The Viganò-Vatican vitriolic verbiage is starting to sound like something worthy of a Dan Brown novel. In a second published letter, Archbishop Viganò challenges several Vatican officials by name to reveal what they knew about the behavior of former Cardinal, McCarrick. One of them, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the head of the Vatican Congregation that assists the Pope in appointing Bishops, responded with a long and acerbic public letter.
While mostly castigating Viganò for causing the Holy Father, Pope Francis a lot of agita and for betraying confidences, Ouellet also implies that all this is part of some sort of a right-wing coup attempt against Francis. This seems to be the way the Vatican is framing the attacks by Viganò. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, an Italian Jesuit and journalist who is close to Pope Francis, recently tweeted: “It is no longer possible for journalists to keep quiet about the fact that there is a campaign of disinformation against Pope Francis which links American and Russian interests.” Ah, so the entire sex abuse and cover up has been orchestrated by Trump-Putin to bring down Francis! Thanks for clearing that up Fr. “James Comey” Spadaro. What a crackpot.
Ouellet does make one point that puts Pope Francis in a much better light. Apparently during the Papacy of Benedict XVI there were rumors and talk about McCarrick’s debauched behaviors but nothing that was provable. This coincides with the statements of many US journalists who had information about McCarrick’s behavior early in the 2000’s but could not publish it as no one at that time would go on the record. Therefore, at the time of his retirement as Archbishop of Washington, DC, the Vatican under Pope Benedict told McCarrick to lay low, not to appear in public and basically retire to a life of prayer and penance. That did not happen as we know, I guess his ego would not allow him to go gently into that dark night. After substantiated allegations were confirmed by an investigation done by the Archdiocese of New York, Pope Francis removed McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, restricted him from performing public ministry, ordered him to a life of prayer and penance and schedule him to undergo a Vatican trial. So, it does seem possible that Pope Francis early on didn’t know all that much about McCarrick’s past or was at least giving him the benefit of the doubt.
What Ouellet does not answer is how it was possible that Pope Francis was never informed of the legal settlements against McCarrick that were made by the Dioceses of Metuchen and Newark? Nor does he respond to Viganò’s statements that other Bishops and Cardinals in the US and at the Vatican knew and covered for McCarrick. It seems strange that Cardinal Ouellet doesn’t seemed concerned to discover who knew what about McCarrick when he was promoted to Archbishop of Washington, DC and to the College of Cardinals and kept Pope John Paul II (who promoted him) in the dark.
After the publication of Viganò’s first letter, the Pope told the Vatican Press corps that “he would not say one word about this” but challenged the Press corps to do their own investigation to see how false these claims were. Well the Vatican Press corps accepted the challenge and now have put great pressure on the Vatican to release the documents noted in Viganò’s letter and allow certain individuals to be interviewed. Maybe this wasn’t what the Pope was thinking would happen but it put the Vatican in an awkward spot. So, under lots of pressure from the media over the Pope’s challenge to them, the Vatican finally issued a statement, (emphasis mine):
The Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Moreover, with reference to other accusations brought against Archbishop McCarrick, the Holy Father has decided that information gathered during the preliminary investigation be combined with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See
regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.
The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues. However, as Pope Francis has said: “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead” (Philadelphia, 27 September 2015). Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse…
So, the Vatican is going to look at the documentation, including the documents alleged in Viganò’s letters. But it sounds like they already know that things were not handled properly or honestly (“choices not consonant with a contemporary approach to these issues”). Also “a different treatment for Bishops who have committed and covered up abuse” indicates the Vatican already knows there are Bishops that need to be removed. And of course, the “in due time” coming from a Vatican that thinks in terms of centuries could be the 12th of never.
Still, it does seem like the “shock and awe” and “maximum pressure” campaign coming from the Church in the US is finally penetrating the Vatican walls. Coupled with the investigation promised by the USCCB we should finally be able to see the full depth of the harm caused by McCarrick and the cover-up and complicity that allowed it to go on for so long.
Love, Fr. John B.