Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has written a third letter from his undisclosed hideout, reaffirming charges of “a conspiracy of silence” and “corruption” at the highest levels in the church in the pontificates of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis in a cover-up of “the aberrant behavior” of the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
His new letter attempts to respond to his critics and to reassert his original accusations but does not include any new evidence to support the claims he made in his first “testimony” of Aug. 25.
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
“They were not technically ‘sanctions’ but provisions, ‘conditions and restrictions’ but,” he argues, “to quibble whether they were sanctions or provisions or something else is pure legalism. From a pastoral point of view, they are exactly the same thing.”
“They were not technically ‘sanctions’ but provisions, ‘conditions and restrictions’ but,” he argues, “to quibble whether they were sanctions or provisions or something else is pure legalism.”
Archbishop Viganò repeats the accusation that there is a “conspiracy of silence that has wrought and continues to wreak great harm in the Church.” He attempts to prove this by providing a timeline for the allegations made to the Holy See, starting in 2000 and ending in 2008, about Archbishop McCarrick’s “homosexual behavior.”
He writes: “In 2009 or 2010 I learned from Cardinal Re, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, that Pope Benedict had ordered Archbishop McCarrick to cease public ministry and begin a life of prayer and penance.” He said Cardinal Ouellet, then the new Prefect of Bishops, told him the same in November 2011 before he went as nuncio to the United States and that the previous nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, and he communicated these restrictions to Archbishop McCarrick “face to face.”
At one point, the former nuncio flatly refutes Cardinal Ouellet. The cardinal had written in his response to Archbishop Viganò that “the Holy See was only aware of ‘rumors,’ which were not enough to justify disciplinary measures against McCarrick.”
Archbishop Viganò writes, “I affirm to the contrary that the Holy See was aware of a variety of concrete facts, and is in possession of documentary proof, and that the responsible persons nevertheless chose not to intervene or were prevented from doing so.”
“I pray every day for Pope Francis. I am asking, indeed earnestly begging, the Holy Father to face up to the commitments he himself made in assuming his office as successor of Peter.”
Among those he mentions “compensation by the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen to the victims of McCarrick’s sexual abuse, the letters of [Father Boniface] Ramsey, of the nuncios Montalvo in 2000 and Sambi in 2006, of Dr. [Richard] Sipe in 2008, my two notes to the superiors of the Secretariat of State who described in detail the concrete allegations against McCarrick.”
“Are all these just rumors?” he asks. “They are official correspondence, not gossip from the sacristy. The crimes reported were very serious, including those of attempting to give sacramental absolution to accomplices in perverse acts, with subsequent sacrilegious celebration of Mass. These documents specify the identity of the perpetrators and their protectors, and the chronological sequence of the facts. They are kept in the appropriate archives; no extraordinary investigation is needed to recover them.”
Archbishop Viganò does not comment on an investigation of those archives ordered by the pope, according to a Vatican statement released on Oct. 6. It is also noteworthy that Archbishop Viganò no longer calls for the resignation of Pope Francis. He does not explain if his opinion has changed on that matter.
If there is something new in this third letter, it is Archbishop Viganò’s even stronger emphasis that homosexuality is the root cause of the sexual abuse scandal in the church, not clericalism. “This is a crisis due to the scourge of homosexuality,” he writes, “in its agents, in its motives, in its resistance to reform. It is no exaggeration to say that homosexuality has become a plague in the clergy, and it can only be eradicated with spiritual weapons.”
Archbishop Viganò declares, “It is an enormous hypocrisy: Condemn the abuse, claim to weep for the victims, and yet refuse to denounce the root cause of so much sexual abuse: homosexuality. It is hypocrisy to refuse to acknowledge that this scourge is due to a serious crisis in the spiritual life of the clergy and to fail to take the steps necessary to remedy it.”
“It is well established that homosexual predators exploit clerical privilege to their advantage. But to claim the crisis itself to be clericalism is pure sophistry.”
He acknowledges that there are “philandering clergy” in the church that corrupt souls and do harm, but he says, “These violations of priestly celibacy are usually confined to the individuals immediately involved. Philandering clergy usually do not recruit other philanderers, nor work to promote them, nor cover-up their misdeeds—whereas the evidence for homosexual collusion, with its deep roots that are so difficult to eradicate, is overwhelming.”
Indeed, “it is well established that homosexual predators exploit clerical privilege to their advantage. But to claim the crisis itself to be clericalism is pure sophistry. It is to pretend that a means, an instrument, is in fact the main motive.”
The former nuncio charges without evidence that Archbishop McCarrick “was part of a network of bishops promoting homosexuality who exploiting their favor with Pope Francis manipulated episcopal appointments so as to protect themselves from justice and to strengthen the homosexual network in the hierarchy and in the Church at large.” He charges that “Pope Francis himself has either colluded in this corruption, or, knowing what he does, is gravely negligent in failing to oppose it and uproot it.”
Archbishop Viganò states that “denouncing homosexual corruption and the moral cowardice that allows it to flourish does not meet with congratulation in our times, not even in the highest spheres of the Church.” He adds, “I am not surprised that in calling attention to these plagues I am charged with disloyalty to the Holy Father and with fomenting an open and scandalous rebellion. Yet rebellion would entail urging others to topple the papacy. I am urging no such thing.”
Cardinal Ouellet in his letter had called on Archbishop Viganò to stop his “rebellion,” to repent and be converted. In today’s letter, Archbishop Viganò instead calls for Pope Francis to repent and be converted.
He writes: “I pray every day for Pope Francis—more than I have ever done for the other popes. I am asking, indeed earnestly begging, the Holy Father to face up to the commitments he himself made in assuming his office as successor of Peter. He took upon himself the mission of confirming his brothers and guiding all souls in following Christ, in the spiritual combat, along the way of the cross. Let him admit his errors, repent, show his willingness to follow the mandate given to Peter and, once converted let him confirm his brothers (Lk 22:32).”
The Italian journalist Marco Tosatti, who helped Archbishop Viganò write his first letter, released this new letter on his blog on Oct. 19 in Italian and English.
In it, Archbishop Viganò leaves no doubt that he was fully aware that his decision “to bear witness to corruption in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church” would bring “alarm and dismay” to his many former colleagues in the Vatican and in the church and that “many of the innocent faithful would be confused and disconcerted by the spectacle of a bishop’s charging colleagues and superiors with malfeasance, sexual sin, and grave neglect of duty.”
He says he decided to go public with his denunciation because he believed “my continued silence would put many souls at risk and would certainly damn my own.” Many have asked why he waited until two years after his retirement to speak out publicly about “the aberrant behavior of Theodore McCarrick” which he had known for almost two decades. Archbishop Viganò attributes the delay to “the gravity of the decision” and adds, “if I have some responsibility in this delay, I repent for that.”
Many have accused Archbishop Viganò of “creating confusion and division in the church” through his testimony. But his response to this in today’s letter reveals yet again that the abuse question is not his main concern because he blames Francis for “being negligent in exercising his principal mission, which is to confirm the brothers in the faith and in sound moral doctrine” by “contradictory or perplexing statements about these doctrines.”
Surprisingly, Archbishop Viganò concludes his letter by appealing yet again “to my brother bishops and priests who know that my statements are true and who can so testify, or who have access to documents that can put the matter beyond doubt.”
He tells them: “You too are faced with a choice. You can choose to withdraw from the battle, to prop up the conspiracy of silence and avert your eyes from the spreading of corruption. You can make excuses, compromises and justification that put off the day of reckoning. You can console yourselves with the falsehood and the delusion that it will be easier to tell the truth tomorrow, and then the following day, and so on.”
It remains to be seen if any will respond to his plea.