Pope Francis made McCarrick his “trusted counselor”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, has denied claims in the Vatican’s McCarrick Report which said he failed to act on instructions to investigate Theodore McCarrick.

In a November 12 interview with Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN’s “The World Over,” the former nuncio said he was not interviewed or asked to share his perspective as the report was being compiled, but was mentioned more than 300 times in the final report, often in a negative light.

This week, the Vatican released a long-awaited report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was in 2018 acknowledged to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. McCarrick was subsequently accused of serially abusing and coercing minors, priests, and seminarians, and was laicized in 2019.

The Vatican in 2018 announced an investigation into McCarrick’s decades-long career in the Church, which included ministry as archbishop in two large U.S. archdioceses, and an appointment to the College of Cardinals.

The report, more than 400 pages long, catalogues various reports made about McCarrick to Church officials, some of which were ignored, as well as inaccurate information passed along to the Holy See by three bishops ahead of McCarrick’s appointment as Archbishop of Washington.

Viganò said it is clear that the report attempts to shift blame to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He said the former popes had likely been convinced by officials within the Curia not to believe the rumors surrounding McCarrick.

“Who had an interest in getting McCarrick promoted so that they could gain an advantage in terms of power and money?” he said.

“In the case of John Paul II, the main party interested in the promotion of McCarrick was definitely Cardinal [Angelo] Sodano. He was secretary of state until September 2006. All information came to him. In November 2000, he already had received information from Nuncio [Gabriel] Montalvo for this report of the accusation of grave abuse committed by McCarrick.”

In the case of Benedict XVI, Viganò said, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone “led Pope Benedict to decide that no canonical process should be undertaken, nor should any canonical sanctions be proscribed,” but rather than a mere appeal to McCarrick’s conscience should be made.

In August 2018, Viganò released an 11-page statement claiming that in the late 2000s, Benedict XVI had imposed sanctions on McCarrick. He said McCarrick had been “forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

Viganò said that he had personally told Pope Francis about these sanctions in 2013, but said Francis not only repealed those sanctions, but made McCarrick his “trusted counselor,” advising him on several bishop appointments in the United States. Viganò called on Pope Francis to resign over the matter.

The McCarrick Report is at odds with several parts of Viganò’s statement. It disputes what he describes as sanctions placed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI, and points to numerous examples of McCarrick keeping Viganò apprised of his travels and public engagements while Viganò was nuncio. In some cases, Viganò responded by writing to acknowledge and thank McCarrick for his work.

The McCarrick Report says Viganò failed in 2012 to follow instructions to investigate allegations against McCarrick.

According to the report, Viganò wrote to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in 2012, informing him of a lawsuit against McCarrick by a cleric identified in the report as “Priest 3.” The report said that Ouellet instructed Viganò, who was then nuncio to the U.S., to investigate whether the claim was credible but Viganò “did not take these steps.”

Viganò rejected the assertion that he had failed to investigate the matter, calling it “absolutely false.” He said the report itself acknowledges written correspondence between him and Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen, the ordinary of Priest 3, which he forwarded to Cardinal Ouellet in June 2013.

In his interview with Arroyo, Viganò maintained that Pope Benedict XVI had ordered McCarrick to retire and lead a private life, without attending public events, but said corrupt members of the Curia did not enforce these measures.

Contrary to what is stated in the report, Viganò insisted that he did inform Pope Francis directly that McCarrick had corrupted a generation of seminarians and priests, and that Pope Benedict had ordered him to live a life of prayer and penance.

He said his comments had come in response to a direct question from Pope Francis asking what he thought about McCarrick. He said the pope did not act surprised or react at to his words, but changed the subject.

“The disturbing thing is that within the report itself, obviously put together by many hands, there are numerous contradictions – enough to make the argument the report has little credibility,” Viganò said.

The above comes from an interview with Raymond Arroyo published Nov. 12 with California News Agency.


John Paul’s callous decision-making

In many, many ways, Pope John Paul II was an admirable man. The last decades of the 20th century were enriched immeasurably by his deft use of papal statecraft in raising up the voices of oppressed peoples across Eastern Europe, in his various efforts toward inter-religious dialogue, and by his personal witness to the dignity of aging.

But as the Vatican’s unprecedented report on the career of disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick reveals in shocking detail, the first decade of the 21st century will forever be marred by John Paul’s calamitous, callous decision-making.

It is time for a difficult reckoning. This man, proclaimed a Catholic saint by Pope Francis in 2014, willfully put at risk children and young adults in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and across the world. In doing so, he also undermined the global church’s witness, shattered its credibility as an institution, and set a deplorable example for bishops in ignoring the accounts of abuse victims.

As with every saint, John Paul has a vibrant cult — people across the world who celebrate his memory by encouraging devotion to him, placing his name on churches and schools, and hosting processions and parades on his liturgical feast.

Given what we know now about the long-lasting repercussions of John Paul’s decision-making, the U.S. bishops, meeting next week for their annual conference, should seriously consider whether American Catholics can continue such practices. They should also discuss requesting that the Vatican formally suppress John Paul’s cult. Abuse victims deserve no less.

As the Vatican’s devastating report shows clearly, the late pope’s decision to appoint McCarrick as Washington’s archbishop in 2000 came despite severe warnings from his highest-level advisors on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Oct. 28, 1999, letter from New York Cardinal John O’Connor, which has been revealed for the first time, could hardly have been more ominous. McCarrick, O’Connor warned, had been the subject of anonymous allegations and was known to invite seminarians to sleep in the same bed with him.

About the possibility of promoting McCarrick beyond his then-role as the Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, O’Connor wrote: “I regret that I would have to recommend very strongly against such promotion.”

O’Connor, who sent the letter on Oct. 28, 1999, as he was suffering from brain cancer that would lead to his death only seven months later, also said he had “grave fears” about the possibility of the promotion and the “grave scandal” it could cause the church.

Read it again. This wasn’t a simple blinking red light. It was an all-alerts, final-act bulletin from one of the global church’s most senior figures.

Despite that, and despite O’Connor’s concerns being subsequently echoed by the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., and the prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, John Paul would trust McCarrick’s denials about his behavior and make the appointment anyway.

What’s more, to do so the pope had to personally take it under his wing — unusually instructing the Vatican’s Secretary of State to tell the bishops’ congregation to add McCarrick’s name to the list of priests being considered for the job, and then having the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith waive the standard check for McCarrick’s adherence to Catholic doctrine.

This is all the more devastating if you consider that the decision came during the same period that the Vatican was made aware of allegations of abuse by Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican founder of the once-powerful Legionaries of Christ, whose victims number at least in the dozens and possibly the hundreds.

Journalists Jason Berry and Gerald Renner first exposed Maciel’s abuse of seminarians in 1997. In 1998, eight ex-Legionaries brought their case against Maciel to the doctrinal congregation.

John Paul would continue to praise the man publicly for the rest of his papacy. Maciel was not publicly punished until 2006, after John Paul’s death, when Pope Benedict XVI ordered the priest to a life of penance.

There is no way anymore to escape the truth. John Paul, in many ways an admirable man, was willfully blind to the abuse of children and young people.

Suppressing the late pontiff’s cult would not mean telling people they need to throw away their relics or their medals — people could still practice private devotion to him. But for abuse victims, their advocates and many others, John Paul’s memory is no longer a blessing. It should not be celebrated in public.

The above comes from a Nov. 13 editorial in the National Catholic Reporter.