I’m pretty sure it was the one for Vos estis, but in any case, one of the new guys asked: “Are they [the Vatican] serious about this?” I answered, “If you want to know whether they’re serious about this, consider that Dick Malone is still in his job, and Siobhan O’Connor isn’t.”
Siobhan O’Connor is the laywoman who worked in the Buffalo chancery, and blew the whistle on her former principal, Bishop Richard J. Malone. She accused him of negligence, carelessness, and insensitivity to victims – and she backed up her claims with documentation.
Bishop Richard J. Malone would eventually discern his way into “early retirement” and was helped along the path of discernment by an Apostolic Visitation, but he stayed in his job in Buffalo for several more months after I made that observation, and the Vatican didn’t use Vos estis either to investigate or to remove him.
Buffalo is now in a sort of ecclesiastical-administrative limbo, and is likely to remain so for some time.
Anyway, I thought of that little exchange over the weekend, after news broke that the former bishop of Orán, Gustavo Zanchetta, is back to work in the sinecure Francis carved out for him at the Vatican’s central bank in 2017, after letting him quietly resign his see amid allegations of moral turpitude, authoritarian misrule, and financial mismanagement.
Bishop Zanchetta is currently on trial in Argentina for “aggravated continuous sexual abuse” against seminarians. Zanchetta denies the charges. He’s facing a canonical process in the Vatican, as well.
That was supposedly close to completion late last year, but “Vatican Time” isn’t perfectly synched to the linear time stream in which the rest of the world travels. At least he’s got something to do with himself now, I suppose.
There’s been a good deal of talk about Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò of late, especially after he sent an open letter to Donald Trump, in which he hails the US president as a champion of the “children of light” and encourages him in his struggle against the “children of darkness” – no, I’m not making this up – and yes, you read that right.
Now, Archbishop Viganò – former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States turned Celebrity Whistleblower Prelate of Summer 2018 – did the Church some incidental service when he brought before the public a few very significant and – on principle, at least – verifiable allegations regarding Theodore Edgar “Uncle Ted” McCarrick.
I said what I had to say about Archbishop Viganò himself, in a piece for The Catholic Thing in September of 2018, roughly: that it would not necessarily be entirely unfair to think of Viganò as more closely resembling the gangster-turned-federal-witness, Joe Valachi, than he does NYPD hero detective Frank Serpico; that many of Viganò’s specific allegations even in his first letter were either tangential, or superfluous, or simply tainted with desire for personal vendetta; and, that the Vatican should give him a public trial (but almost certainly won’t, because that would mean he’d have access to all sorts of inconvenient things like discovery, witnesses, and compulsory process – and the Vatican really doesn’t want that).
It’s not that I don’t get why people like Viganò. By “people” I don’t mean the rabid Francis-haters who had it in for him from the get-go and were happy to find in Viganò a fellow with a brief that could stick – the Venn diagram isn’t quite a perfect circle – but pretty much anyone who is fed up with the status quo in the Church. Lots of folks were thrilled with Francis’s election and thought he was going to be the guy who would clean house. Lots of others were maybe a little nervous about Francis’s willingness to play fast and loose with doctrinal formulae but willing to put up with it, so long as he delivered on his promises.
Francis the governor has given us more than a few head-scratchers, to say the least, whatever you think of his spiritual leadership (and there’s no denying he’s had his moments). So, I get it. That said, Viganò was never the guy – and he wasn’t ever going to be the guy – to carry off the role of the knight in armor.
Archbishop Viganò’s later writings became more strident, and less interesting even as exercises in critical exploration of alternate reality. Call it the Charlotte’s Web Protocol: Viganò went from the ecclesiastical version of, “Some Pig!” – which is neat when you see it the first time in a spider web – to “deep state” and “Masonic” with apocalyptic overtones that sound implausible even by the standards of internet conspiracy theory.
I would have ignored Viganò’s latest screed, too, but President Trump tweeted his thanks to the archbishop and that put him in the news in a way he hadn’t been before: mixed up in US presidential politics in an election year, and in the middle of a major social crisis coming at a crucial moment in a global health emergency (all things he discussed in his letter).
So, let me put it this way: Viganò could be 100% dead-on right (he’s not), but his tinfoil zucchetto is still on way too tight.
Christopher R. Altieri is Rome bureau chief and international editor of the Catholic Herald.
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