Vatican officials refuse to discuss Viganò’s letter, encourage journalists to study it

A shaft of light illuminates Pope Francis as he responds to a question from reporter Anna Matranga of CBS News aboard his flight from Dublin to Rome Aug. 26. Matranga asked the pope about a statement made by Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States, concerning Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Vatican officials are tightlipped about Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s letter and feel more than a little shocked and bitter that he has not only called into question the integrity of so many senior officials of the administrations of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis—and asked for the latter’s resignation—but has also reignited serious questions about how the Polish and German popes handled the abuse cases during their pontificates.

Pope Francis is “serene,” despite the difficulties, but in the Vatican there are feelings of “bitter disappointment” and “restlessness,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, told journalists yesterday.

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In his letter, the former papal nuncio to the United States revealed that he had told Francis about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuses and corrupt ways in a private audience in June 2013 and alleged—without providing evidence—that the pope not only covered up all this but also lifted the sanctions that Benedict XVI had imposed on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010. Under the sanctions, Archbishop Viganò said, the then-cardinal “had to leave the seminary where he was living, was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, or to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, and was under the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

In the Vatican there are feelings of “bitter disappointment” and “restlessness.”

Archbishop Viganò said it was “certain” that Benedict imposed these sanctions on McCarrick and that they were communicated to him by Archbishop Pietro Sambi at the nunciature in Washington in an hour-long “stormy conversation.” He said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, “communicated these same dispositions” to him in November 2011 before he went to the United States as nuncio.

America contacted Cardinal Ouellet by phone and asked him to confirm this, but the Canadian cardinal said he preferred “not to comment on Viganò’s statement” because he had “just returned” from holidays today “and I need to see the pope first before talking to journalists.” Pope Francis had called on journalists to study the document carefully, and “I am at the pope’s service,” Cardinal Ouellet said. “I must see the pope first and then, maybe, maybe—it depends on him—maybe I can speak to journalists.”

America also tried to contact Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the former prefect of that same congregation, but the man who answered the phone said, “He is not at home” and then put the phone down. Subsequent attempts to make contact went unanswered.

“I must see the pope first and then, maybe, maybe—it depends on him—maybe I can speak to journalists,” said Cardinal Ouellet.

Two other Vatican officials with whom America spoke but who asked not to be named said they knew nothing about sanctions or restrictions on Archbishop McCarrick. Indeed, it seems that the bishops of the United States also knew nothing about them, and it is certain that the sanctions were not announced publicly. If they existed, as Archbishop Viganò insists, it is not clear if they were only conveyed orally.

In his letter, Archbishop Viganò said that, at his request, Francis granted him a 40-minute private audience on June 23, 2013, during which at one point, “the pope asked me in a deceitful way: ‘What is Cardinal McCarrick like?’”

Sources here say the pope often asks such questions and wonder why Archbishop Viganò should ever consider them “deceitful.” They also point out that according to the letter it was Francis, not the nuncio, who introduced Archbishop McCarrick into the conversation, and they ask why Archbishop Viganò did not first raise the matter if he were so concerned about the errant cardinal’s behavior.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of the sex abuse crisis]

The nuncio said he responded to Francis’ question in this “naïve” way: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for 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.”

He noted that “the pope did not make the slightest comment about these grave words of mine and did not show any expression of surprise on his face, as if he had already known the matter for some time, and he immediately changed the subject.”

Archbishop Viganò went on to suggest, without providing evidence, that Francis had lifted the sanctions on the cardinal and said, “It was also clear that, from the time of Francis’ election, McCarrick, now free from all constraints, had felt free to travel continuously, to give lectures and interviews.”

Sources ask how Archbishop Viganò can explain his own failure to impose the sanctions that he is blaming Francis for ignoring or lifting.

Sources here ask how Archbishop Viganò can explain his own failure to impose the sanctions that he is blaming Francis for ignoring or lifting. As an article in America revealed yesterday, in the period of alleged sanctions before the Jesuit pope’s election, that is from 2011 to 2013, the nuncio participated in several public events with Cardinal McCarrick in the United States. Moreover, the cardinal visited the Vatican, met Benedict XVI and celebrated Mass with U.S. church leaders on a number of occasions during the time the sanctions were said to be in force.

Archbishop Viganò also alleges—again without proof—that the pope “continued to cover him up” even after the nuncio had informed him about McCarrick three months after his election.

Apart from the question of the sanctions, America has learned from a Vatican source that even before John Paul II appointed Archbishop Theodore McCarrick to Washington, D.C., in 2000, it was already known by some in the Secretariat of State, and perhaps in other parts of the Roman Curia, too, that the archbishop was taking seminarians to his beach house.

 

At that time, the key figures in the appointment of bishops were Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, who was “substitute” or chief of staff from Dec. 12, 1989, until Sept. 16, 2000, when he became prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, a post he held until 2012, and Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was the private secretary of John Paul II throughout his pontificate. The two were very close to each other, had easy access to the Polish pope, were totally trusted by him and exercised great influence. The other increasingly important figure in such appointments was Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who served as secretary of state from June 29, 1991, to June 22, 2006.

Archbishop Leonardo Sandri succeeded now-Cardinal Re as “substitute” in September 2006 and held that post until July 1, 2007, when he was succeeded by Archbishop Fernando Filoni (July 1, 2007 to May 10, 2011).

Archbishop Viganò’s letter mentions Re, Sandri and Sodano, but not Dziwisz.

Archbishop Viganò, who was an important figure in the Vatican but was not in the inner circle, said he revealed “those truths regarding the heart-breaking case” of McCarrick, “which I came to know in the course of the duties entrusted to me by St. John Paul II, as Delegate for Pontifical Representations, from 1998 to 2009, and by Pope Benedict XVI, as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, from October 19, 2011 until the end of May 2016.”

He explained that in this role as delegate in the Secretariat of State, his brief was broad, highly sensitive and concerned matters regarding human resources. He wrote, “My responsibilities were not limited to the Apostolic Nunciatures, but also included the staff of the Roman Curia (hires, promotions, informational processes on candidates to the episcopate, etc.) and the examination of delicate cases, including those regarding cardinals and bishops, that were entrusted by the Cardinal Secretary of State or by the Substitute of the Secretariat of State.” He had access to all personnel files and much more.

Archbishop Viganò had access to all personnel files and much more.

John Paul II appointed McCarrick as archbishop of Washington D.C., on Nov. 21, 2000. In his letter Archbishop Viganò asks: “Was McCarrick’s appointment to Washington, and as cardinal, the work of Sodano, when John Paul II was very ill?” His answer: “We are not given to know,” nevertheless “it is legitimate to think so, but I do not think he was the only one responsible for this.” He asserted that Archbishop McCarrick’s appointment “was opposed by Archbishop Re” and said that in the nunciature there is a handwritten note in which he “disassociates himself from the appointment” and states that Archbishop McCarrick was number 14 on the list.

As a journalist who covered the Vatican at that time, I find it difficult to accept Archbishop Viganò’s assertion above, that Cardinal Sodano was the main person responsible for the appointment because John Paul II “was very ill.” John Paul II visited Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel that year, and I saw him speak with heads of state, religious leaders and many other people. Yes, he had Parkinson’s disease at that point, but he was not incapacitated.

Archbishop Viganò supports his thesis by asserting that “if Sodano had protected Maciel, as seems certain, there is no reason why he wouldn’t have done so for McCarrick, who according to many had the financial means to influence.” By drawing the parallel between Archbishop McCarrick and Father Maciel, he raises important questions that surely need to be answered.

In the letter, he mentions two specific denunciations against Archbishop McCarrick that were sent to the Vatican in the years 2000 and 2006.

Viganò proposed “that an exemplary measure be taken against the cardinal that could have a medicinal function”

The first was in Nov. 22, 2000 and came from Boniface Ramsey, O.P., who was a professor at the Newark seminary from the late 1980s to 1996. McCarrick was archbishop of that diocese. He affirmed that there was “a recurring rumor” in the seminary that the archbishop “shared his bed with seminarians,” inviting five at a time to spend the weekend at his beach house, and that a number of these men were subsequently ordained. He said Archbishop Sambi, the nuncio in the United States at the time, forwarded the allegation to the Vatican the day after Archbishop McCarrick’s appointment, but no measures were taken against him. Three months later John Paul II gave him the red hat.

The second allegation came in December 2006 and was from the Rev. Gregory Littleton, a priest who was subsequently laicized for abuse of minors. He accused McCarrick, then archbishop of Newark, of abusing him.

Archbishop Viganò wrote a memo to his superiors—Cardinal Sodano and Archbishop Sandri—describing the facts as “of such gravity and vileness” that “they constituted the crimes of seducing and requesting depraved acts of seminarians” and much more, including “sacrilegious celebrations [of the Eucharist].” In it, he proposed “that an exemplary measure be taken against the cardinal that could have a medicinal function” and that the church authorities “should intervene before the civil authorities and, if possible, before the scandal had broken in the press.” He argued that if this were done the civil authority “would no longer have to judge a cardinal but a pastor.” Archbishop Viganò said his memo was never returned with a decision.

 

Two years later, in April 2008, Richard Sipe published online a “Statement for Pope Benedict XVI about the pattern of sexual abuse crisis in the United States.” It was passed to the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, and the secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone, and in May 2014, Archbishop Viganò sent a new memo to the substitute, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, summarizing Mr. Sipe’s statement and including his own December 2016 memo, and he again told his superiors that “it was necessary to intervene as soon as possible by removing the cardinal’s hat from Cardinal McCarrick, and that he should be subjected to the sanctions established by the Code of Canon Law, which also provide for reduction to the lay state.”

He received no reply, however, and wrote, “I remained greatly dismayed at my superiors for the inconceivable absence of any measure against the cardinal, and for the continuing lack of any communication with me since my first memo in December.”

Sometime later, he learned from Cardinal Re that, following Mr. Sipe’s statement, in either 2009 or 2010, “Pope Benedict had imposed on McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis.”

Archbishop Viganò had asked his superiors in 2006 and more explicitly in 2008 that Benedict XVI should not only remove McCarrick from ministry but also take away his red hat. It is ironic that it was Pope Francis, whom he accuses of covering up Archbishop McCarrick’s abuses and for whose resignation he clamors, that was the pope who did exactly that; he did so immediately after the first case of the abuse of a minor by the cardinal was confirmed.

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Tim O'Leary
2 months 2 weeks ago

Glad to see the Vatican is encouraging journalists to check the veracity of the claims in Archbishop Vigano's testimony. Some more new material (links below)
1. Seminarians required to serve McCarrick as aids while he was being investigated for abuse - in a compromised seminary (gay founder) in the Washington Archdiocese
2. Evidence here both of a chronic gay lobby and McCarrick's widely known escapades - and his power.
3. New interview with Vigano - he says he is serene, just like the Holy Father.
1-http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/seminarians-served-as-mccarrick-ai…
2-http://catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2018/08/30/vigano-has-broke…
3. https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/vigano-journalists-must-ask-what-happ…

Jorge Luis Luaces Rabaza
2 months 2 weeks ago

did you not have access to SSPX, Novus Ordo Watch, Fr John Z and Rorate Caeli? They have a larger readership than the links you posted

Carlos Orozco
2 months 2 weeks ago

Guillermo,
Let truth be known, whatever it may be, no matter the amount of gaslighting used to deter us from learning it.

Jorge Luis Luaces Rabaza
2 months 2 weeks ago

The conservatives have wanted the head of Pope Francis since he was elected.
He isnt going anywhere but I seriously wish he would resign and let the organizational church collapse. Let Pope Francis do what St Francis did: rebuild the church one person at a time

I rarely agree with National Catholic Reporter and definitely not with Michael Sean Winter, but his recent article today

https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/distinctly-catholic/we-need-chec…

was so hard hitting, clobbering EWTN, Tim Busch, George Weigel, Charles Chaput and Vigano that I see no possible solution other than strip them all. Fire all Bishops globally, let the US Church fail because it already has and what exists is a sham. Those of us who live the Catholic life in persona Christi, versus on the internet like most right and left wing trollers, will be fine. We dont live for screaming and denouncing of the Vicar of Christ, and we can do without the cultural warriors ala Chaput. They are part of the problem

Close all of the Diocesan Chanceries globally and let Bishops lead without the money.
Good luck with that

Congrats EWTN....you are getting what you wanted. The ignorant, hot headed, fundamentalist M. Angelica would be proud of you....as she reminds you to send her money.

Al Cannistraro
2 months 2 weeks ago

Thanks for shining a spotlight on this remarkable opinion piece, which I, also, happen to have noticed. However, I find his final paragraph -- especially his concluding statement about standing with Peter -- discordant with the rest of the article and logically ungrounded.

Danny Collins
2 months 2 weeks ago

Why not just admit that this is a pattern with Francis?

* Francis appointed Barros, who covered up for his mentor Kadima, and stood by him for months until the protests and media attention became so great that he couldn't avoid addressing the issue.
* Francis brought in Daneels to the Synod on the Family and made him a prominent member, knowing that Daneels had been caught on tape trying to intimidate a sex abuse victim into not going to the police, going so far as to blame the victim for the abuse.
* Francis reinstated several abusers whom Benedict had defrocked, including the infamous Inzoli. He only defrocked Inzoli again when the media attention grew so great that he couldn't avoid it.
* Francis lives in a house run by a man who was caught in an elevator with a teenage rent boy (Monsignor Ricca). Ricca was also famous for taking his lover with him to Uruguay where he lived openly with him and for calling the police after getting the crap beat out of him at a gay cruising site. Knowing all this, Francis moved in to a house run by the guy and appointed that man be his eyes and ears at the Vatican Bank. Even knowing all this, the Pope's response to questions about Ricca's fitness to root out corruption was, "Who am I to judge?"
* Maradiaga, who is among the Popes closest confidants, has attacked 48 seminarians who complained about rampant homosexual abuse at their seminary in the wake of a seminarian's suicide. The pope doesn't care about this one bit. He won't address the issue until media pressure gets too large to ignore.

Would it really surprise anyone to learn that the Pope ignored McCarrick's habitual, long term abuse of seminarians until media pressure made it impossible to ignore? Why should McCarrick be special. Clearly, the pope just doesn't care much about this sort of thing unless it interferes with his image among reporters of being a hip, cool pope.

Crystal Watson
2 months 2 weeks ago

I think many Catholics just don't care about clergy sex abuse - for them it's like the cost of doing business. Pope Francis is their kind of pope ... very popular with the public and guaranteed not to really change anything meaningful in the church. The main Catholic press will let the accusations against Francis die away, the conservative press will be ignored as biased nuts, and the church will go on as usual.

Carol Rogala
2 months 2 weeks ago

Most Catholics I know are very concerned about the sex abuse. The “cost of doing business”? Seriously, where did you get that idea?

Crystal Watson
2 months 2 weeks ago

I get the idea from the fact that though Pope Francis has done a very bad job with sex abuse, no one calls him on it. The Catholics I know wring their hands over the abuse but none of them do anything, don't stop giving money, don't publicly speak up, don't leave.

Carol Rogala
2 months 2 weeks ago

The Archbishop wined and dined with reporters for 5 months and then made these horrible statements about something he had knowledge of in 2013. One really has to question his ethics and motivation. If he is so outraged, why did he not speak up 5-6 years ago? What is prompting this now and why go the route he went? He is doing absolutely nothing to address the issue or help the Catholic Church. If he loved his Faith and God, he would have approached this in a much different manner. Sounds like he was paid well to do this. He should resign.

Jorge Luis Luaces Rabaza
2 months 2 weeks ago

It appears journalists and Catholic universities are doing their job as Pope Francis suggested.
The President of Ave Maria University, Jim Towey, as conservative as they come, wrote a blistering piece on all those individuals, including Raymond Burke, undermining the Papacy.

Statement by President Jim Towey Regarding The Rift Within The Church, Aug 29, 2018
“Yes, God is full of surprises. But the call for the Pope’s resignation by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’ is not one of them. Neither is the challenge to the Pope’s authority by Raymond Cardinal Burke, an American prelate who has consistently opposed the direction Pope Francis has led the Church on certain matters (and may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court). The release of the Archbishop’s manifesto seemed timed to inflict the maximum damage possible to the Pope’s credibility, and the choreographed chorus of support by others in league with them, was just as troubling.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20180829194517/https://www.avemaria.edu/rif…

Carlos Orozco
2 months 2 weeks ago

If for nothing else, Archbishop Vinano must be commended for PERSONALLY AND PUBLICLY demanding accountability from the curia in the Vatican and local hierarchies for a scandal that extends decades. Time for the Pope to lead. Time for timid bishops to stop simply reacting. Time for many, many heads to roll. Time for all Catholics to renew the Church, beginning with ourselves.

So many want the Church dead or divided so there is no formidable opposition to ideology, propaganda, lies and evil. Christ's promise to Peter is more powerful than all the evil and hatred directed against His Church or, even more dangerous, the Iscariotes in it.

Jorge Luis Luaces Rabaza
2 months 2 weeks ago

Viganò was part of the Curia in the Vatican since 1992 appointed by Pope JPII! He asks for people to read the historical record. Do so. He waged many wars with his colleagues at the Vatican. Read the historical record. Vigano had ample opportunity while working in the Vatican, before Pope B16 ejected him, to demand that Popes JPII and B16 resign. Yet he did not. Just because JPII had Parksinsons does not mean the Pope lost his intellectual faculties, otherwise he would not have been meeting heads of state, as Gerard OConnell states

Mike Macrie
2 months 2 weeks ago

Cardinal Vigano and Cardinal Burke, the angry Conservative arm of the Catholic Church still brooding over their demotions. When you see these continuous public attacks on Pope Francis who cannot help think they are committing the deadly sin of Pride.

Michael Barberi
2 months 2 weeks ago

I remember when Pope JP II visited Israel in the year 2000 because my wife and I visited Israel and Egypt shortly after his visit. At that time, the Holy Land and Egypt was relatively peaceful. My wife and I thought this was a good time to spend 3 weeks touring Egypt and the Holy Land. The trip was a wonderful experience and one of the best I can remember.

I mention this because at that time Pope JP II was very active, traveling all over the place, spreading the good news and building bridges to better relations with other religions, et al. At that time, he may have had the beginnings of Parkinson's disease, but given his vitality and energy, you would never know it. I certainly did not, nor would I have guessed his intellectual faculties were impaired. Quite the opposite, I may add.

I say this because JP II promoted McCarrick to Cardinal in the year 2000 despite widespread knowledge of his sexual abuse accusations. Interestingly, at this time JP II also knew about the sexual abuse accusations about Maciel. Yet JP II did nothing about Maciel or McCarrick.

While everyone must be considered 'innocent' until proven guilty, based on what we know to date this seems to me like gross negligence and the turning a blind eye to highly immoral behavior in order to protect the Church's hierarchy elite.

It was only when Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI that something was done about Maciel. Nevertheless, the fact that B16 did nothing about McCarrick is gross negligence as well. If B16 did impose sanctions on McCarrick then it is clear that McCarrick ignored them and B16 did nothing about that either. Either way, IMO this is gross negligence. On the other hand, if the Cardinal advisors of B16 withheld the evidence against McCarrick from B16, or called the evidence untrue or intentionally minimized their importance, then we have a very different and more serious problem with the Vatican and the hierarchy.

At this point, what all of this tells me is that the sexual abuse scandal, cover up and the turning of a blind eye to truth and the failure to bring justice to victims, bishops and cardinals in order to protect the Church's reputation and its elite, is "systemic" from priests to bishops to cardinals and to JP II and B16 and possibly Pope Francis. We do know that Pope Francis forced McCarrick to resign after it was confirmed that he sexually abused a minor. However, if Pope Francis knew about the sexual abuse accusations against McCarrick in 2013 by Vigano, at least his sexual abuse of seminarians, then we need to know why nothing was done to him at that time.

I continue pray and hope that the USCCB and Pope Francis will approve an impartial and competent lay-lead national committee (with Vatican participation) to thoroughly investigate the McCarrick scandal (and why he was promoted to Cardinal), the actions and inactions of the past 3 popes regarding McCarrick, the Grand Jury PA Report and the Vigano letter.

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you for sharing this great and informative comment!

Francesca Molly
2 months 1 week ago

Exceptionally fascinating post.this is my first time visit here.i discovered such huge numbers of intriguing stuff in your blog and assignment expert | AssignmentDone.co.uk particularly its discussion..thanks for the post!

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