Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for bishops, in an open letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has released a detailed and devastating response to former nuncio’s accusations against Pope Francis regarding the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, charging him with “blasphemy” for calling into question the faith of the pope and calling on him to repent.
The Vatican released the letter in the original French, accompanied by an Italian translation, around 10:30 on Sunday morning (Rome time), Oct. 7.
The Canadian cardinal begins the letter by recalling that Archbishop Viganò, in his second letter released a week ago “denounced Pope Francis and the Roman Curia” and appealed to him “to speak the truth” about “the facts that you interpret as an endemic corruption that invaded the hierarchy of the church up to the highest level.”
He said that, with the “necessary permission” of Pope Francis, he now gives “my personal testimony as prefect of the congregation of bishops, about the matters regarding the emeritus archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, and his presumed links with Pope Francis, that constitute the object of your clamorous public denunciation as well as your demand that the Holy Father resign.”
“Your present position appears to me as incomprehensible and extremely reprehensible, not only because of the confusion that it sows in the People of God but also because of the accusations that seriously damage the good name of the Successors of the Apostles.”
He said that he writes “on the basis of my personal contacts and of the documents in the archives” of the congregation of bishops “that are currently the object of a study to throw light on this sad case.”
Addressing him “in full sincerity, by reason of the good relation of collaboration that existed between us when you were nuncio in Washington,” the cardinal tells Archbishop Viganò, “your present position appears to me an incomprehensible and extremely reprehensible, not only because of the confusion that it sows in the People of God, but also because of the accusations that seriously damage the good name of the Successors of the Apostles.” It is noteworthy that the cardinal uses the word “successors” because the former nuncio’s letter has not only called Francis into question, but also Benedict XVI, John Paul II and also many bishops.
Then addressing the specific accusations, the cardinal recalled that Archbishop Viganò claims he told Pope Francis, in a private audience, on June 23 about the case of Archbishop McCarrick, and said “I imagine that because of the enormous quantity of verbal and written information that he had received on many persons and situations” when he met all the nuncios from the different countries in the Vatican two days earlier, “I strongly doubt that [Archbishop] McCarrick would have interested him to the point that you wish to make [people] believe.” He recalls that Archbishop McCarrick was then 82 years old and an emeritus archbishop for seven years.
Cardinal Ouellet then says that “the written instructions prepared for you by the congregation for bishops at the beginning of your service [as nuncio] in 2011, say nothing about [Archbishop] McCarrick.” But, he acknowledges that in a private conversation with Archbishop Viganò, “I told you about the situation of the emeritus bishop who had to obey to certain conditions and restrictions because of the rumors about his behavior in the past.”
Significantly, the cardinal adds that since he took over as prefect of the congregation for bishops on June 30, 2010, “I never brought the [Archbishop] McCarrick case to an audience with Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis, except in these last days after his leaving the college of cardinals.”
“I never brought the McCarrick case to an audience with Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis, except in these last days after his leaving the college of cardinals.”
He said that the former cardinal, who went into retirement in May 2006, “was strongly exhorted not to travel and not to appear in public, so as not to provoke rumors in his regard. It is false to present the measures taken against him as ‘sanctions’ that were decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and annulled by Pope Francis.”
Moreover, he said, that an “examination of the archives” shows “that there are no documents in this regard signed by one or other pope, nor notes of an audience with my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, that gave the emeritus-archbishop McCarrick an order obliging him to silence and to the private life, with the rigor of penal sanctions.”
He explained that “the reason was they there was not then, unlike today, sufficient proof of his presumed guilt.”
He said this explains “the position inspired by prudence” of the congregation and “the letters of my predecessor and me that reaffirmed, through the apostolic nuncio Pietro Sambi, and then also through you, the exhortation to a discreet style of life of prayer and penance for his own good and that of the church.”
Cardinal Ouellet said that “his case would have been the object of new disciplinary measures if the nunciature in Washington or any other source had provided us with recent and decisive information regarding his behavior.”
He said he hopes, “as do many others, out of respect for the victims and for the demands of justice, that the investigation underway in the United States and in the Roman Curia will finally offer us a comprehensive critical vision of the procedures and of the circumstances of this painful case, so that such fact may never be repeated in the future.”
The cardinal expresses his own astonishment that “a man of the church, whose incoherence is known today, could be promoted at various times, even to being given the highest functions of the archbishop of Washington and cardinal.” He admits “the defects of the system” in the selection of Archbishop McCarrick and adds that “without going into those details, it should be understood that the Supreme Pontiff depends on the information at his disposal in that precise moment and this information constitutes the object of a prudential judgment that is not infallible.”
"The investigation underway in the United States and in the Roman Curia will finally offer us a comprehensive critical vision of the procedures and of the circumstances of this painful case."
Cardinal Ouellet tells Archbishop Viganò that he considers it “unjust to conclude that the persons charged with making the advance discernment are corrupt, also if, some indications, provided by testimonies, should have been further examined.”
He says that Archbishop McCarrick “knew how to defend himself with great skill from the doubts raised in his regard.” On the other hand, he says, “the fact that there can be persons in the Vatican that practice and sustain behavior contrary to the values of the Gospel in matters of sexual morality does not authorize us to generalize and to declare as unworthy and accomplice of this one or that or even of the Holy Father.” He said “it should not happen above all that the ministers of truth should have to protect themselves from calumny and defamation.”
He then told Archbishop Viganò frankly that “to accuse Pope Francis of having covered up with full knowledge of the case of this presumed sexual predator and to be therefore an accomplice of the corruption that is spread in the church, to the point of holding him unworthy to continue his reform as first pastor of the church, is for me incredible and unbelievable from all points of view.”
The cardinal said “I cannot understand how you could have allowed yourself to be convinced of this monstrous accusation that does not stand up.” He recalls that Pope Francis “had nothing to do with the promotions of Archbishop McCarrick to New York, Metuchen, Newark and Washington.” But it was he “who removed him from the dignity of cardinal when credible evidence that he had abused a minor was presented [to him].”
Archbishop Viganò had accused the pope of taking Archbishop McCarrick as his “great advisor,” but the cardinal said Francis had never alluded to this, “even though he does not hide the trust he gives to some prelates.”
He said he understood that these prelates are “not those of your preference, nor of the friends that sustain you in your interpretation of facts.”
“I cannot understand how you could have allowed yourself to be convinced of this monstrous accusation that does not stand up.”
Cardinal Ouellet told Archbishop Viganò, “I find it totally aberrant that you take profit from this clamorous scandal of the sexual abuses in the United States to hit at the moral authority of your superior, the Supreme Pontiff, with an unheard of an unmerited blow.”
Cardinal Ouellet said that he meets Pope Francis every week regarding the nomination of bishops and problems governing the church worldwide, and added, “I know well how he treats people and problems: with great charity, mercy, attention and seriousness, as you yourself have experienced.”
Then in an extraordinary indictment, the cardinal told the former nuncio, “reading how you conclude your last message, apparently very spiritual, making fun of him and casting doubt on his faith, seems to me to be truly too sarcastic, even blasphemous. This cannot come from the Holy Spirit!”
The cardinal then, implying that Archbishop Viganò had put himself outside the church, said he wished “to help you to find again communion with him who is the visible guarantor of the communion of the Catholic Church.”
He said he understood the “bitternesses and disappointments” that have marked his path in service of the Holy See, but said “you cannot conclude your priestly life in open and scandalous rebellion that inflicts a very serious wound” on the church “which you pretend to serve better by aggravating division and distress in the people of God.”
Cardinal Ouellet calls on Archbishop Viganò: “Come out of your clandestinity, repent of your revolt and return to better sentiments to the Holy Father, instead of aggravating hostility against him.”
He asked the archbishop: “how can you celebrate the Holy Eucharist and pronounce his name in the canon of the Mass? How can you pray the holy Rosary, and to St. Michael the Archangel and the Mother of God, when you condemn him whom She protects and accompanies every day in his heavy and courageous ministry?”
Cardinal Ouellet concludes his letter with these words: “In response your unjust and unjustifiable attack, dear [Archbishop] Viganò, I conclude that the accusation is a political setup devoid of real foundation that could incriminate the pope, and I repeat that it has profoundly wounded the communion of the church.”
He added, “May it please God that this injustice is rapidly repaired and that Pope Francis continues to be recognized for what he is: a distinguished pastor, a compassionate and firm father, a prophetic charismatic for the church and the world. May he continue with joy and full trust his missionary reform, comforted by the prayer of the people of God and the renewed solidarity of the whole church together with Mary, the Queen of the holy rosary.”