The sworn memorandum by Archbishop Carlo Viganó, confirms things I wrote in my previous letter, albeit on a much larger scale. The media’s reporting on his testimony is quite curious. While this is potentially one of the biggest scandals in Church history, and we have had a few doosies over the centuries, the media is being very restrained in a lot of its coverage. (Of course, I realize that no story, no matter how big can compete with Trump-amania.) In the Reuters reporting, while they stated Viganó’s allegations they were quick to add that “no evidence was presented”. Other outlets stated that the document lacked proof or documentation to back up the claims. Fair enough. The same for the Archbishop’s recalling of a private conversation with Pope Francis in which he said he informed him that McCarrick had a very substantial file on him that the Pope should review, the media called that conversation “unsubstantiated”. Strange that the same media took as Gospel truth James Comey’s account of the private conversation he had with the President.
So fine for the journalists to insist on evidence in order to demonstrate the veracity of Viganó’s statements. That will only strengthen the final conclusions. Paradoxically, when it came to the PA Grand Jury Report the media accepted the report without question. It is important to remember that the Report was a Grand Jury Report, not the outcome of a trial. As the old saying goes, “a Grand Jury can indict a ham sandwich”. Ironically, this Grand Jury issued no indictments. In this case we have not heard any defense from the accused, (we certainly won’t hear it from the deceased ones) nor have we heard any explanation from those who did the original investigating as to how they conducted the investigations and what the findings were. While I am not saying the Report lacks factual basis but some of the scenarios presented in it seem implausible based on the circumstances. These beg more investigation. So why are there two different standards being used in these cases? Why insist on clear and convincing evidence for Viganó while with the Grand Jury Report we are told to just accept it all, whole and complete without any serious investigation or trial? If Viganó has an axe to grind or wants to make a name for himself, could it be that the Prosecutor in PA had an axe to grind, wanted to make a name for himself? Why not hold both up to the same light? Why not skepticism for both?
In the case of Viganó the secular media narrative that is unfolding is that he is either: (1) a bitter old man who has an axe to grind with Pope Francis since the Pope demoted him from his position as the head of the Vatican Diplomatic Corps to the post of Nuncio to the US; (2) he is part of the vast right wing conspiracy that aims to take down the more liberal Pope Francis; (3) he is just a snitch who leaked the Vatileaks info during the time of Pope Benedict. Lots of media outlets are treading lightly with Viganó’s assertion that a network of active homosexuals and those friendly to them have led the cover-ups with McCarrick and others. The fact is the media is being very circumspect on this story since it deals with one of their most favored constituencies who they seem to never portray in a bad light.
It is important to note that Viganó did clearly state that documentation to back up his claims can be found at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC, at the Vatican Secretariat of State and at the Congregation for Bishops. So I hope journalists start insisting on obtaining these. Viganó also made the claim that Pope Benedict had sanctioned McCarrick in 2009. Why would he make such an assertion knowing that Benedict is still alive and could easily refute the claim and destroy his credibility?
In the meantime, Pope Francis has said he “will not say a word about this”. That is unacceptable. The questions have been asked and they need to be answered. To ignore them would undermine his leadership and place his papacy in an untenable position. I realize based on what he knows, Viganó has called for the resignation of Pope Francis. But I think for the rest of us, until more evidence is presented, that it is premature to join him in calling for the Pope to step down. Because these allegations are so astonishing they need to be investigated with the utmost objectivity. If they are not then we will have to decide on other actions so that we can restore our Church’s integrity.
In my prayer a few weeks before all this unfolded, I saw Satan ravaging the Church, especially the priests and bishops and leaving things in a smoldering ruin. Well, we are there, this is now officially a spiritual battle of historic and epic proportions. We know Christ has won the victory but the margin of victory may be much smaller than we ever thought or imagined.
Yes, we are witnessing the evil actions of sinister men but there is also something diabolical here. Which means we need to be cautious how we proceed. To walk away from the Church gives Satan the easiest of victories: a win by forfeiture. But we also need to take care that in our righteous anger we do not burn down the whole house and become unwitting agents of evil and injustice ourselves. I know for sure that I will let no man, no matter how evil or corrupt steal my faith or my Church from me. I hope you join me in that sentiment.
St. Catherine of Siena, who in your day challenged the Pope to leave Avignon and return to Rome, pray for us that we might have the courage and foresight to follow your example in restoring the Church in our times.
Love, Fr. John B.