The Viganò Papers
Many Catholics have been left uncertain by the letters issued by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò which sought to implicate Pope Francis in the abuse scandal involving a disgraced US cardinal.
Archbishop Viganò, a former nuncio to the United States, dropped a bomb in late August when he issued his so-called “testimony”. In it he claimed, among other things, that Pope Francis had lifted sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick — the former cardinal accused of serial abuse of seminarians.
Mainly on the basis of that claim, Archbishop Viganò called for the pope’s resignation — a remarkable act of rebellion.
The statement’s release was timed to coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland, which was overshadowed by the abuse crisis. The same evening, the pope told reporters that he would not respond to the statement—a refusal to drink from a poisoned chalice — suggesting that its thrust would diminish when the facts became known. He was not wrong.It quickly emerged that no formal sanctions had been imposed on McCarrick, only a request that he should keep a low profile — which he ignored to the point of freely attending papal functions with Pope Benedict.
It quickly emerged that no formal sanctions had been imposed on McCarrick, only a request that he should keep a low profile — which he ignored to the point of freely attending papal functions with Pope Benedict.
There were no sanctions which Pope Francis could have annulled. This has since been confirmed by Cardinal Marc Ouelett, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.
Moreover, at the time when McCarrick was supposed to have kept a low profile, Archbishop Viganò himself celebrated him as “very much loved by us all” at a 2012 gala in honour of the disgraced cardinal — six months after the supposed restrictions were communicated to McCarrick.
Viganò has now withdrawn the accusation that Pope Francis overturned formal sanctions — the very claim that underpinned his call for the pope’s resignation.The Viganò statement — a cocktail of facts, half-truths, falsehoods, omission, distortion, deduction, innuendo and impudence — can be located within an ideological campaign against Pope Francis.
The Viganò statement — a cocktail of facts, half-truths, falsehoods, omission, distortion, deduction, innuendo and impudence — can be located within an ideological campaign against Pope Francis.
Given his diplomatic training, Archbishop Viganò did surprisingly little to disguise his purpose: the timing of the statement’s release and the now withdrawn call for the pope’s resignation leave no doubt that it was intended to cause confusion and damage the Holy Father’s reputation.
Even as elements of his various accusations merit investigation, Archbishop Viganò’s “testimony” is discredited, not only by the false characterisation of the supposed sanctions but also by its perfidious intent.
By placing his grievances within the context of opposition to Pope Francis—his letters were disseminated through right-wing organs that are hostile to the pope — Viganò has compromised the investigation, now ordered by Pope Francis, into what was known about McCarrick as he rose up the ranks during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
There are other issues raised by Archbishop Viganò — and by Catholics from all ideological corners — which merit investigation and, if required, remedy. But before that can happen in a non-partisan way, these issues must be divorced from the Viganò statement.Among them is the rumour of a so-called “Lavender mafia” of active homosexuals among senior clergy in the Vatican and other levels of power in the Church.
Among them is the rumour of a so-called “Lavender mafia” of active homosexuals among senior clergy in the Vatican and other levels of power in the Church.
If there are such networks of gay priests who work together in maintaining dissolute and potentially abusive activities — and talk about the existence of such cabals is by no means new — then this must be dealt with.
But precaution must be taken that this would not give rise to discrimination against gay priests who are exercising their ministry without reproach, never mind a purge of homosexual priests and bishops.
As for Pope Francis, for all his sincere attempts to do the right thing, he has revealed certain blind spots and occasionally poor judgment on the subject of abuse.At the same time, his turnaround in the crisis in Chile indicates that he is open to reason and persuasion, and willing to act decisively.
At the same time, his turnaround in the crisis in Chile indicates that he is open to reason and persuasion, and willing to act decisively.
Even as we may hope for more coherent papal leadership on the abuse crisis, it must also be clear that the weight of the scandal cannot be hung on one man who has more than his fair share of other responsibilities.
And we must not allow the abuse scandal to be hijacked for the purposes of ideological battles.