Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
ROME — In comments sent via email to The Washington Post, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has accused Pope Francis of “deliberately concealing” evidence on Theodore McCarrick, “blatantly lying” to cover up his own actions and doing “absolutely nothing” to expose cover-up and wrongdoing because it would be “disastrous for the current papacy.”
But in his first lengthy interview since his testimony last year, the former nuncio to the United States told the newspaper June 10 that nothing would make him “happier” than for Francis to “acknowledge and end the coverups” over McCarrick and other abuse cases and to “reconcile himself with God.”
“I am grateful to the Lord because He has protected me from having any sentiments of anger or resentment against Pope Francis, or any desire for revenge,” he said. “I pray for his conversion every day.”
The retired Holy See diplomat also said he is “not fighting against Pope Francis, nor have I offended him” but “simply spoken the truth.” The Holy Father, he said, “needs to reconcile himself with God.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the former nuncio called for McCarrick to be excommunicated to help bring him to repentance, said he believes McCarrick’s laicization was timed “to manipulate public opinion,” and reiterated his belief that a largely homosexual “mafia” is primarily responsible for this “truly dark moment for the universal Church.”
Archbishop Viganò also admitted his own mistakes, saying “in retrospect” that “certain points” of his own testimony, such as his call on the Pope to resign, “could have been better stated” and made dependent on the Pope not admitting his errors and asking for forgiveness.
The Washington Post interview began with an assessment of the four-day Vatican summit in February on protection of minors in the Church. Archbishop Viganò said he was “praying intensely” for its success but that it turned out to be “pure ostentation” as he did not see any “genuine willingness” to deal with the “real causes of the present crisis.”
He criticized the choice of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago as the event leader, especially in light of the U.S. cardinal’s earlier comments that the Pope had a “bigger agenda” to address. Archbishop Viganò also said the summit press conferences were “discouraging” and that an “especially serious problem” was that the summit focused on exclusively on abuse of minors and did not include abuse of young adults and seminarians. Nor did it “properly” address the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood, he said.
Archbishop Viganò spoke of “truly ominous” signs, saying he believes the Pope is doing “close to nothing” to punish abuses and “absolutely nothing” to expose and bring abusers to justice. He pointed out that Francis praised Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., for his “nobility” when he resigned last fall, even though Cardinal Wuerl had, according to Archbishop Viganò, “covered up the abuses” of McCarrick for “decades.”.
McCarrick’s laicization in February, shortly before the Vatican summit began, was “as far as it goes, a just punishment,” Archbishop Viganò told The Post, but he said the procedures and timing were “designed to manipulate public opinion” and give the appearance the Pope was “determined to fight” against clerical sex abuse.
Also, by the Pope making the laicization “definitive,” the Holy Father was able to rule out any “further investigation” that could have exposed the guilt of others, the archbishop said. “The bottom line is this,” he said. “Pope Francis is deliberately concealing the McCarrick evidence.”
He added that from the “far more important spiritual dimension,” laicization is “completely inadequate” as it fails to consider the “salvation of McCarrick’s soul.” He said he thought he was not alone in thinking that excommunication would be appropriate as it would “induce him to take responsibility for his sins,” repent and be reconciled with God.
Asked about the Vatican’s intervention at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting last November, stopping bishops from voting on measures to hold bishops more responsible on overseeing abuse cases, Archbishop Viganò said such a measure was “wholly unjustified.” Without that intervention, he believes unquestionably episcopal corruption, abuse and other misconduct would have been examined that would “intolerably implicate and embarrass the Holy See.”
Pleading the Fifth?
Turning to his own earlier testimony from August 2018, Archbishop Viganò told the Post that “no one has plausibly denied the facts,” some of which “have been independently confirmed.” He also said the prelates he named in his testimony as being involved in, or having knowledge about the McCarrick mishandling are lying low, and he wondered why journalists are “letting them get away with this.”
On the Pope’s response to remain silent, he said: “Is it not what you Americans call ‘taking the fifth’? By responding as he did, the Pope is essentially admitting that he is unwilling to be transparent.”
Francis knew of McCarrick’s crimes, “yet rehabilitated him” and made him a trusted adviser, he added, but by not discussing this the Pope was showing “contempt” for both victims and those wanting an end to cover-ups, he said. Archbishop Viganò said later in the Post interview that he believes the Vatican’s archival investigation into McCarrick, announced last October, was an “empty promise.”
Referring to the Pope’s most recent interview, in which Francis said he’d replied “many times” about the McCarrick affair, knew nothing about McCarrick’s abuses, and couldn’t recall a 2013 conversation with Archbishop Viganò about McCarrick, the former nuncio asked: “How may these claims be affirmed and sustained together at the same time? All these three are blatant lies.”
In particular, he repeated his allegation that Francis asked him specifically about McCarrick during that conversation, and that he told the newly elected Pope about the existence of a “huge dossier” on McCarrick’s abuses. “How could anybody, especially a pope, forget this?”
“We are in a truly dark moment for the universal Church,” the archbishop added. “The Supreme Pontiff is now blatantly lying to the whole world to cover up his wicked deeds! But the truth will eventually come out, about McCarrick and all the other coverups, as it already has in the case of Cardinal Wuerl.”
Archbishop Viganò, who said he has been receiving an “incredible outpouring of support,” rejected the accusation, made in an open letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet last October, that he was motivated by bitterness from thwarted ambition. In any case, he said, “motivation is not the point,” but “whether my testimony is true.” He said those who “impugn my motives” have been unwilling to “conduct open and thorough investigations.”
He went on to say he was “saddened” that news media are not insisting that the Holy Father and other prelates “answer my charges” and believes it is because they favor Francis’ “more liberal agenda.” He asked why no media have searched the archives themselves, interviewing victims, following money trails, and investigating corrupt networks.
As one of “so many cases to go after,” he referred to a new book by Martha Alegria Reichmann about the “misdeeds” of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Alegria discussed the contents of her book with Register in April). “Have you thought of interviewing her? Of investigating her claims?” he asked the Post.
Turning to homosexuality, and drawing on a recent studies including by Father Paul Sullins of the Ruth Institute, he said it is “mind-boggling” how the Vatican has avoided bringing it up at the February summit and recent synods, when the evidence of its preponderance in sexual abuse is “overwhelming.”
He said a “gay mafia” is bound together not by “shared sexual intimacy” but through protection and advancement, the “homosexual cliques” Benedict XVI mentioned in his “notes” compiled for the Vatican abuse summit. The archbishop then reproduced relevant passages on homosexuality from the Catechism.
Archbishop Viganò told the Post he regretted not publicly speaking up earlier about McCarrick, but thought the Church “could reform itself from within.” He said when it became clear the Pope was one of those covering up the crimes, “I had no doubt the Lord was calling me to speak up, as I have done and will continue to do.”
He said he believes a formal schism is unlikely, but that a “de facto schism based on acceptance or rejection of the sexual revolution” already exists.
He also admitted his testimony could have been handled better. “I am far from perfect,” he said, and would have reworded his initial statement to urge the Holy Father to “face up to his commitments,” pointed out St. Peter’s denials of Christ and subsequent repentance, and call on the Pope to resign only if he failed to imitate St. Peter by refusing to repent.
Asked how he feels in his conscience, Archbishop Viganò said he did what he believed needed to be done, knowing he would soon meet the “Good Judge.” He also did not want falsehoods to go unchallenged and “harm my soul and the souls of others.” His conscience “has always been clear,” he said, and that the “truth makes us free.”
Referring to how he was pushed out of his curial position in 2011 because he was uncovering corruption, Archbishop Viganò said, “Little did they know that the Lord was using them to put me in a position to speak out about the McCarrick scandal.”
He hinted that he is holding relevant documentation but said “the time has not yet come for me to release anything,” and suggested journalists ask the Pope and the prelates he mentioned in his testimony to “release the relevant documentation, some of which is quite incriminating, assuming they have not yet destroyed it.”
He concluded by observing that this crisis “is causing an institutional paralysis that is immensely demoralizing for the faithful,” but “we should be neither entirely surprised nor overly disturbed by this desperate state of affairs, given the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s promise to come again and establish his definitive kingdom.”
Archbishop Viganò, who began the interview by saying the Church is “going through one of the most turbulent moments in her history,” ended it by quoting paragraph 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The paragraph states the Church must pass through a “final trial that will shake the faith of many believers” and that the persecution that “accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”