How very, very different Pope Francis’s claims of sorrow over clerical sex abuse sound in light of Archbishop Vigano’s credible claims that he told Francis personally that Cardinal McCarrick was an abuser — but the Pope rehabilitated McCarrick anyway. Veteran Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, writing in the Italian newspaper La Verità today, called the Vigano declaration “one of the most dramatic and important documents which I have ever read in 40 years of covering religious news (and in a half century of journalism).”
Watch at least the first couple of minutes of this clip from a McCarrick speech at Villanova in 2013, six months after Bergoglio was elected pope. In it, McCarrick talks about a “distinguished Italian gentleman” who came to him on the eve of the conclave to ask for a favor related to something back in the United States. The man, powerful in Rome (said McCarrick), suggested that he “talk up” Bergoglio, because “give him five years, he could remake the Church.” McCarrick said he agreed, and did as he was asked. McCarrick frames this as an act of care for the poor. It sounds very, very different in light of the Vigano revelations, doesn’t it?
Is that “distinguished Italian gentleman” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then the Vatican secretary of state, fingered by Vigano as a promoter of gay bishops and cardinals, as well as the figure who protected McCarrick in the Curia? Last year, it emerged that Bertone was at the heart of a case in which $500,000 was diverted from a papal charity to renovate his luxury penthouse. The money was intended for a Rome children’s hospital supported by the charity.
It was taken from the Papal Foundation, [UPDATE: I got this fact wrong. It was taken from a different charity, not the Papal Foundation. I regret the error — RD] a powerful charity co-founded in 1988 by none other than the ambitious Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick. Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post writes:
In 1988, McCarrick co-founded the Papal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises millions for the Vatican. He sometimes rushed to the side of the country’s wealthiest Catholics in their times of personal crisis, following up to raise money later, according to two people who witnessed such interactions.
“The Papal Foundation was a huge point of leverage for him in terms of going to Rome,” said Steve Schneck, the longtime head of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University. Schneck worked often with McCarrick. “There is not a Catholic organization in the United States he hasn’t raised money for.”
It’s how he bought influence. In 2002, the source who first tipped me off about the trip some lay Catholics took to Rome to warn the Vatican not to advance the abuser McCarrick to Washington, told me the trip failed because, in his estimate, McCarrick had raised tens of millions for the Church, and had ingratiated himself with the right people in the Curia.
Here’s an issue that I would like to see Vatican reporters chase: The “distinguished Italian gentleman” came to visit McCarrick in Rome in early 2013, as the conclave was about to start. He knew that a new pope would be coming in, and that he would be stepping down as Secretary of State, the No. 2 in the Vatican hierarchy. Could that “favor” the Italian gentleman (assuming it was Bertone) asked of McCarrick have been for Papal Foundation help in paying for the renovation of the penthouse he intended to use as his retirement headquarters?
If it was Bertone, the “five years to change the Church” line is absolutely sinister, in light of the Vigano revelations.
This has immediate implications for the future of the American Church. How can anybody trust Rome to investigate the US bishops now? For years I’ve been told that the 2005-06 Vatican-ordered investigation of US seminaries was a sham because it was led by then-Archbishop, now Cardinal, Edwin O’Brien — believed by some insiders to be part of the lavender mafia, the gay lobby within the Church intent on protecting its own. In his testimony, Vigano says that O’Brien is indeed part of this group. How is it possible for anybody Rome appoints from within the Church to investigate now? It’s not.
Under Francis, McCarrick was a kingmaker. As Vatican journalist Sandro Magister reports:
McCarrick continued right to the end, with plenty of attention from Pope Francis, to use his influence in the appointments of his protégés, who today occupy important positions in the United States and in the Vatican: from Cardinals Blaise Cupich and Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Chicago and Newark respectively, to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the dicastery for laity, family and life, and today the organizer of the world meeting of families in Dublin.
Cupich, Tobin, and Farrell constitute the vanguard in the reversal of positions that Pope Francis has wanted to impose in the hierarchy of the United States. And all three are fervent supporters of the Jesuit James Martin, the promoter of a substantial revision of the doctrine of the Catholic Church on homosexuality, who has been called by Farrell as a speaker at the meeting in Dublin.
Among the cardinals of the older generation most esteemed by Bergoglio is also Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor in Washington and previously the bishop of Pittsburgh, where however a Pennsylvania grand jury accused him – in a report made public last August 14 – of covering up for his priests who were guilty of abuse.
Indeed, all those men’s names appear in the Vigano document as favorites of McCarrick’s. Vigano, a former senior Vatican diplomat, says neither Cupich nor Tobin were on the list for their current sees, but were leapfrogged over everybody else thanks to somebody’s influence with Francis.
Cardinal Farrell is the chief organizer of the World Meeting of Families, which concludes today in Dublin with a papal mass, starting at 9 am US Central time. The speakers including Cardinals Cupich, Tobin, Wuerl, O’Malley, and Maradiaga of Honduras, who is immersed in his own gay sex scandal at the Tegucigalpa seminary. Wuerl dropped out after the Pennsylvania sex abuse report, and O’Malley also quit the program to focus on cleaning up gay sex and booze problems in the Boston seminary. The others carried on, as did Father James Martin, granted a keynote address at the meeting, which he used to lambaste “homophobic” pastors.
An informed source told me several weeks back that the Irish bishops were debating internally whether or not to let a gay couple go forward to present the gifts during the papal mass. We will find out shortly how that debate was settled. The symbolism of allowing a gay couple to do this would be stunning. It would be a signal from the pope to normalize homosexuality within parish life. As ever with Francis, don’t listen to what he says, but watch what he does.
Supporters of Pope Francis are taking to social media this morning. Some are asking how it could be true that Pope Benedict restricted McCarrick, but McCarrick continued to exercise public ministry. But that is precisely the point! McCarrick defied Benedict, and knew that he could defy Benedict, because he was protected by powerful curial cardinals. Benedict knew that the curia wouldn’t obey him, which is why he resigned — that has been the story for years, and now Vigano’s statement backs that up.
Francis supporters are also decrying Vigano’s “hit piece,” denouncing it as a political document. Of course it’s a political document! This is high-level score-settling here. But so what? That’s what whistleblowers do. The important thing is whether or not the charges are true.
To that end, this morning, the Bishop of Tyler, Texas, is calling for a full investigation of the Vigano charges, releasing this statement:
Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and all Holy Faithful of the Diocese of Tyler,
A letter by Archbishop Vigano, former Nuncio to the United States, raises grave allegations and calls for the resignation of numerous high ranking prelates including Pope Francis.
Let us be clear that they are still allegations but as your shepherd I find them to be credible. Using this standard the response must be a thorough investigation similar to those conducted any time allegations are deemed to be credible. I do not have the authority to launch such an investigation but I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that it’s findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the Church.
As this unfolds I urge all in the Diocese of Tyler to pray fervently for Holy Mother Church and beg the Intercession of Our Blessed Mother. We are the flock of Jesus Christ. He is Lord of His Church and His Holy Spirit will guide us through this darkness.
Almighty God Father, Son and Spirit have mercy on your Church and cleanse her in the fires of your Love.
Blessed Virgin Mary, Pray for us
All Sainted Popes & Bishops in Heaven, Pray for us
All Holy Men and Women, Pray for us
I direct all priests to include this notice in the masses on August 26, and post it on their websites and other social media immediately.
Most Reverend Joseph E. Strickland
Bishop of Tyler
Everything now depends on what the bishops and the laity do. The high-level Francis supporters in the Vatican and in the media are going to do everything possible to discredit Vigano personally. What Vigano has done, though, is to let the entire Catholic world know that all the things they have been seeing and suspecting are likely true, and that they aren’t crazy. If Vigano is telling the truth, then the senior hierarchy of the Catholic Church has been captured by a powerful group of gay, and gay-sympathizing, prelates who have Pope Francis in their pocket, and who are setting out to remake the Catholic Church.
Late last night, I texted a traditionalist Catholic friend to express my sadness to him over all this. He responded:
Tonight is the first day of hope.
What he meant is that for the first time, the truth has been revealed by a Vatican insider. Whatever happens now, that bell cannot be unrung.
UPDATE: A reader points to Cardinal Wuerl’s denial this morning that he knew anything about McCarrick’s molestation, and says:
Wuerl says no one told him, thus he is claiming explicitly that the Vatican never informed him. That would mean that Vatican officials shielded McCarrick.
Wuerl is like Vigano in that both have publicly claimed that Vatican officials shielded McCarrick.
Wuerl’s claims like Vigano’s are so serious that they must be investigated.
The fact the Wuerl and Vigano don’t agree about their own interaction (although in fairness Vigano himself suggests he did not go into specifics with Wuerl) actually strengthen the credibility of their underlying assertion about the Vatican knowing and not telling. They are clearly not in league with each other, but their claims relative to the Vatican are the same.
UPDATE.2: An aerial shot of Dublin’s Phoenix Park at the papal mass today:
All that green space was supposed to be covered with people. Organizers expected 500,000 to the mass. They got under 130,000. Part of the reason could be that it was raining. An Irish source tells me that there was an effort to get people to obtain tickets to the papal mass then refuse to go, so that could account for part of the shockingly low turnout.
In 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass there at the start of his Irish pilgrimage. The turnout was 1.25 million — almost ten times the crowd today for Francis. It was a different Ireland back then.
UPDATE.3: I wondered what Francis would say about all this in the papal press conference on the flight back to Rome. This is beyond pathetic:
“I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested: Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment,” he answered. “I will not say a single word on this.”
Speaking aboard the papal plane from Rome to Dublin Aug. 26, Francis said he believes in the “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions,” calling it an “act of faith.”
“When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak. But I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you,” he told members of the press.
Asked in a follow up question when he first learned about the abuse allegations against McCarrick, Pope Francis responded, “This is part of the statement. Study it and then I will say.”
How hard is it to say, “These allegations are false”? If they are false, that is. This non-response response does not inspire confidence.
Meanwhile, a priest named Carlos Martins posted this to Facebook:
I just spent the last two hours on the phone with a friend in the Vatican Curia. He said that the news of Archbishop Viganò has hit the Curia like an atomic bomb. Two things are universally noted regarding Viganò: 1) He is highly respected as a professional, and 2) His Curial positions gave him clear access to the damning information he reported. In other words, he is not a hack, and he is not relying on rumor. This makes his report absolutely worthy of belief.
Viganò always had a reputation for being a combatant of internal Vatican corruption. In fact, during the Vatican leaks scandal, whistle-blowing reports that he authored were among the main documents that were leaked. This was an attempt by the persons he outed to pre-empt the report’s impact and suck the energy out of the attempt to investigate their claims. Naturally, the subsequent energy went into investigating the Vatileaks situation in general, and Viganò was exiled as Nuncio to the United States for being a trouble maker who produced “erroneous assessments” (words from a joint statement issued by Cardinal-President Emeritus Giovanni Lajolo, President Giuseppe Bertello, Secretary-General Giuseppe Sciacca and former Vice Secretary-General Giorgio Corbellini on behalf of the Governatorate of the Vatican). To put this kind of demotion in perspective, as Delegate for Pontifical Representations—a position from which he was THEN PROMOTED to Secretary General of the Governatorate— Viganò was in charge of all the Apostolic Nunciatures in the world. Thus, when garbage was reported to the Holy See on a bishop or Cardinal—like it was with McCarrick of Washington, DC—Viganò was the first to know about it, because his desk is where the information landed. For him to be demoted as the Nuncio to the USA, from having been promoted to as the Vatican’s number 3 administrator behind the pope, was severe, to say the least. In other words, Viganò is not a hack, but a highly respected individual who had been regularly promoted for doing his job well.
In the words of the Curial official I spoke with this afternoon, what Viganò has reported “makes the Borgia popes look like saints.” The feeling in the Curia right now is that the response of Viganò’s enemies will to try to discredit him personally, both because of the impeccability of Viganò’s character and the impossibility of his having interpreted the facts incorrectly. Their only hope will be to try to take energy away from the perversion and corruption that he uncovered. They will likely state that he is a bitter man who is seeking personal aggrandizement after having been exiled from Rome. When this occurs, don’t buy into it. Viganò is retired. He has nothing personally to gain from this.