Catholic Cold War Turns Hot
One of the enduring mysteries of the contemporary Catholic Church is why so many priests know about practicing homosexuals in the priesthood, but don’t do anything about it. An egregious example comes to mind from when I lived in New York City under Cardinal John O’Connor, and then Cardinal Edward Egan. A gay-friendly parish downtown used to hold pro-gay events all the time, many of which could not be justified in any authentically Catholic sense. I recall them once advertising an LGBT-oriented sex toy event in the church basement, though I can’t remember whether that was under O’Connor’s reign or Egan’s. It didn’t matter. That parish was going to do what it was going to do no matter what, and the chancery wasn’t going to stop it.
There are a liberal Catholic priests, both gay and straight, who know who the sexually active conservative closet cases are, and won’t out them. There are conservative Catholic priests, both straight and chastely gay, who have no obvious interest in protecting the closet, who nevertheless don’t out liberals who are sexually active. Why is that?
A gay Catholic friend told me that it’s because both sides live under a Cold War policy of Mutually Assured Destruction. They will snipe at each other in proxy wars, but when it comes right down to it, they will not turn on each other directly, because once the first missile is fired, there’s no stopping them. Both sides know that such warfare could destroy the institution that they both depend on. So they practice restraint, despite mutual loathing.
An interesting theory. Made sense to me when I heard it.
If it’s true, though, then we have to see conservative Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s statement over the weekend as a nuclear bomb going off in the enemy’s capital.
Vigano said openly the kinds of things that Catholic conservatives have said privately for years. He has told tales out of school. Some defenders of Pope Francis are questioning Vigano’s motivations for doing so, but no questions about his reasons are remotely as important as this one: “Is Vigano telling the truth?”
A source reported to me recently that a prominent journalist in Francis’s circles had been saying that the McCarrick scandal had the potential to make the Church “implode.” I didn’t understand how that could happen, but now that Vigano has published, it makes sense. McCarrick is a condensed symbol of the entire web of sexual, ecclesial, and financial corruption spread throughout significant portions of the Catholic hierarchy.
McCarrick is a (formerly) closeted gay priest who used sex as a way of promoting his favorites, and identifying allies. He was a phenomenal fundraiser who helped start the charitable Papal Foundation, which he used to curry favor with Rome. When he got into trouble, he could count on a network of allies in powerful places to cover for him. Though he was known to higher levels of the Roman curia as a molester of seminarians, they still allowed him to be the point man on the 2002 Dallas Charter. It was quite a grift — and now it’s been exposed.
Because Vigano has crossed the red line, there’s no telling what’s going to come out, and who it’s going to take down. Writing in today’s New York Times, Matthew Schmitz, a senior editor at First Things, says the Catholic Church is now in all-out civil war. Excerpt:
Despite their opposing views, the two sides have important things in common. Both believe that a culture of lies has enabled predators to flourish. And both trace this culture back to the church’s hypocritical practice of claiming that homosexual acts are wrong while quietly tolerating them among the clergy.
As the liberal Vatican observer Robert Mickens writes, “There is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse (and now sexual harassment) crisis.” James Alison, himself a gay priest, observes, “A far, far greater proportion of the clergy, particularly the senior clergy, is gay than anyone has been allowed to understand,” and many of those gay clergy are sexually active. Father Alison describes the “absurd and pharisaical” rules of the clerical closet, which include “doesn’t matter what you do so long as you don’t say so in public or challenge the teaching.”
The importance of not challenging church teaching is seen in the contrast of two gay-priest scandals of the Francis pontificate. The first is the case of Msgr. Battista Ricca, a Vatican diplomat who, while stationed in Uruguay, reportedly lived with a man, was beaten at a cruising spot and once got stuck in an elevator with a rent boy. (In Uruguay, the age of consent is 15.)These facts were concealed from Pope Francis, who in 2013 appointed Monsignor Ricca to a position of oversight at the Vatican Bank.
After Monsignor Ricca’s sins were exposed, Francis chose to stand by him, famously saying, “Who am I to judge?” Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa suffered a less happy fate. The priest, who worked at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, announced in 2015 that he was gay and had a male partner, and asked the church to change its teaching. He was immediately fired. Both Monsignor Ricca and Monsignor Charamsa had sinned, but only one had stepped out of line.
The other rule of the clerical closet is not violating the civil law — or at least not getting caught. Francis defended Monsignor Ricca by distinguishing between sins and crimes: “They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different.” This distinction provides cover for sex abuse. When countless priests are allowed to live double lives, it is hard to tell who is concealing crimes. Cardinal McCarrick was widely seen as “merely” preying on adult seminarians. Now he has been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.
Fascinating. In 2002, when Cardinal McCarrick got wind that I was investigating his sexual harassment of seminarians, he had a prominent conservative layman and friend of his call my boss and attempt to get me taken off the story. The layman said that the cardinal had done something “embarrassing, but not criminal,” and wanted me stopped. He didn’t tell my boss what that deed was, which prompted my boss to call me into my office and ask. In the end, I had no story to report, because none of my sources would go on the record. Still, in retrospect, the idea that the story wasn’t worth reporting because no crimes were (allegedly) committed — just a little homosexual cuddling between Uncle Ted and his nephews — is worth considering when trying to make sense of why Pope Francis was so indulgent towards McCarrick and Ricca.
A reader of this blog translates the following lengthy excerpt from the Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti’s column today. It comes from a source Tosatti calls “Super Ex” — someone who knows Vigano personally. Super Ex’s statement explains why Vigano did what he did — and Tosatti credits these insights. The portions [in brackets below] were added by the translator for clarification:
Let’s begin by clarifying that Carlo Maria Viganò, the author of the bombshell personal testimony published [on Sunday, August 26] in La Verità, is not the same person as Dario Edoardo Viganò, the Monsignor who was in vogue in the gay-Vatican world, until the outbreak of the media scandal [in April 2018] which did him in and revealed him to the world as a “pataccaro [grease spot],” the creator of fake news in order to portray Supreme Head Bergoglio as the continuator of the work of Benedict XVI.
No, Carlo Maria Viganò, – whose testimony Bergoglio did not deny during the plane press conference!– is neither a member of the gay Vatican lobby nor a manufacturer of fake news who enjoys papal approval.
Or, to explain it better, this man, who with his denunciation [of Bergoglio] has everything to lose and nothing to gain, formerly had the seal of papal approval at the time of Benedict XVI, who held him in high regard. Then [Secretary of State] Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (the one who built himself a penthouse using money stolen from Bambino Gesù Hospital), saw fit to remove Viganò, sending him to the USA as nuncio. We do not need to use our imagination here to see that Providence follows very strange paths: because Bertone thought he would cut off the legs of one of his enemies in his Italian affairs, and yet without intending to he sent Viganò to the nation that would become, under Bergoglio’s pontificate, a key country for the exposure of evil within the Church.
Viganò was thus removed from his position, unbeknownst to the German Pope, who, surrounded by enemies and without practical power, resigned shortly thereafter, basically admitting that he was no longer able to carry out his mission: there were too many Judases surrounding him!
Meanwhile, the new boss, Bergoglio, while placing gay-minded men in key positions everywhere in Italy, from the aforementioned Dario Edoardo Viganò to Nunzio Galantino [made President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference by Bergoglio in 2013] to Vincenzo Paglia [made President of the Pontifical Academy for Life], at the same time launched a war without quarter against the American bishops for their crime of opposing the Obama administration’s pro-abortion and pro-gender-ideology agenda.
And thus Bergoglio isolated Cardinal Raymond Burke [removing him from the Congregation of Bishops] and sought to sideline the conservative American Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Daniel DiNardo, turning instead for a source of new cardinals to whom? To the serial abuser Cardinal McCarrick! One does not need to read the specific testimony of Carlo Maria Viganò to understand this: just scroll through the CVs of the Bergoglian Cardinals Wuerl, Cupich, Tobin, etc. Every single one is an intimate friend of McCarrick and every single one is someone close to the gay lobby!
To be sure, Viganò also offers us further details about the system of cover-up which all of them, McCarrick most of all, profited from under [Secretaries of State] Sodano, Bertone, and their associates, even before the flight took off thanks to “Bergy [Bergoglio]”. Viganò does not have an a priori objective to bring down Bergoglio: he simply tells the whole truth, including about who was in place [in the system of cover-up] before [Bergoglio]!
Thus, as we have said, Viganò, kicked out of Rome, ends up in the USA where he fights the internal war within the American bishops sparked by the new bishops named by Bergoglio as well as by the old progressives who had been disarmed under Benedict XVI. As he had done in Rome, so in this case Viganò follows the correct canonical route and denounces McCarrick to his superiors. He speaks also directly with Bergoglio about McCarrick, but without any result.
Then Viganò is retired [in 2016] and he continues to observe what is happening; on several occasions he speaks with authoritative Catholic personalities, who invite him to speak out: “Tell everything, please, for the good of the Church!”
But Viganò probably has his reservations… He loves the Church and does not want to hurt her…until the time becomes ripe, until everything that we have seen happen with McCarrick, Maradiaga, Wuerl, becomes, at least partially, known publicly and it all ends up in the eye of the hurricane. What does the Supreme Head [Bergoglio] do? He continues to pretend nothing is wrong; worse, he calls homosexuality “pedophilia” and once again carefully avoids placing the blame on those who truly are to blame.
Could Viganò, knowing everything, tolerate that they would continue to place the blame for the abominations which happened in the USA on a vague “clericalism” in the church in general, on non-identifiable persons?
No. For this reason, for the sake of Justice and for the sake of the Church, he decides to speak: the ones who are to blame, the abusers like McCarrick, have first and last names, as do those who covered it all up (from Bertone to Bergoglio).
To speak these names out loud will cost insults, slanders, and stomach aches … but it needed only one bishop, one alone, who would have the courage to wash away with his courage and sacrifice the [source of the] disgusting scandals which the faithful are witnessing.
Behold, Viganò chose to do this. The true Church thanks him today and will thank him even more one day in the future, when she will have completely overcome this terrible and long tragedy, which has lasted more than 40 years, but has now reached its culmination, today, in this grotesque climate in which, while the world takes in the news of the abuses of homosexual priests and cardinals against seminarians and minors, an American Jesuit named James Martin, protected at the highest levels, attempts to doctrinally justify the obscene behavior of his American and non-American protectors.
P.S. On January 30, 2012, Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, reporting on the strange dismissal of Viganò from his position as Governor of Vatican City through the workings of Bertone, remembered the “undeniable results of the moralization and cost-cutting” of Viganò, and he added: “the undeniable moralizing and healing work of Viganò on the [Vatican] budget – the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, for example, went from costing 550,000 euros to only 300,000 – is a good result not only of his work, but also of his direct superior, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, and also of the more careful management of the Vatican Museums: all of this work has allowed the Vatican budget to have a surplus of several million euros, whereas previously it had registered a heavy deficit.” Thus Tornielli, who today is seeking to place Viganò in an ugly light, only a few years ago was praising his character, and he recognized that this praise came also from Benedict XVI: he wrote of the “full confidence shown by the Pontiff towards Viganò, which indicates the recognition of [Viganò’s] merits in the process of rehabilitation [of the governance of the Vatican].” And further: “Of course, one might also wonder why, if the accusations made by [Viganò] in the letters were unfounded, he would then be considered worthy to hold such a delicate and prestigious position as head of the diplomatic office in Washington, the one responsible for relations with the White House and a close collaborator with the Pope in the selection of American bishops, an assignment that requires poise, discretion, and the highest diplomatic skill. Another question concerns the continuation or possible slowing down of the process of rehabilitation [of the governance of the Vatican] done by Viganò. And there should be close attention paid to this matter, both inside and outside the Vatican walls, to avoid repeating or continuing any objectively [financially] scandalous episodes, all the more so during a time of serious economic crisis such as the one we are living through. It was shocking to learn that a Nativity scene composed of a barn or a cave reconstructed in St. Peter’s Square cost as much as a two-family house in the Roman countryside. This year, the first after the ‘Viganò cure’, the Nativity scene cost 300,000 euros as it did last year, and according to some leaks they are working to cut that cost in half again in 2012.”
Tl;dr: Super Ex says that Vigano did it because he’s sick and tired of the cover-ups and denials, which are killing the Church.
The final battle is on. There is no telling how it’s going to end — or what’s going to be left when the shooting stops. Nevertheless, as a young priest texted me this morning, the Vigano letter was the first thing in a long time that has given him hope, because finally, the truth is out there.
UPDATE: Aldo Maria Valli, an Italian Catholic journalist, writes about how Archbishop Vigano told him everything before publishing and disappearing. The link is in Italian, but if you have Google Chrome, it will translate it for you. These parts were eye-opening:
Since our previous meeting, there has been the news of the results of the investigation by the grand jury of Pennsylvania, and Viganò confirms that the picture is correct. Sexual abuse is a more extensive phenomenon than one might imagine, and it is not correct to talk about pedophilia, because in the vast majority of cases it is a matter of homosexual clerics that hunt for adolescent males. More correct, says the monsignor, is to talk about ephebophilia instead. But the point is that the network of complicity, silence, cover and mutual favors is extended beyond all words, and involves all the leaders, both in America and in Rome.
We remain, once again, stunned. Because of my work something we had sensed, but for Catholics like us, born and raised in the bosom of Mother Church, it is really difficult to swallow such a bite.
My question is therefore as naive as possible: why?
And the Monsignor’s answer freezes the blood: “Because those cracks mentioned by Paul VI, from which Satan’s smoke would have slipped into the house of God, have become chasms. The devil is working powerfully. And not to admit it, or turn your face to the other side, it would be our greatest sin “.
More, after Valli has read the Vigano statement (prior to its publication). Valli said to him:
“Monsignor, do you know what they will say? That he wants to take revenge. That he is eaten up by resentment for having been dismissed from the governorship and other events. That he is the raven who brought out the Vatileaks papers. They will say that he is unstable, as well as a conservative of the worst kind.”
“I know I know. But I do not care. The only thing that matters to me is to bring the truth to the surface, so that a purification can begin. At the point where we are there is no other way “.