Vatican or Trump-Putin?

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

  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.

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Poisonous By Nature

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

The sagas of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, nominee for the US Supreme Court and Dr. Kermitt Gosnell, convicted killer, both intersect over abortion and the mistreatment of women. Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist was convicted of the homicide of women on whom he performed abortions and the death of multiple infants, who were born alive. The fierce opposition to Kavanaugh is at its bottom line over abortion, specifically whether or not he represents the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Once again, we see how abortion poisons everything.

The treatment of the woman who alleged Judge Kavanaugh assaulted her shows how, as with abortion, women are too often used as pawns in pursuit of an ideological outcome. As I previously stated, sexual abuse allegations should be handled with the greatest of sensitivity and circumspection. There was no need for Dr. Ford to be paraded in front of the entire world in order to tell her side of the story. All that could have been done confidentially in a manner that respects the dignity of both the accuser and the accused. (Sen. Grassley offered to conduct the interview privately in California or privately in DC but Dr. Ford said she was not informed of those options by her lawyers.) It was done in circus style because politicians decided their need to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation and protect abortion outweighed Dr. Ford’s need to retain her confidentiality and dignity.

The treatment of the women who came to Gosnell’s abortion clinic is even more harrowing. Those who scream the loudest about protecting a “woman’s reproductive health care” turned a blind eye to the mistreatment and abuse of women at Gosnell’s clinic. The PA Agencies that oversee health care clinics, enforce health and safety codes refused to inspect Gosnell’s clinic lest they do anything to interfere with a woman’s right to abortion. They refused to inspect it even after receiving numerous complaints about the clinic. PA authorities were more concerned about possibly having to shut the clinic down and therefore limit access to abortion than protecting women from unsanitary conditions, infected surgical tools, botched abortions and the death of their infants born alive. The fact that PA had a law against late trimester abortions meant nothing to them. In the end they choose to sacrifice women’s health on the altar of abortion.

You can learn all the details of this gruesome story by seeing the new film: Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. In the end Gosnell got caught because his clinic was also a “Pill Mill” dispensing massive amounts of opioids. If the DEA had not raided his clinic, he might still be in the business of mistreating women.

In the frenzy to deny Judge Kavanaugh and his possible vote to undo Roe, abortion supporters did not hesitate to misuse Dr. Ford by exposing her and her family to a media circus and the hate and death threats that came with it. In their maniacal insistence that nothing interfere with abortion, its supporters continue to fight against any rational health and safety regulations that would protect the health and wellbeing of women who procure an abortion. Apparently being pro-abortion dispenses you from the rules of civics, decency and logic.

So, we continue to fight to protect women and their unborn children as we start another 40 Days For Life Campaign at the Abortion Clinic on Baseline and McClintock. You can support it by being a Sidewalk Prayer Warrior or join us to pray at the Aid to Women’s Center Chapel, which is right next store to Planned Parenthood Clinic. The Chapel will have Eucharistic Adoration every Saturday 7am-Noon. Please visit: https://40daysforlife.com/local-campaigns/tempe/ for more details and where to park. Please be mindful this is private property so you have to be careful where you park and where you stand on the sidewalks. The 40 Days For Life website will give you details and the expectations for a Peaceful Prayer Warrior.

Please go see the film and educate yourself on how the abortion industry harms women and those who support it are willing to deny women the same basic health care safeguards that they would insist on at a Veterinary Clinic.

The trampling of human decency, civility, common sense regulations and laws, the mistreatment of women and the complete destruction of anyone who opposes abortion, demonstrate to what lengths the pro-abortion side will go to protect the right to kill innocent children in the womb. That’s nothing less than diabolical.

Love, Fr. John B.

 

 

And The Award Goes To

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

The First-Place award for how NOT to handle an allegation of sexual assault goes to: Sen. Diane Feinstein of CA. Congratulations Senator for demonstrating extreme self-centeredness in using an alleged victim of sexual assault as a political prop. Someone in her leadership position is required by law, when they receive an allegation of this nature that includes the name of the alleged victim, alleged perpetrator and approximate location and time frame, to report the allegation to law enforcement, in this case to the Montgomery County, Maryland Police. By not reporting it she is probably guilty of the crime of failure to report (and so is the counselor to whom this allegation was first made in 2012 if it included the same information). Every one of you who has completed our Safe Environment Training knows this is the procedure to report an allegation. How is it that a lawmaker who helped make the law for mandatory reporting doesn’t herself follow it? If the Senator loses her upcoming re-election bid she could always try her hand a being a Bishop.

These types of allegations are sensitive in nature and should be handled with a high degree of prudence and sensitivity. Instead what we have witnessed is an allegation of sexual assault being weaponized for political partisan purposes. If Sen. Feinstein truly cares about the issue of sexual abuse and the trauma it causes its victims why did she keep the allegation hidden until it could be used for her political gain? Her actions are not the actions of one who understands the delicate nature of these allegations nor the requirements of justice. Ironically, the Senator is insisting that the FBI investigate the allegation. Well, Senator, if you want an investigation the solution is simple: pick up the phone and call the Montgomery Co. Police Department and make a report since they have jurisdiction and can bring a charge if warranted. Once you do they will begin an investigation.

The Second-Place award goes to: the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo, the current President of the USCCB and Archbishop Gomez of LA, the vice-president met with Pope Francis and requested an Apostolic Visitation in the US over the behavior and cover-up of the former Cardinal, McCarrick and the Viganó letter. (Asking for an Apostolic Visitation is sort of like asking the IRS to audit your taxes, not something that is usually done voluntarily.) The response of the Vatican has been no response at all. I will take that as a no.

Instead, Pope Francis has called for a meeting of all the Presidents of the Bishops Conferences world-wide to discuss the issue of clerical sexual abuse. The meeting is scheduled for February. Obviously, not a great sense of urgency on the part of the Pope. This is also the strategy of the media: focus on the issue of sexual abuse so as not to deal with the problem of some priests and bishops living double lives and that 80% of victims of clerical sexual abuse were young boys. Both the Pope and the media seem to have missed the statement in the PA Grand Jury Report (pg. 6) that acknowledged “much has changed over the last 15yrs”, that great strides have been made by the US Church to prevent abuse through proper screening and training and that internal controls are in place to immediately report allegations to law enforcement and remove offenders permanently from ministry in the Church.

In the meantime, the USCCB Executive Committee will put forth to the entire USCCB on its agenda for its November meeting several key action items: launch an investigation into the McCarrick-Affair; implement a process for disciplining US bishops for sexual abuse of a minor or misconduct with an adult and failure to report; and to establish a Third-Party system to receive reports about misconduct by Bishops (since they can’t police themselves). You can read the full agenda at http://www.usccb.org. This is a very good start on the part of the US Bishops. Sounds like the US Bishops are moving forward even if the Vatican drags its feet. Sadly, that does not bode well for US-Vatican relations in the future.

Finally, the award for Honorable Mention goes to the Catholic Bishops of Chile. Because of their failure to address the issue of sexual abuse and cover-up they are having their Offices and Chanceries raided by civil officials who are seizing all their files. How is it possible that they learned nothing from the past crisis of clerical sex abuse and cover-up in the US? While there are things in life that we each have to learn for ourselves, this is not one of them. But in their favor, I must admit I admire the fact that every bishop of Chile submitted his resignation to the Pope. So far, he has accepted around 8. Maybe the US Bishops could learn something here?

Locally, our Bishop has been meeting with the priests of the Diocese to discuss the current situation, possible solutions and changes that can move things forward in the Church. So, pray that these sessions bear fruit. And pray that yours truly, does shoot his mouth off, ranting and raving but speaks with clarity and charity.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS. Thanks to all of the hundreds of volunteers who have kept up with Safe Environment Training. Please know that you are not being fingered as a potential abuser but rather called to be a guardian of the well-being of our youth and vulnerable adults. Your diligent efforts have made a world of difference! Thank You!

Picking Winners

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

One of my favorite novelists, Graham Greene wrote a short novel entitled, Monsignor Quixote. It’s a humorous story of the adventures of a Spanish Priest from a small town who through a fluke is named a Monsignor by the Vatican much to the chagrin of his Bishop. The Bishop eventually suspends him as it’s just too much for the Bishop to have this lowly, unimportant, small-town priest to wear the robes of a monsignor. The irony is that Quixote is a very delightful, humorous man who is very well versed in Catholicism and ultimately is mortally wounded trying to save a statue of the Virgin Mary from being desecrated. The story is an ecclesiastical version of The Man of La Mancha in many ways.

Graham Greene’s little narrative does unfortunately provide a glimpse into the reality of how ecclesiastical promotions too often occur. Specifically, the appointment of Bishops. As this summer of shame has revealed too often episcopal selections are a matter of cronyism. Someone like the former Cardinal, McCarrick became a king maker. He made sure to push for the appointment of new bishops who were in his image and likeness. That, of course, leads to a whole lot of “the Godfather requires a favor of you” kind of scenarios. So those he pushed up the ecclesiastical ladder would not be likely to turn against him no matter how egregious his behavior.

The basic process in current use for the selection of new bishops begins within each ecclesiastical province (we are in the Santa Fe Province). The area bishops place names of priests who they want to be considered for Bishop on a list called a terna. Each bishop of a Province can add or delete names. That list is sent to the Nuncio in Washington, DC who vets the candidates and then submits those who pass muster to the Vatican. In the meantime, Bishops with lots of influence, like a McCarrick can push for their selection over the choice of the Bishops of a Province. Practically speaking, I would venture to say that the picks of someone like Bishop Olmsted, who is not the most popular kid on the block at the USCCB, would rarely get selected, whereas a McCarrick choice would be more of a first-round draft choice.

This process needs serious modifications. In my 30yrs as a priest only once did a Bishop ask the priests of the Diocese to submit names of other priests whom they considered good candidates for the episcopacy. You can see how inbred the selection of Bishops can become and why they are so reluctant to hold one another accountable.

Over the centuries the process for selecting Bishops has varied greatly. St. Augustine became a bishop by popular acclamation. In the medieval period it was often nepotism. One of the reasons for the imposition of the discipline of celibacy on priests and bishops was to stop Bishops from appointing their own sons or relatives, which in those days included the vast inheritance of Church property and benefices. Today with lightning speed communication and a very bloated Vatican bureaucracy the process is tightly controlled by a few people.

I would suggest the process be opened up significantly. Allow priests and lay people to submit names of possible candidates to the Bishop. He can vet them and ask if they accept a nomination. If they do then those names should be made public for scrutiny. If a candidate passes the scrutiny then the name can be submitted to the Pope. Admittedly, this process may be a bit messy and slow but it would be transparent. There is one caveat: a new bishop should not serve in his home diocese. A new bishop who stays local, might have his hands tied in any manner of ways and feel pressure to “return the favor”. We see it with politicians who after being elected have to dance to the tune their big campaign donors play. By serving in a new Diocese a Bishop brings a fresh set of eyes and no loyalties to anyone. This will enable him to be objective and fair in his new ministry.

Tangentially, the position of auxiliary bishop should be done away with completely. There can be only one bishop, the position of auxiliaries is really a bastardization of our theology and the biblical model. The way to do that is to chop down the size of dioceses whether by half or thirds or fourths. That would make a Diocese more manageable and the Bishop less inclined to act like a CEO of a major corporation. Maybe then Bishops could focus on providing clear teaching and strengthening the faith of the flock. The number one job of the Bishop is to carry the Cross and show the rest of us how to do the same.

The Church has big issues to face and the Church after 2018 will look very different. In the meantime, it appears that many, many bishops are hunkering down, lawyering up and consulting PR firms. Sad. The quicker they get honest with their people and priests, the quicker we can find solutions to our problems. A big problem is how to get rid of the Bishops that are part of this syndicated episcopal crime family?” At least Michael Corleone had the heads of the 5 families snuffed out when they turned to selling drugs. How do we get rid of the warts on the ecclesiastical bum, that is, Bishops who facilitated the homosexual takeover of the Church?

There are quite a few “Monsignor Quixote’s” out there. Please continue to support the priests you know that are doing their best to strengthen your faith and lead you in the ways of holiness.

Love, Fr John B.

PS Two of our physicians are working on a really ingenious new tool to help diagnose potential violence in young people in our schools as well as effective interventions.  Pray for their enlightenment.

Necessary Clarifications

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

In 2017 there were 1,207 allegations of child abuse by Pennsylvania public school employees. There were 280 reports alone in Philadelphia. In 2017, in the Catholic Church in all 50 US States and its territories, there were 24 allegations of abuse by Catholic priests. Six of the twenty-four allegations were determined to be substantiated and of those six, four were against the same priest. It would seem that child abuse by a priest is a thing of the past. But what about child abuse by Public School teachers?

The way I wrote that paragraph, though factually correct, is a bit of a spin job, even a hit on the Public Schools. The facts are that of the 280 accusations in Philadelphia only 18 were substantiated. That means many teachers, school personnel had to live the nightmare of being removed from the classroom, put on leave, had their good name and reputation tarnished and if they did return to the classroom, did so greatly weakened, always looking over their shoulder. This type of spin is exactly what the media and some prosecutors are doing to Catholic priests.

The PA Grand Jury Report was less than forthright on many fronts. There is lots of information left out and many factual errors and outlandish statements. That is by design as the Grand Jury Process is one-sided and meant to favor the Prosecutor’s case. The allegations of abuse were not actually all priests, some were deacons, seminarians and lay teachers, coaches and other lay staff. Please remember that of the 300 accused many of the allegations were unproven after investigations by Law Enforcement. Some allegations were reported by parents directly to Law Enforcement or Child Protective Services who did their own investigations and determined the allegation unsubstantiated. (Unsubstantiated describes an allegation for which an investigation is complete and the allegation has been deemed not credible/false based upon evidence gathered through the investigation). The media narrative leads you to believe that nothing has changed when in fact the number of new allegations drops off precipitously after 1990. Because the allegations were all so old no indictments or referrals for criminal prosecution were issued.

The Report covers 70+ years in six dioceses. Over that period of time how many priests in total served in those dioceses? If you do the math you can see that the number of priests accused was a small percentage of the overall number. Now even one case is too many, absolutely and malfeasance by Bishops is also unacceptable. But try to keep it all in perspective. Also, the report does not give the final determination of most of the cases or how they were handled. Some of the allegations were false. For instance, the priest who was accused of having a young person perform oral sex and then washing his mouth out with holy water was investigated by an FBI agent and the Vatican and independently both concluded it never happened. Or the priest who was accused of abusing a boy while on an airplane. Actually, the priest was flying the plane and the investigators determined it was impossible for the priest to have done what he was accused of while flying the plane without crashing it.

The 2011 Grand Jury Report in Philadelphia eventually mostly unraveled. The only national media that reported on the unraveling of the false allegations was Newsweek. (http://www.bigtrial.net/2016/12/detective-walsh-to-testify-jan5th-in.html#more) As an aside the Phila. District Attorney who very aggressively prosecuted the case is now in Federal Prison. The same for the former PA State Attorney General. Could it be that the current PA AG wants to distract from the corruption of his predecessor? When it comes to these types of investigations there are many, many motives and not all of them the pursuit of justice. The Church is an easy target: we are a large, very organized, we keep meticulous records, are heavily insured and have a horrendous track record on this issue.

I point this out not to diminish the actual abuse and cover-up that has taken place but to let you know some of what is in Grand Jury Reports or Law Enforcement Investigations are often cases from before 1990 and after 1990 you see a dramatic decline in new cases and in the way they are handled. The biggest change is that all credible allegations of sexual abuse are first turned over to Law Enforcement, the accused is immediately suspended and Parishes where the cleric served are publicly notified of the allegations. After the criminal investigation is completed, then the case goes to the Diocesan Review Board (every US Diocese has one). In our Diocese the review board consists of lay professionals who review and make determinations regarding any allegations against clergy. The makeup of this board includes a law enforcement officer, a licensed psychologist, a judge, a medical professional, a teacher and a parish pastor. Based on the Board’s recommendation the Bishop will either dismiss the cleric or if cleared of all allegations return him to ministry.

In the meantime, many Bishops are proving themselves to be cretins. We now see NY, NJ, Missouri, Nebraska, Florida, New Mexico, et.al., dioceses being subpoenaed. Why do they wait for a Prosecutor to come calling? Why not release all the cases with a complete narrative of what happened, how it was handled and all pertinent details? Memo to Bishops: CLEAR AWAY THE WRECKAGE OF THE PAST, NOW.

Just as I don’t want an entire class of people, namely public-school teachers convicted because of the crimes of a minority of teachers so too we should not convict every Catholic priest because of the crimes of some priests and the failures of some Bishops. Believe me, every one of us priests are filled with disgust at what some of our brothers have done.

Priests who commit child abuse are actually committing a form of incest, the worst crime know to humanity. They always need to be held accountable but in our desire for justice we have to take care not to become instruments of injustice.

Love, Fr. John B.

Rise Up

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

Do you hear the people sing,
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

                                Will you join in our crusade
                                   Who will be strong and stand with me?
                                  Somewhere beyond the barricade
                               Is there a world you long to see?

Les Misérables: Final Lyrics

To the barricades, my friends, to the barricades! Many of you have asked what can you do in light of the current revelations of this summer of shame in the Church? The first step is to make our expectations known of what must happen before more drastic actions are taken. So here are two expectations that must be meet:

The Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth (2002) must be immediately amended to stipulate that Bishops/Cardinals are subject to the same investigatory and disciplinary actions that priests and deacons in the US are currently subject to. The scope of the Charter needs to be expanded to include not only those credibly accused of abuse but those credibly accused of cover-up of such misconduct. An investigation of those Bishops/Cardinals who have been credibly accused of cover-up or concealment is to be instigated once the Charter is amended.
A full and independent investigation needs to be completed of the allegations made by the former US Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó.
If these demands are not met than further actions can be taken. But I think we should at least give the US Bishops time to act. Of course, #1 could be accomplished but not #2 or vice-versa. If that occurs than a different set of actions can be determined. The US Bishops have control over amending the Dallas Charter and they can do it voluntarily without official approval of an amended Charter from the Vatican. This is what the Catholic Bishops of England did to hold themselves accountable.

I would suggest this first step be taken by every lay person, namely to write to both Cardinal DiNardo, the current President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and to the current Nuncio in Washington, DC. This allows your voice to be heard and the expectations made clear.

His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-3610

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
President of the USCCB
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
1700 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002

There is also an on-line petition to Pope Francis you can sign: The People of God Respond: https://www.popefrancispetition.com

There is tremendous energy among the lay faithful right now and so I pray that the Holy Spirit will direct that energy so that all of you can rebuild the Church of Christ. It’s really in your hands. So, pray that you will act with justice and charity divorced from self-seeking, vengeance or hatred. Or to paraphrase the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the CHURCH’S wounds.

Love, Fr. John B.

Double Standards?

Fr. John Bonavitacola
Dear Friends,

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.