I never heard of US Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano until a few years ago when he jumped into the middle of a controversy concerning Pope Francis. That was my first acquaintance with what has become his standard brand of splashy accusations, backed up by nothing.
Yesterday, he fired off a shot at Archbishop Wilton Gregory. He sent a letter to the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Washington DC. The letter specifically says that it was written as a response to the Archbishop’s comments criticizing President Trump’s photo op at the Shrine of St Pope John Paul II (try saying that three times quickly.)
I’ve already written about Archbishop Gregory’s statement from two sides, one praising him and the other critiquing his statement with a bit of cynicism. Now, based on Vigano’s outlandish guilt-by-association trope, I’ll offer a third assessment.
It goes like this: Who the tar-heel knows.
That sums it up everything I know for sure about this deal. I will say that Vigano’s letter gives off stink like three day old fish. But stink doesn’t absolutely prove there’s a dead fish.
This particular stink does “prove” that Archbishop Vigano can be a vicious, hate-gossiping cleric fish. But we already kinda knew that. It also “proves” that Trump’s internet followers love to pass around smear pieces about anyone who disagrees with their idol. But we knew that, too.
The real questions are more along the lines of who is behind this letter and does it mean anything more than that Vigano defames people and Trump supporters love to pass on smears? The only answer we have for that is the stink rising from Vigano’s letter and his own history as a right wing character assassinator and conspiracy theorist in a collar.
I read Archbishop Vigano’s letter and, in my opinion, it’s an embarrassment to Catholics everywhere. It is one of the most scurrilous pieces of nasty, gossipy innuendo that implies ugly things but says nothing that I’ve read in a while.
Vigano is careful to avoid making actionable claims about Archbishop Gregory. What he does instead is go off on the sins of previous Archbishops of the Diocese of Washington, DC. These men were sexual predators and they are in well-publicized disgrace.
Vigano doesn’t say anything directly about Archbishop Gregory — not one word — but he guilts by association and implies by innuendo all over the place. He lists Gregory’s predecessor’s sins in such a way that it seems as if he’s accused Archbishop Gregory along with them. But he’s tres careful to never flat-out say it so that he can’t be sued.
My colleague, Father Pablo Migone, notes that Vigano’s accusation that Archbishop Gregory is a “false shepherd” is a serious one inside the priesthood. I’m not a priest and don’t really understand that.
I did get that the one direct thing he said in this steaming pile of sewage was an attack on the Archbishop’s governing authority in his diocese. He told the priests and worshippers of the diocese that they have been subjected to the governance of a string of corrupt men. He then tells them they should not obey Archbishop Gregory.
This letter is a vicious, guilt-by-association, whistle-in-the-dark innuendo-based smear job calling for what amounts to mutiny among the priests and faithful in Gregory’s diocese against their bishop.
I felt like washing off my computer screen with Lysol after reading it.
Needless to say, Trump followers are exultantly passing Vigano’s smear piece around the internet with their usual zeal for trashing anyone who dares oppose Trump. In the alternate reality of Trumpism, Vigano’s half-baked smear letter probably makes sense. I imagine that’s why they’re circulating it. They think it answers something.
I’m guessing that they are also one the letter’s ultimate targets. The political game here is to feed Trump’s favorables enough raw meat to sustain their loyalty and keep them pumping.
Meanwhile, I’m back at Who the Tar Heel knows.
I can see the political use of this letter. It keeps the Trump faithful lined up, with their brains all lathered up with this latest infusion of sludge.
I can also see the incendiary intent of the letter. That, too, follows a known pattern of the extreme right.
Look at what they’ve done to America. They destroy things in order to take them over. They create chaos and foment insurrection deliberately and with full malice of intent to allow themselves a means of entry to take over.
This letter doesn’t quibble about that. Vigano clearly and directly called for mutiny against their Archbishop by the priests and faithful of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
But the letter still bothers me. Gregory offended Trump. Trump is vengeful and vicious. Vigano said he wrote the letter because Gregory offended Trump.
Vigano is a political player. I view him as what he’s shown himself to be by his own actions: A political operative for the extreme right wing that is trying to tear Western civilization apart.
They’ve used Vigano lately to whip up the nutso faction among Catholic faithful with extreme right wing conspiracy theories about COVID-19. Every time he comes up on my computer screen, he’s functioning as a purveyor of right wing smears and crazy.
So. If Vigano is a political weapon from inside the Church that the well-financed and interconnected extreme right wing uses to attack the Church, who used him to take a shot at Archbishop Gregory? Why did they do it?
Archbishop Gregory twisted somebody’s tail. But as to who that somebody might be … well … as I said earlier, who the Tar Heel knows?
I’m not going to print Vigano’s letter. It’s too trashy to have a home on my blog. If you want to read it, go here.