Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former nuncio to the United States, accused Pope Francis of ignoring clams against Theodore McCarrick. Viganò’s claims were made in a testimony given to Catholic media. He said that Francis lifted sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI against McCarrick even though Viganò had told Francis about the allegations in 2013. Viganò further alleged that Francis made McCarrick an influential adviser. On Sunday the Pope declined to comment on the claims.
What the vaticanisti are saying
Several commentators expressed scepticism about the apparent sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI. Viganò claimed that McCarrick was ordered to leave the seminary where he lived and forbidden from exercising public ministry in 2009 or 2010. The National Catholic Register reported a source from Benedict XVI’s circle saying the pope “remembers instructing Cardinal Bertone to impose measures but cannot recall their exact nature”. The sanctions seem to have been limited in their effect: as America magazine pointed out, McCarrick continued to keep a high profile. Viganò alleged that Vatican officials protected McCarrick.
Rod Dreher, writing at The American Conservative, described the letter as an “atomic bomb” that accused the Pope of bringing McCarrick into his inner circle and sending him “around the world on papal missions”, despite knowing of his sexual misconduct.
But John Allen, at Crux, said the Viganò letter required a “large grain of salt”, given that it hurled accusations around so “lightly” and “contains charges of some form of wrongdoing or questionable behavior against no fewer than 32 senior churchmen”. For now, Allen suggested, “a sober point of departure right now probably would blend genuine curiosity with healthy scepticismOn Twitter, Ross Douthat argued that the letter could not be discredited just because Viganò had “lost internal Vatican battles and strongly dislikes Francis and writes in a shrill and sweeping style”. He added: “That’s just the profile of the kind of person most likely to become a whistleblower.”
✣Cardinal dismisses ‘gay subculture’ allegations
The Catholic News Agency reported allegations of a culture of active homosexuality among clergy of the Archdiocese of Newark. The claims were made by six Newark priests. In response Cardinal Joseph Tobin wrote to clergy saying he had never heard the claims and that he hoped the anonymous priests were not, in fact, from the diocese.
Why was it under-reported
Mainstream media are not interested in a “gay scandal” in the Church. Even allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick received relatively little coverage at first. But the CNA report is more than gossip: it alleges a corrupt “meat market” atmosphere spanning 30 years in Newark’s seminary and encompassing clergy in the diocese today. One priest said seminarians used to come to him in tears, scandalised by “upperclassmen flagrantly carrying on with each other”. Priests implicated in the claims are still serving parishes.
What will happen next?
Cardinal Tobin’s response, even if intended as a private message for his clergy, was seen by some commentators as overly dismissive. He implied that priests should not talk to the press, telling them instead to refer enquiries to the diocesan communications office. He did not, as Cardinal O’Malley did when facing similar allegations in Boston, put the seminary rector on leave to allow an independent investigation. However, there will be an investigation: Mary Meehan, president of Seton Hall University, where the seminary is based, has announced one.
✣The week ahead
A 16-year-old Slovakian girl who was shot dead for resisting rape will be beatified tomorrow. Anna Kolesarova was killed in front of her family in 1944 by a drunken Soviet soldier. Testimony about her life was secretly gathered by a priest in the 1950s. At least 30,000 people are expected at the beatification Mass at a stadium in the Slovak city of Košice.
A memorial Mass will be held for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, former Archbishop of Westminster, tomorrow. It is the first anniversary of his death. The Mass will be at Westminster Cathedral, where the cardinal is buried.
Seventeen young French pilgrims are embarking on a five-month sailing trip to Panama today. They will arrive in time for World Youth Day in January. The crew, many of whom have not sailed before, will stop off in Morocco, Senegal and Cape Verde before crossing the Atlantic. Upon departure they will be blessed by Bishop Marc Aillet. Their website is jmjalavoile.com.