What the **** is going on in the Vatican?

What the **** is going on in the Vatican? August 25, 2018

From the National Catholic Register:  “Ex-Nuncio Accuses Pope Francis of Failing to Act on McCarrick’s Abuse.”  Some excerpts:

In an extraordinary 11-page written testament, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Archbishop Viganò said in his written statement that Pope Francis “continued to cover” for McCarrick and not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” but also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor,” claiming that the former archbishop of Washington advised the Pope to appoint a number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark.

Archbisop Viganò, who said his “conscience dictates” that the truth be known as “the corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy,” ended his testimony by calling on Pope Francis and all of those implicated in the cover up of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse to resign.

The Register links to the letter itself, to which one help but react with a “holy ****!”  The letter is 11 pages, and contains very specific details and names many names, individuals who Vigano says must certainly have known about McCarrick.  He details multiyear attempts to notify Benedict of McCarrick’s misbehavior (that is, specifically confined to seminarians; abuse of minors was not known), which were blocked by the Vatican “deep state,” if you will, until finally Benedict himself learned of the matter and sanctioned McCarrick, obliging him to life in prayer and penance in 2009 or 2010.  However, Pope Francis removed these restrictions on McCarrick, enabled him to travel, give lectures, etc., and elevated him to a position of close advisor.  In fact, McCarrick had been obliged to move away from the seminary under Benedict, but under Francis, he returned.

Now, it seems that right off the bat, Francis’s defenders are attempting to discredit Vigano, such as a tweet (retweeted by Fr. James Martin) by Elizabeth Dias:

But I have an extremely difficult time believing that Vigano is telling lies, because it would be an absolutely massive set of lies.  One expects, in any case, that as much as can be confirmed, will be, though we may be looking at a situation in which the assertions can’t be corroborated and in which those who Vigano accuses deny whenever there isn’t any such evidence.

As I write this, I don’t know what the news will look like over the next several days.  These accusations certainly are in keeping with the portrait Ross Douthat paints in his recent book, of a man who plays at being humble but in fact uses his power unhesitatingly.

I am also seeing a lot of new calls for Francis to resign.  Quite honestly, if he were the sort of man who would be willing to consider resigning, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.  So I don’t know what will happen next, and I am not hopeful.  What seems most likely, is simply that there’ll be some sort of veiled criticism/discrediting of the accusation by some sort of Vatican insider who’s meant to be understood to be speaking for the Pope, and then silence, as unworthy of a response.  And I don’t know that outside parties will be able to sufficiently verify the assertions.

I’ll update when there’s more news.  In the meantime, readers, please feel free to add your updates/links and insights in the comments.


It’s late Sunday afternoon and I’m doing a quick check of the news and commentary.  National Catholic Review’s article on the subject disputes the claim that Benedict sanctioned McCarrick because, during Benedict’s papacy, he did not seem to actually be sanctioned.  (Is this true?  Is this false?  The article provides an instance from 2010, which would be consistent with Vigano’s claims that the sanctioning took place in 2009 or 2010.  Others are saying on twitter that there were later instances, but Vigano’s defenders (or those keeping an open mind) suggest that, since Benedict didn’t make the restrictions public, McCarrick flouted them.

The article further says that Vigano is not credible, because, if he had know, he should have made his allegations public earlier.  And he doesn’t hesitate to paint the accusations in the most dramatic of terms:

Vigano is a disgruntled former employee. Such people are always a bit angry. They are also often a bit unreliable. He was always a crackpot. But, make no mistake: This is a coordinated attack on Pope Francis. A putsch is afoot and if the U.S. bishops do not, as a body, stand up to defend the Holy Father in the next 24 hours, we shall be slipping towards schism long before the bishops meeting in November. The enemies of Francis have declared war.

Now, I think there’s a lot to be investigated in Vigano’s accusations.  Is there any means of verifying his core claim that Benedict had sanctioned McCarrick?  Is it possible that Vigano warned Francis, but Francis took these claims as the result of some infighting?  And bear in mind that the accusations Vigano describes were not the instances of child molestation that have now come to light, but sexual misconduct with adult seminarians — how might that have impacted things?

But it is disconcerting to see these responses of circling the wagons, seeking to not just discredit Vigano but to cast this as a battle in which the pope, and perhaps by extension any bishop whose defenders judge to be accused for political reasons, must always be defended, either deeming the truth irrelevant, or deciding in advance that because their cause is just, they know in advance that “their bishops” and “their pope” are in the right.

Another thought:

It’s easy to see why Illinois politicians, for instance, engage in financial chicarny that masks the seriousness of the state’s financial situation.  As long at the state limps along until they themselves are out of power, that’s good enough.  But surely Catholic bishops, and the Pope himself, know that the Catholic Church is not just a short-term organization.  Don’t these men, in addition to their desire to serve the church, want to go down in history as successes rather than failures?  Why would they sweep scandals under the rug for a short-term benefit when they know how dangerous this is the long term?

OK, that’s naive, I admit.  But given how many people have left the Catholic Church, it’s insane for bishops or the Pope to imagine that they can just sit tight and wait for things to blow over, aided perhaps by mournful-sounding letters and new commissions.

But what if this is a matter of “life imitates the Bee”, namely, their recent article whose title, “Pope Says He Will Address Sex Abuse Scandal Once He’s Finished Talking About Climate Change” pretty much gives away the entire premise of the article?  Keeping the Catholic Church healthy and in one piece is a long-term endeavor, and cover-up actions now can have terrible long-term repercussions.  But if the Pope, or an archbishop or cardinal with a public platform, whose words are reported in major newspapers and on the TV news, has lost sight of this, and has begun to see other, secular issues of vital importance, one might think the reverse, and begin to think like this:

We need action on climate change/immigration/health care provision urgently; these are crises which require that we influence politicians (through direct lobbying and grass roots action) right away to implement wholly new frameworks which will, from here on out, guide our actions.  If we don’t act on climate change right away, it’ll be too late.  Yes, we’re at risk of losing our cohesion as a church, and of losing a substantial fraction of our members, but that’s probably inevitable and if we can’t impact it in any case, then we might as well focus on these political/social issues while we still have some sway.

In other words, such a person might convince themselves that actions which defer the day of reckoning, however much more painful it will make that ultimate day, are warranted because of the urgency of solving other problems.


Now the Catholic News Agency is reporting that the Pope has not only refused to make a comment to journalists, while on the papal plane (site of many of his off-the-cuff comments), but has further said that he will not make any comment until after “some time passes” and after those journalists have looked into the allegations.  He didn’t say, “you know I have a tendancy to make statements that I later have to clarify; I don’t want to do so in this case so I would prefer to speak later after I can better gather my thoughts.”  His statement seems to me to be a matter of wanting to wait and see whether any journalists do in fact find any corroborating evidence, so as to avoid implicating himself unnecessarily.  Perhaps he meant this as a rebuke to a demand for an on-the-spot statement, but it is still discouraging, as if it is only journalists who are asking these questions, rather than the whole of the faithful, or at least those of us in the United States, and who are following the story, wanting to know the truth behind these claims.


image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/113018453@N05/14037472464




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