Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has defended his reputation in three new interviews, answering criticism about his past record. It follows the publication of Archbishop Viganò’s testimony, in which he accuses Pope Francis and other senior churchmen of covering up Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse.
In an interview with the journalist Aldo Maria Valli, translated by the website One Peter Five, the archbishop says his critics “cannot stop looking for places to draw poison with which to destroy my credibility”.
Pope Francis has declined to comment on the testimony, which alleges that Francis abandoned Benedict XVI’s sanctions on McCarrick, and made McCarrick a trusted advisor. Rather than responding, the Pope said that journalists should look closely at the situation.
However, Viganò’s critics have said he is not a credible witness. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego accused the former US nuncio of “massive personal participation in the covering up of sexual abuse by bishops”. This seems to have been a reference to Viganò’s conduct in an investigation of Archbishop John Nienstedt. A diocesan official alleged that Viganò prevented an inquiry into Nienstedt, and also tried to have documents destroyed.
In an interview with Catholic World Report, Viganò rejected the allegation. He said that, rather than trying to quash the investigation, he suggested that the archbishop be interviewed earlier in proceedings. Viganò said, “I never told anyone that Greene Espel [a law firm] should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document be destroyed: any statement to the contrary is false.” Viganò claimed that a Vatican inquiry had vindicated him on this point.
Viganò has also faced accusations of misconduct towards Pope Benedict XVI. A New York Times article reported that Viganò told Benedict he needed to stay in Rome because his brother “was sick and needed care”. The brother, Lorenzo, claimed this was a lie.
In his latest interview, Archbishop Viganò says his three other brothers had already prepared a statement rebutting Lorenzo’s accusation. The archbishop says he originally opposed the publication of this statement, to avoid a family row, but was now allowing it to be published.
The brothers’ statement describes Lorenzo’s account as “totally unfounded”, and says that they feel obliged to defend Archbishop Viganò’s good name. The brothers claim that two separate public prosecutors and a judge have vindicated Archbishop Viganò’s side of the story. The brothers also allege that Lorenzo has been exploited by others who want to destroy the archbishop’s reputation.
Most US churchmen who have commented on Viganò’s testimony have been broadly supportive. Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said that, while he could not comment on the specific claims, he had the “the deepest respect for Archbishop Viganó and his personal integrity”. Similar comments have been made by Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Thomas Olmsted and others.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US bishops’ conference, said Viganò’s claims deserved answers. Archbishop Salvator Cordileone of San Francisco went further, saying: “While having no privileged information about the Archbishop McCarrick situation, from information I do have about a very few of the other statements Archbishop Viganò makes, I can confirm that they are true.”
In the Valli interview, Viganò says that he was offered a promotion and a cardinal’s hat by Pope Benedict XVI, but turned it down because he thought he could better serve the Church in his then position.
The archbishop also says he is at peace: “The light always conquers the darkness. It cannot be suppressed, especially for the one who has faith. Therefore, I have much faith and hope for the Church.”
Most recently, Viganò has also spoken to LifeSiteNews about the nature of Benedict XVI’s alleged sanctions on McCarrick. Viganò’s critics had asked why McCarrick had continued to appear at official functions, during the time when he was supposedly sanctioned. Viganò claims that, while McCarrick was sanctioned, he “didn’t obey”.