On August 26, 2018, an 11-page “testimony” was published in the Italian newspaper La Verità. It was published in the English-speaking sphere by the National Catholic Register, Life Site News and Ewtn. In the Spanish-speaking zone, it was published by Infovaticana, and in the French-speaking zone by L’Homme nouveau under the title “To free the Church from the fetid swamp in which she is mired”. This document that was given to the Italian journalists Marco Tosatti and Aldo Maria Valli beforehand by its author, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, denounces Rome’s protection of the American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a homosexual predator who was forced to resign from the College of Cardinals last June.
A Dramatic Testimony
These are the essential contents of the testimony of Archbishop Viganò, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016:
“Now that the corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy, my conscience dictates that I reveal those truths regarding the heart-breaking case of the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick, which I came to know in the course of the duties entrusted to me.”
Archbishop Viganò explains that two Nuncios to the United States before him, both of whom died prematurely, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo (from 1998 to 2005) and Archbishop Pietro Sambi (from 2005 to 2011), “did not fail to inform the Holy See immediately, as soon as they learned of Archbishop McCarrick’s gravely immoral behavior with seminarians and priests.” But no one in Rome reacted.
It was through Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, that Archbishop Viganò learned that Pope Benedict XVI, having learned of Cardinal McCarrick’s scandalous misbehavior, had ordered him to leave the seminary where he was living and forbade him to celebrate public Masses, participate in meetings, give conferences or travel, ordering him to consecrate himself to a life of prayer and penance.
The question is: how did McCarrick become what he became: archbishop of Washington and cardinal, after serving as bishop of Metuchen (NJ) and archbishop of Newark (NJ), even though his behavior was so gravely sinful?
Archbishop Viganò says Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State from 1991 to 2006, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his successor, are responsible for McCarrick’s career. But he also accuses the current secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. When it was obvious that McCarrick was not obeying Benedict XVI’s orders and was traveling throughout the world, Archbishop Viganò wrote Cardinal Parolin to ask if the sanctions still applied but received no answer. Others who certainly knew remained silent, writes Archbishop Viganò, mentioning Cardinal William Levada, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu (now a cardinal), and Cardinals Giovanni Lajolo and Dominique Mamberti.
Archbishop Viganò adds: “As far as the Roman Curia is concerned, for the moment I will stop here, even if the names of other prelates in the Vatican are well known, even some very close to Pope Francis, such as Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who belong to the homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, a current already denounced in 1986 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. Cardinals Edwin Frederick O’Brien and Renato Raffaele Martino also belong to the same current, albeit with a different ideology.”
In the United States, too, everyone knew, beginning with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor in Washington, but no one spoke up. And today, the cardinal’s declarations that he knew nothing are “absolutely laughable”, according to Archbishop Viganò. As for Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the current prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, who has in turn claimed never to have heard about Cardinal McCarrick’s abuse, Archbishop Viganò writes: “Given his tenure in Washington, Dallas and now Rome, I think no one can honestly believe him.” Lastly, concerning Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and head of the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors, Archbishop Viganò declares: “I would simply say that his latest statements on the McCarrick case are disconcerting (…)”.
The Pope Was Informed
Archbishop Viganò’s account becomes even more terrible when he directly implicates Pope Francis. In Rome, in June 2013, there was a meeting for all the Nuncios throughout the world, and Archbishop Viganò was present. For his first meeting with the new sovereign pontiff, the Italian archbishop went to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he encountered Cardinal McCarrick, smiling and serene, who declared to him with no little satisfaction: “The pope received me yesterday, tomorrow I am going to China!” – He who was forbidden to travel by Benedict XVI and was supposed to devote himself to prayer and penance.
With regards to this support for the predator cardinal coming from the highest level of the Church, Archbishop Viganò writes: “Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church and for bishops and faithful to act with parrhesia. The faithful throughout the world also demand this of him in an exemplary manner. He must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests. In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover for him. He did not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him and made him his trusted counselor along with Maradiaga.”
And he adds: “He knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator. Although he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end; indeed, he made McCarrick’s advice his own, which was certainly not inspired by sound intentions and for love of the Church. It was only when he was forced by the report of the abuse of a minor, again on the basis of media attention, that he took action [regarding McCarrick] (last July) to save his image in the media.”
Archbishop Viganò concludes by suggesting a few remedies for this dramatic situation: “A time of conversion and penance must be proclaimed. The virtue of chastity must be recovered in the clergy and in seminaries. Corruption in the misuse of the Church’s resources and of the offerings of the faithful must be fought against. The seriousness of homosexual behavior must be denounced. (…)
“At the Angelus on Sunday, August 12, 2018, Pope Francis said these words: ‘Everyone is guilty for the good he could have done and did not do ... If we do not oppose evil, we tacitly feed it. We need to intervene where evil is spreading; for evil spreads where daring Christians who oppose evil with good are lacking.’ (…) Pope Francis must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, he must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them. (…) This is a favorable time for the Church to confess her sins, to convert, and to do penance. Let us all pray for the Church and for the Pope, let us remember how many times he has asked us to pray for him!”
On August 27, the French journalist Jean-Marie Guénois wrote, “The investigation conducted by Le Figaro as soon as this document was published, questioning four very well-informed, very different sources, all inside the Vatican, leads to one and the same conclusion: the lessons Archbishop Viganò draws from the case are his own, but it will be difficult to deny the exactitude of the facts he relates.”
The Pope’s Silence
On his flight back to Rome after his visit to Dublin, Pope Francis was questioned by journalists about whether he knew of the abuse committed by Cardinal McCarrick as early as 2013. His only answer was this evasive statement: “Read the statement (the 11-page document, in fact) carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the sufficient journalistic ability to make your conclusions.”
On August 28, Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, also accused by Archbishop Viganò, defended the pope’s silence on CBS News in these terms that go to show the state of mind among Francis’ collaborators: “The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things—of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. (…) We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this (i.e. Viganò’s testimony).”
The reaction of the prelates accused by Archbishop Viganò has been unanimous. Cardinal Wuerl declared that during his entire tenure as Archbishop of Washington no one has come forward to say to him, “Cardinal McCarrick abused me” or made any other like claim. The only ground for Cardinal Wuerl to challenge the ministry of Archbishop McCarrick would have been information from Archbishop Viganò or other communications from the Holy See. “Such information was never provided,” he claims. – Reminder: bishop of Pittsburgh, PA, for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006, Cardinal Donald Wuerl was designated in the Grand Jury’s investigation on sex abuse (August 14, 2018) as one of the bishops who covered up abusive behavior.
Archbishop Joseph Tobin, also implicated by Archbishop Viganò’s testimony, expressed his “sadness and consternation” at the allegations of the former Nuncio in Washington. The archbishop of Newark believes that such allegations can in no way be understood as contributing to the healing of survivors of sexual abuse. He denounces the “factual errors, innuendo, and fearful ideology” (sic) of this “testimony.”
The Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli – who is so close to the current pope that among his fellow journalists he has a reputation for writing what the Vatican dictates – denounced the accusations of the former Nuncio. On the website Vatican Insider and in the newspaper La Stampa, he claimed that the accusations against Pope Francis and the demand that he resign are part of a vast campaign to destabilize the Argentinian pope being orchestrated by the conservative and fundamentalist circles for whom Archbishop Viganò is performing.
On the same website Vatican Insider, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and likewise seriously implicated by Archbishop Viganò, claimed unabashedly: “I never saw McCarrick behave in an inappropriate way.” And he added that the former archbishop of Washington had a “great reputation”, had been chosen by the pope, and that no “complaint” was ever filed while he was working by his side. “So why should I have thought there was something wrong in his way of being?” he asked candidly.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was more circumspect. The archbishop of Galveston-Houston, TX, and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), declared that Archbishop Viganò’s accusations bring “particular focus and urgency” to the need for an “examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop (McCarrick) could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.” The questions raised by Archbishop Viganò, believes the American cardinal, “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence.”
Those Who Defend Archbishop Viganò
In the face of Archbishop Viganò’s adversaries, many bishops have spoken up in his defense. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, TX, had the former Nuncio’s document read during Sunday Mass on August 26, admitting that the claims in the testimony are “credible”.
On Holy Spirit Radio, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, OH, asked that Cardinal McCarrick’s file be opened after Archbishop Viganò’s allegations, saying that that is “the only way to get to the bottom of the entire situation.” In a statement on August 28, Archbishop Paul Stagg Coakley of Oklahoma City expressed his “most profound respect” for Archbishop Viganò, recognizing his “integrity” and calling for an investigation into Cardinal McCarrick’s surprising career.
Fr. Jean-François Lantheaume, counselor at the Nunciature in Washington before Archbishop Viganò arrived in 2011, voiced his support on his Facebook page: “I was his counselor in Washington, I saw him reflect and act in very delicate situations, and he is a man of God, who prays and fasts, a man authentically given to God; a straight out man of prayer, an upright man entirely devoted to serving the Holy See, from which he has received nothing but ingratitude and slander!” And he added, “He told the whole Truth. I am a witness. Nuncio Viganò is the most honest prelate I know in the Vatican.”
On LifeSiteNews on August 27, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan, declared: “There is no reasonable and plausible cause to doubt the truth content of the document of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.” And he added in no uncertain terms: “It is completely insufficient and unconvincing, that Church authorities continue to formulate general appeals for zero tolerance in the cases of clerical sexual abuses and for a stop of covering such cases. Equally insufficient are the stereotyped pleas for forgiveness on behalf of Church authorities. Such appeals for zero tolerance and pleas for forgiveness will become credible only if the authorities of the Roman Curia will lay the cards on the table, giving the names and surnames of all those in the Roman Curia – independent of their rank and title - who covered up cases of sexual abuse of minors and of subordinates.” – Obviously, a true canonical trial and not a media trial must precede such a publication; otherwise this “transparency” will be nothing but a media lynching.
Archbishop Viganò has responded to several of his detractors, refuting their accusations point by point, on August 28 and 31 on the blog of the journalist Aldo Maria Valli, and on September 1 on LifeSiteNews. To Aldo Maria Valli who asked: “What do you make of the different reactions to the publication of your testimony?” he responded: “As you know, the reactions are contradictory. There are those who cannot stop looking for places to find poison to destroy my credibility. Someone even wrote that I had been hospitalized twice with obligatory treatment for use of drugs. There are those who imagine conspiracies, political conspiracies, conspiracies of all sorts, etc. But there are also many articles that appreciate my letter, and I have been fortunate enough to see messages from priests and faithful thanking me, because for them, my testimony was a glimmer of hope for the Church.”
On August 29, the Vaticanist Marco Tosatti, accused of being the true author of Archbishop Viganò’s letter, replied: “My contribution was that of a professional editing; that is, we worked on the draft, whose material was entirely by the Nuncio, to make sure it was fluent and journalistically usable.” And he sees the accusations against him as a “a sign of the desperation of those seeking to distract from a silence and refusal to give answers which is becoming hard for many Catholics to bear.”
But the best defense of Archbishop Viganò is without a doubt the documents that have surfaced since he published his testimony. There is the document finalized by Bishop Paul Bootkosko, bishop emeritus of Metuchen (NJ) where Cardinal McCarrick was bishop from 1981-1986, in which he shows – as the website Infovaticana resumes – “that the Church knew of (the prelate’s misconduct) at least as early as 2004 with regards to the diocese of Metuchen; that the Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, was informed of the complaints against Cardinal McCarrick at least in December 2005; that the documents exist and that the Church should, if not reveal them, at least consult them in order to refresh her memory.” And Infovaticana concludes: “Bishop Bootkoski’s answer to Archbishop Viganò is a confirmation of the credibility and gravity of the courageous Nuncio’s accusations: the Church knew and did nothing.”
There is also the letter incriminating the Vatican, published on September 7 by the press agency Catholic News Service (CNS). It is a letter from 2006, written by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, then substitute for General Affairs, mentioning “serious affairs” in an American seminary. The recipient of this letter, Fr. Boniface Ramsey, professor at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in New Jersey, told CNS that these “serious affairs” had to do with Cardinal McCarrick, accused of sexual abuse. Cardinal Sandri refers to a letter that Fr. Ramsey sent to the nunciature in November 2000, which proves that the Vatican administration was aware of it. This letter from Cardinal Sandri goes along with what Archbishop Viganò says, for there was no fallow-up after Fr. Ramsey’s letter: Archbishop McCarrick was created a cardinal in 2001 and remained at the head of the archdiocese of Washington until his retirement in 2006.
Cardinal McCarrick’s Protégés
On August 25, the Vaticanist Sandro Magister denounced and gave the names of the network that grew up around Cardinal McCarrick, “who was among the foremost American cardinals in promoting and implementing the ‘Dallas charter’ of 2002, the guidelines issued in reaction to the first great wave of sexual abuse against minors on the part of priests, with its epicenter in the archdiocese of Boston.” But, wrote Magister, “this did not change in any way his personal activity with young people of the same sex, which was known to many and about which even the Vatican authorities had been informed, without having the slightest impact on his career.
“McCarrick continued right to the end, with plenty of attention from Pope Francis, to use his influence in the appointments of his protégés, who today occupy important positions in the United States and in the Vatican: from Cardinals Blaise Cupich and Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Chicago and Newark respectively, to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the dicastery for laity, family and life, and today the organizer of the world meeting of families in Dublin.
“Cupich, Tobin, and Farrell constitute the vanguard in the reversal of positions that Pope Francis has wanted to impose in the hierarchy of the United States. And all three are fervent supporters of the Jesuit James Martin, the promoter of a substantial revision of the doctrine of the Catholic Church on homosexuality, who has been called by Farrell as a speaker at the meeting in Dublin.
“Among the cardinals of the older generation most esteemed by Bergoglio is also Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor in Washington and previously the bishop of Pittsburgh, where however a Pennsylvania grand jury accused him – in a report made public last August 14 – of covering up for his priests who were guilty of abuse. (See our article “300 Priests in the United States Suspected of Abuse Between 1947 and 2010”)
“Among the dioceses adjacent to Rome, that of Albano holds a forum every year on ‘LGBT Italian Christians.’ And at the next one, from October 5-7, one of the speakers will be the Jesuit, Martin, mentioned above. The bishop of Albano is Marcello Semeraro, very close to Francis and secretary of the C9, the council of nine cardinals called by the pope to help him in the governance of the universal Church.
“The coordinator of the C9 is the Honduran cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, he too one of the Dublin speakers, but whose auxiliary bishop and protégé Juan José Pineda Fasquelle was removed last July 20 on account of ongoing homosexual activity with seminarians of the diocese, verified by an apostolic visitation. Maradiaga, however, inexplicably remains at his post.”
How is one to understand so much depravity, so much complicity, protected by such silence? One hypothesis mentioned in Archbishop Viganò’s letter could offer some elements of an explanation, among many others. The former nuncio writes on page 4: “If Sodano had protected Maciel, (Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christs, a pedophile who lived with his partner, died in 2008. Ed. note) 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 decisions.”
Cardinal McCarrick’s “financial means” came from the Papal Foundation, whose way of working was explained by Michelle Boorstein, reporter for the Washington Post, in an article on July 31 entitled “As rumors of sexual misdeeds swirled, Cardinal McCarrick became a powerful fundraiser for the Vatican.”
While still the archbishop of Newark, Cardinal McCarrick participated in the creation of the Papal Foundation in 1988 and was a member of its administrative board until he resigned last June. The foundation’s principle was simple: find benefactors who would promise to give a minimum of 1 million dollars over 10 years ($100,000 a year) to the works of the Holy Father. On its website, the foundation says it has already raised over 215 million dollars since it was created. Founded to awaken the generosity of American Catholic benefactors, deeply shaken by the Marcinkus affair and Ambrosiano bank scandal (fraudulent bankruptcy in which an American prelate, Paul Marcinkus was implicated in 1982. Ed. Note), the Papal Foundation became one of the major financial resources at the direct disposal of the Holy See. Michelle Bourstein wondered in her article whether “McCarrick’s popularity and his enormous stature as an emissary for the church and as a prolific fundraiser for Catholic causes may have helped protect him over the years as other, whispered words were added to his reputation: harasser, groper, violator of his vows of celibacy.” This just might be a lead worth developing…
It would seem that with his total silence on Archbishop Viganò’s testimony, Pope Francis hopes that the affair will die out all by itself, just like the Dubia on Amoris Laetitia that have gone unanswered since September 2016. But is this silence really idle? The historian Roberto de Mattei revealed on his website Corrispondenza Romana on September 6 that the pope has supposedly asked Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (and implicated by Archbishop Viganò), and other canon lawyers to look into the canonical sanctions to be imposed upon the former nuncio to the United States, who risks being subjected to a suspens a divinis, that is to say, forbidden to administer the sacraments.
But Pope Francis’ silence may not seem an adequate response to the American episcopate that has been greatly discredited by these scandals. Several bishops are demanding action. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has publicly asked the pope to postpone the synod on youth scheduled for October 3 to 28, 2018, saying that in the context of the present crisis, the bishops are absolutely not credible in addressing the youth. He asks for a synod on bishops instead.
Already on August 22, Bishop Philipp Egan, bishop of Portsmouth in the UK, wrote to the pope asking him to convene an extraordinary synod on “the life and ministry of the clergy”, in which “the identity of the priest and the bishop”, the “life-style and supports for celibacy,” and a “rule of life for priests [and] bishops” could be discussed. One week later, Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas, TX, sent the sovereign pontiff a similar letter, suggesting that the discussions of this extraordinary synod center on the protection of children and vulnerable persons, and on the formation of priests and religious. On September 8, the bishop of Tyler, TX, Bishop Joseph Strickland, also asked for the synod on youth to be cancelled and an extraordinary synod on bishops to be held “to face the crisis of abuse in the Church.”
Will the Requests Be Heard in Rome?
In the meantime, we can meditate upon Bishop Schneider’s eight propositions in conclusion to his analysis of Archbishop Viganò’s testimony:
- That the Holy See and the Pope himself will start to cleanse uncompromisingly the Roman Curia and the episcopate from homosexual cliques and networks.
- That the Pope will proclaim unambiguously the Divine doctrine about the grievously sinful character of homosexual acts.
- That there will be issued peremptory and detailed norms, which will prevent the ordination of men with a homosexual tendency.
- That the Pope restores the purity and unambiguity of the entire Catholic doctrine in teaching and preaching.
- That there will be restored in the Church through papal and episcopal teaching and through practical norms the ever valid Christian ascesis: the exercises of fasting, of corporal penitence, of abnegations.
- That there will be restored in the Church the spirit and the praxis of reparation and expiation for sins committed.
- That there will start in the Church a securely guaranteed selection process of candidates to the episcopacy, who are demonstrably true men of God; and that it would be better to leave the dioceses several years without a bishop rather than to appoint a candidate who is not a true man of God in prayer, in doctrine and in moral life.
- That there will start in the Church a movement especially among cardinals, bishops and priests to renounce any compromise and any flirtation with the world.