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Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he arrives to celebrate a Mass in Freedom Square in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. Pope Francis concludes his four-day tour of the Baltics visiting Estonia. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
September 28, 2018
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has issued a second statement in which he attacks Pope Francis for not responding to the allegation that he covered up the sexual abuse of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He appeals to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to come to his defense by confirming his testimony.
His second dispatch, which many in Rome had expected, came 33 days after his first attack on Francis. It was published by the same media outlets that broadcast the first one, in which he called for the pope’s resignation—something he does not do this time.
In this new document, Archbishop Viganò presents himself as one called by baptism and ordination “to bear witness to the truth” and insists yet again that he published his original testimony about what happened in his first audience with the pope on June 23, 2013, “solely for the good of the Church.” He also says that he revealed in his testimony “certain matters” relating “to those who bear responsibility for covering up the crimes committed” by McCarrick, which he had come to know about during his 25 years working in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and five years as nuncio in Washington, D.C. But he bypasses the fact that it was the pope, not he, who at that audience raised the question about Archbishop McCarrick.
Viganò presents himself as one called by baptism and ordination “to bear witness to the truth.”
Archbishop Viganò, who remains in hiding and refuses to meet the press, says his decision “to reveal those grave facts” was “the most painful and serious decision” of his life and made “after long reflection and prayer, during months of profound suffering and anguish” as he watched revelations of the abuse scandal in the media—in what appears to be a reference to the McCarrick case and the Pennsylvania grand jury report. He charges that “the silence of the pastors” who could have prevented the abuse of new victims “became increasingly indefensible, a devastating crime for the Church.”
He says that he was “aware of the enormous consequences” his testimony could have because it involved the pope but he decided to speak out “to protect the Church.” He acknowledges that by doing so he was breaking “the pontifical secret that I had promised to observe” but argues that the purpose of that seal “is to protect the Church from her enemies, not to cover up and become complicit in crimes committed by some of her members.”
Noting that “neither the pope, nor any of the cardinals in Rome have denied the facts I asserted in my testimony,” the archbishop draws the conclusion that their silence amounts to a confirmation of the allegations.
“If they deny my testimony, they have only to say so, and provide documentation to support that denial.”
“If they deny my testimony,” he writes, “they have only to say so, and provide documentation to support that denial.”
In his first document, he blamed “the cover-up” and “conspiracy of silence” on more than 30 senior Vatican officials who served under John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. The testimony implicated all three popes, but, in the eyes of many observers, particularly the Polish and German popes.
Nevertheless, in this second document, he confirms what was already evident to everyone: His real target is Pope Francis. He writes, “The center of my testimony was that since at least June 23, 2013, the pope knew from me how perverse and evil McCarrick was in his intentions and actions, and instead of taking the measures that every good pastor would have taken, the pope made McCarrick one of his principal agents in governing the Church, in regard to the United States, the Curia, and even China, as we are seeing these days with great concern and anxiety for that martyr Church.”
Viganò confirms what was already evident to everyone: His real target is Pope Francis.
Just as in the first document, so, too, here, Archbishop Viganò does not provide evidence to substantiate his charges. Where is the evidence that McCarrick was one of the pope’s “principal agents” in these important areas? He again glosses over the fact that as nuncio he publicly praised McCarrick and, more important, that the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington committed most, if not all, of his wrongdoings during the pontificates of John Paul II (1978-2005) and Benedict XVI (2005-13). Given all this, it has become clear that the former nuncio is using the McCarrick case as a pretext to undermine Francis for reasons other than the pope’s response to sexual abuse.
In the new text, clearly aggrieved by Francis’ silence, Archbishop Viganò attacks the pope not only for failing to reply to his original testimony but for “contradicting himself, because he has compared his silence to that of Jesus in Nazareth and before Pilate and compared me to the great accuser, Satan, who sows scandal and division in the Church—though without ever uttering my name.”
He charges that instead of saying “Viganò lied,” the pope, in his homilies at Mass in Santa Marta, has “put in place a subtle slander against me—slander being an offense he has often compared to the gravity of murder.”
Viganò concluded with an appeal to Cardinal Ouellet: “Your Eminence, I urge you to bear witness to the truth.”
He asserts that “the pope’s unwillingness to respond to my charges and his deafness to the appeals by the faithful for accountability are hardly consistent with his calls for transparency and bridge building.”
He does not mention that, as the Council of Cardinal advisors revealed in a statement on Sept. 10, the Vatican is preparing a response to the archbishop’s first document and will provide “the necessary clarifications” regarding what he said. America has learned that the response is still being worked on and is likely to be concise.
In his missive today, the archbishop recalls that a delegation of U.S. bishops led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo spoke with Pope Francis on Sept. 13 and asked for a Vatican investigation into McCarrick’s crimes and those responsible for covering them up. Archbishop Viganò asks: Did Francis refuse this?
In the final part of his new statement, Archbishop Viganò makes “a special appeal” to Cardinal Ouellet, “because as nuncio I always worked in great harmony with him, and I have always had great esteem and affection towards him.” He revealed that “at the end of my mission in Washington, he received me at his apartment in Rome in the evening for a long conversation.”
He claimed that “at the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, he [Ouellet] had maintained his dignity, as he had shown with courage when he was Archbishop of Québec.”
“Later, however, when his work as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops was being undermined because recommendations for episcopal appointments were being passed directly to Pope Francis by two homosexual ‘friends’ of his dicastery, bypassing the Cardinal, he gave up.”
Moreover, Archbishop Viganò lamented that Cardinal Ouellet’s “long article in L’Osservatore Romano, in which he came out in favor of the more controversial aspects of Amoris Laetitia, represents his surrender.”
Notwithstanding his grave disillusionment at Cardinal Ouellet’s “surrender,” Archbishop Viganò appeals to him to come to his defense. He did so by first recalling that “before I left for Washington, you were the one who told me of Pope Benedict’s sanctions on McCarrick.” He added, “You have at your complete disposal key documents incriminating McCarrick and many in the curia for their cover-ups.”
Archbishop Viganò concluded with an appeal: “Your Eminence, I urge you to bear witness to the truth.”
Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent.