew word for “loosed” has the idea of being removed far away. Since it is difficult to see how the spinal cord could be removed, it appears best to understand this phrase as referring to the loosening that allows the departure of the spirit of a person — natural death.

Lights in the World

In these days, the actions of filial duty and piety have been performed, in regard to the passing of my mother — prayers at the vigil of her funeral, her funeral Mass, and her burial.

It remains to narrate only that, before she died, she asked her children to remember these words of St. Paul, from his Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, Verses 12-17:

So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.

Do all things without murmurings and disputes, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without defect in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world, holding up the word of life; that I may have something to boast in the day of Christ, that I didn’t run in vain or labor in vain.

Yes, and if I am poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice with you all.

In the same way, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me.

She asked for these words to be read at her funeral Mass.

I took the essence of it to mean that she wished her children would do all things — including, in my case, the writing of these letters — without “murmurings and disputes,” always “holding up the word of life,” that is, the Gospel.

And, that if we did so, she would have “something to boast in the day of Christ,” that she would be able to say “I didn’t run in vain or labor in vain.”

Those were her final wishes.

Ouellet Answers Vigano

And just as I was writing these words, news came:

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Canadian, and for the past eight years the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, has published an open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Ouellet’s letter is a response to Vigano’s second public letter of September 29, Feast of St. Michael the Archangel.

Vigano had in that letter appealed to Ouellet by name, asking him to confirm publicly his affirmation that Pope Benedict XVI had in “about 2009 or 2010,” in some form (privately, not publicly), imposed restrictions on the activity and pastoral ministry of then-retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick — sanctions which seemed no longer to be in force during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

And Ouellet in this new letter, answers Vigano’s appeal.

There are three main points:

(1) There were “sanctions” on McCarrick.

Ouellet seems to confirm a crucial point of Vigano’s Testimony, which has not up to now received any other public confirmation: that Benedict XVI did ask McCarrick to live a life of prayer and penance.

He writes: “The written instructions given to you by the Congregation for Bishops at the beginning of your mission in 2011 did not say anything about McCarrick, except for what I mentioned to you verbally about his situation as Bishop emeritus and certain conditions and restrictions that he had to follow on account of some rumors about his past conduct.” And again: “The former Cardinal, retired in May of 2006, had been requested not to travel or to make public appearances, in order to avoid new rumors about him.”

This confirmation comes from an authoritative source. It gives support to Vigano’s overall credibility.

(2) Viagno’s call for Francis to resign “without foundation.”

But, despite this confirmation, Ouellet judges Vigano’s call for Pope Francis to resign the papacy for not maintaining the same restrictions on McCarrick “unbelievable” and “without foundation.”

So Ouellet totally opposes and rejects Vigano’s call for Francis’ resignation.

Ouellet writes that he does not see sufficient evidence to show that Francis knowingly “rehabilitated” McCarrick despite (as Vigano claims) Francis being aware of the many allegations against McCarrick.

Ouellet says even though Vigano claims that he told Francis that there was a dossier “this thick” on McCarrick’s sexual molestations of “two generations” of seminarians,” there is no evidence that Francis — who was in 2013, shortly after his election, receiving all sorts of reports of all types on dozens and hundreds of prelates — fully grasped what Vigano claims he told Francis.

(3) Vigano is part of a “political plot” against Pope Francis.

Ouellet concludes by suggesting that Vigano is acting as either the witting or the unwitting agent of a “political plot” against Pope Francis.

Ouellet writes: “I can only conclude that the accusation is a political plot that lacks any real basis that could incriminate the Pope and that profoundly harms the communion of the Church. May God allow a prompt reparation of this flagrant injustice so that Pope Francis can continue to be recognized for who he is: a true shepherd, a resolute and compassionate father, a prophetic grace for the Church and for the world.”

So what are we to make of this letter?

Cardinal Ouellet: Confirmation but also condemnation

Ouellet tells us he wrote this letter “with pontifical permission.”

So, the letter, likely was reviewed by Pope Francis, and almost certainly by other top Vatican officials, prior to publication — though this is not explicitly stated.

So, this being the case, we have in this letter the beginning outline of a Vatican strategy for dealing with Vigano’s allegations.

And that strategy is, to admit some key points (like the existence of some sort of “sanctions” on McCarrick) but to deny any culpability on the part of the reigning pontiff.

Ouellet, who was a colleague and friend of Vigano, does offer some support to Vigano, confirming a key point.

Some had said Vigano had invented the “sanctions” placed by Pope Benedict on McCarrick.

Ouellet says, no, there were sanctions placed.

Vigano comes out of this with his reputation for honesty reinforced.

But Ouellet also distances himself sharply from Vigano, saying that Vigano’s central charge — that Pope Francis consciously decided to reverse the sanctions on McCarrick, in full knowledge of McCarrick’s reputation as a serial molester of seminarians — is “unbelievable.”

And, since, in Ouellet’s view, no “cover-up” on the part of Francis is at all proven, Ouellet judges that Vigano’s call for Francis to resign goes way beyond the evidence.

This is what leads Ouellet to the conclusion that Vigano must be part of a pre-meditated plot to bring down the Argentine Pope.

More could be said about this letter, but that is sufficient for now.

The Vatican leadership, through Ouellet, has offered a first, fairly detailed response to Vigano’s Testimony.

And it comes of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Here follows the full test of Ouellet’s open letter.

 

The Cardinal Ouellet Open Letter

October 7, 2018

Dear brother Carlo Maria Viganò,

In your last message to the press, in which you make accusations against Pope Francis and against the Roman Curia, you invite me to tell the truth about certain facts that you interpret as signs of an endemic corruption that has infiltrated the hierarchy of the Church up to its highest levels.

With pontifical permission, and in my capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, I offer my testimony about matters concerning the Archbishop emeritus of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, and his presumed links to Pope Francis, matters that are at the center of your public accusations and your demand that the Holy Father resign.

I write my testimony based on my personal contacts and on documents in the archives of the Congregation, currently the object of study to clarify this sad case.

Out of consideration for the good, collaborative relation we had when you were Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, allow me to say, in all honesty, that I find your current attitude incomprehensible and extremely troubling, not only because of the confusion it sows among the People of God, but because your public accusations gravely harm the reputation of the bishops, successors of the Apostles.

I recall a time when I enjoyed your esteem and your trust, but now I see that I have been stripped in your eyes of the respect that was accorded to me, for the only reason I have remained faithful to the Holy Father’s guidance in exercising the service he has entrusted to me in the Church.

Is not communion with the Successor of Peter an expression of our obedience to Christ who chose him and sustains him with his grace?

My interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia,” which you criticize, is grounded in this fidelity to the living tradition, which Francis has given us another example of by recently modifying the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the question of the death penalty.

Let us address the facts.

You said that on June 23, 2013, you provided Pope Francis with information about McCarrick in an audience he granted to you, as he also did for many pontifical representatives with whom he met for the first time that day.

I can only imagine the amount of verbal and written information that was provided to the Holy Father on that occasion about so many persons and situations.

I strongly doubt that the Pope had such interest in McCarrick, as you would like us to believe, given the fact that by then he was an 82-year-old Archbishop emeritus who had been without a role for seven years.

Moreover, the written instructions given to you by the Congregation for Bishops at the beginning of your mission in 2001 did not say anything about McCarrick, except for what I mentioned to you verbally about his situation as Bishop emeritus and certain conditions and restrictions that he had to follow on account of some rumors about his past conduct.

From 30th June 2010, when I became Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, I never presented in audience the McCarrick case to Pope Benedict XVI or to Pope Francis — not until recently, after his dismissal from the College of Cardinals.

The former Cardinal, retired in May of 2006, had been requested not to travel or to make public appearances, in order to avoid new rumors about him.

It is false, therefore, to present those measures as “sanctions” formally imposed by Pope Benedict XVI and then invalidated by Pope Francis.

After a review of the archives, I find that there are no documents signed by either Pope in this regard, and there are no audience notes from my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, imposing on the retired Archbishop the obligation to lead a quiet and private life with the weight normally reserved to canonical penalties.

The reason is that back then, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of his alleged culpability.

Thus, the Congregation’s decision was inspired by prudence, and the letters from my predecessor and my own letters urged him, first through the Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi and then through you, to lead a life of prayer and penance, for his own good and for the good of the Church.

His case would have deserved new disciplinary measures if the Nunciature in Washington, or any other source, had provided us recent and definitive information about his behavior.

I am of the opinion that, out of respect for the victims and given the need for justice, the inquiry currently underway in the United States and in the Roman Curia should provide a comprehensive and critical study of the procedures and the circumstances of this painful case in order to prevent something like it from ever happening in the future.

How is it possible that this man of the Church, whose incoherence has now been revealed, was promoted many times, and was nominated to such a high position as Archbishop of Washington and Cardinal?

I am personally very surprised, and I recognize that there were failures in the selection procedures implemented in his case.

However, and without entering here into details, it must be understood that the decisions taken by the Supreme Pontiff are based on the information available to him at the time and that they are the object of a prudential judgment which is not infallible.

I think it is unjust to reach the conclusion that there is corruption on the part of the persons entrusted with this previous discernment process, even though in the particular case some of the concerns that were raised by testimonies should have been examined more closely.

The Archbishop also knew how to cleverly defend himself from those concerns raised about him.

Furthermore, the fact that there could be in the Vatican persons who practice or support sexual behavior that is contrary to the values of the Gospel, does not authorize us to make generalizations or to declare unworthy and complicit this or that individual, including the Holy Father himself.

Should not ministers of the truth avoid above all calumny and defamation?

Dear pontifical representative emeritus, I tell you frankly that to accuse Pope Francis of having covered-up knowingly the case of an alleged sexual predator and, therefore, of being an accomplice to the corruption that afflicts the Church, to the point that he could no longer continue to carry out his reform as the first shepherd of the Church, appears to me from all viewpoints unbelievable and without any foundation.

I cannot understand how could you have allowed yourself to be convinced of this monstrous and unsubstantiated accusation.

Francis had nothing to do with McCarrick’s promotions to New York, Metuchen, Newark and Washington.

He stripped him of his Cardinal’s dignity as soon as there was a credible accusation of abuse of a minor.

For a Pope who does not hide the trust that he places in certain prelates, I never heard him refer to this so called great advisor for the pontificate for episcopal appointments in the United States.

I can only surmise that some of those prelates are not of your preference or the preference of your friends who support your interpretation of matters.

I think it is abhorrent, however, for you to use the clamorous sexual abuse scandal in the United States to inflict an unmerited and unheard of a blow to the moral authority of your superior, the Supreme Pontiff.

I have the privilege of having long meetings with Pope Francis every week to discuss the appointment of bishops and the problems that affect their governance.

I know very well how he treats persons and problems: with great charity, mercy, attentiveness and seriousness, as you too have experienced.

I think it is too sarcastic, even blasphemous, how you end your last message, purportedly appealing to spirituality while mocking the Holy Father and casting doubt about his faith.

That cannot come from the Spirit of God.

Dear brother, how much I wish that I could help you return to communion with him who is the visible guarantor of communion in the Catholic Church.

I understand that deceptions and sufferings have marked your path in the service to the Holy See, but you should not finish your priestly life involved in an open and scandalous rebellion that inflicts a very painful wound to the Bride of Christ, whom you pretend to serve better, while causing further division and confusion among the People of God.

How could I answer your call except by saying: stop living clandestinely, repent of your rebelliousness, and come back to better feelings towards the Holy Father, instead of fostering hostility against him.

How can you celebrate Mass and mention his name in the Eucharistic Prayer?

How can you pray the Holy Rosary, or pray to Saint Michael the Archangel, or to the Mother of God, while condemning the one Our Lady protects and accompanies every day in his burdensome and courageous mission?

If the Pope was not a man of prayer; if he was attached to money; if he favored riches to the detriment of the poor; if he did not demonstrate a tireless energy to welcome all miseries and to address them through the generous comfort of his words and actions; if he did not seek to implement all possible means to announce and to communicate the joy of the Gospel to all in the Church and beyond her visible horizons; if he did not lend a hand to the families, to the abandoned elderly, to the sick in body and soul and, above all, to the youth in their search for happiness; one could prefer someone else, according to you, with a different political or diplomatic approach.

But I cannot call into question his personal integrity, his consecration to the mission and, above all, the charisma and peace he enjoys through the grace of God and the strength of the Risen One.

Dear Viganò, in response to your unjust and unjustified attack, I can only conclude that the accusation is a political plot that lacks any real basis that could incriminate the Pope and that profoundly harms the communion of the Church.

May God allow a prompt reparation of this flagrant injustice so that Pope Francis can continue to be recognized for who he is: a true shepherd, a resolute and compassionate father, a prophetic grace for the Church and for the world.

May the Holy Father carry on, full of confidence and joy, the missionary reform he has begun, comforted by the prayers of the people of God and the renewed solidarity of the whole Church, together with Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary!

Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, October 7th, 2018

 

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By |2018-10-13T18:19:57+00:00Oct 9th, 2018|Categories: The Moynihan Letters|