Update: (10:00 pm EST, August 27, 2018: This post now includes, below, the full statement by Archbishop Viganò. All emphasis in that text is in the original.)
Update #2 (5:00pm EST, August 28, 2018: LifeSiteNews.com has posted two letters directly related to Archbishop Viganò’s August 26th statement: a letter from the two auxiliary bishops to Cardinal Ouellet is available here, and Archbishop Viganò’s letter to the Cardinal is available here.)
In an August 26th written statement seen by some media outlets, including CWR, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò responded to reports that he ordered a stop to an investigation of then-Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Viganò flatly denies these assertions, stating, “These accusations – that I would have ordered the two auxiliary bishops of Minneapolis to close the nvestigation on the life of archbishop Nienstedt – are false.”
The charges against Vigano have circulated for years but his recent criticism of an alleged Vatican and U.S. Catholic coverup of Archbishop McCarrick’s reported sexual misconduct have brought the charges back into general discussion.
According to veteran Vatican reporter John Allen, Jr., in an August 27th CRUX article, “Viganò arguably undercut his credibility by not dealing with his own record on the abuse issue.” Allen then summarizes the central criticism:
According to a 2014 memo, first made public in 2016, Viganò as nuncio quashed an investigation – going as far as demanding that evidence be destroyed – into then-Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who was being investigated for misconduct with seminarians as well as cover-up of sexual abuse. In 2015, Nienstedt stepped down as head of the archdiocese.
Viganò, in his statement, says that in April 2014 he was given affidavits containing accusations that Nienstedt had an affair with a member of the Swiss guard while serving in the Vatican two decades ago. Viganò says that an inquiry had been conducted by private investigators who were working for a Minneapolis law firm, Greene Espel, that was part of a pro-“same-sex marriage” coalition. According to Vigano, the inquiry had been conducted in a manner he deemed “unbalanced” and with a “prosecutorial style”. The investigators, Viganò says, wished to immediately investigate the pontifical Swiss guard without first interviewing Nienstedt. Viganò says he suggested that Nienstedt be first heard out before further steps be taken: “To the bishops who came at the nunciature on April 12, 2014 I suggested to tell the Greene Espel lawyers that it appeared to me appropriate that archbishop Nienstedt be heard before taking this step – audiatur et altera pars – which they had not yet done. The bishops accepted my suggestion.”
Viganò denies that he said the inquiry should stop or that any documents be destroyed: “I never told anyone that Greene Espel should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document be destroyed: any statement to the contrary is false.”
On July 20, 2016, the New York Times published a story by Laurie Goodstein and Richard Pérez-Peña that reported Viganò had “quashed an independent investigation in 2014 into sexual and possible criminal misconduct by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis and ordered church officials to destroy a letter they wrote to him protesting the decision, according to a memo made public on Wednesday.” The memo in question was written by Fr. Dan Griffith who, the Times reported, “wrote that the ambassador’s order to call off the investigation and destroy evidence amounted to ‘a good old fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal.'”
Viganò, in his statement, says that Griffith was not present at the meeting at the nunciature, which included the archbishop and the two auxiliary bishops. It was Griffith, writes Viganò, who had retained Greene Espel to investigate Nienstedt on behalf of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
The Times, in its 2014 report, stated, “The document offers a grave indictment of the conduct of the Vatican’s ambassador, and will probably put pressure on Pope Francis to discipline him and Archbishop Nienstedt.” Viganò states that on July 21, 2016, the nuncio in Washington, DC, Archbishop Christophe Pierre—who had succeeded Viganò three months prior after Viganò had reached the traditional retirement age of 75—was ordered by Pope Francis, via Cardinal Parolin, to immediately open an investigation into Viganò’s alleged coverup.
Viganò says that an American lawyer, Mr. Jeffrey Lena, working for the Holy See, acquired documents from the Congregation for Bishops upholding Viganò’s account of events. Mr. Lena delivered a report to Pope Francis, according to Viganò, but the Vatican did not make any statement refuting what was reported by the New York Times. Viganò further says that a report was also given by the nunciature to Cardinal Parolin, and that report is on file at the Secretariat of State and at the nunciature in Washington, DC.
Viganò concludes by stating that he asked both Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop Hebda to correct Griffith’s memo: “On January 28, 2017 I wrote to both Archbishop Pierre and to Archbishop Hebda (who had succeeded Nienstedt) asking them to publicly correct the memorandum of father Griffith. In spite of repeated emails and phone calls, I never heard back from them.”
In related news, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), earlier today issued a statement about further investigations into Archbishop McCarrick, as well as Viganò’s letter of testimony, which was made public on August 25th.
“The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò,” says Cardinal DiNardo, “brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”
The full text of Cardinal DiNardo’s statement can be read below.
WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued the following statement.
Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:
“In communion with the Holy Father, I join the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in taking upon ourselves his exhortation, ‘this open wound [of abuse] challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.’
“On August 1st, I promised that USCCB would exercise the full extent of its authority, and would advocate before those with greater authority, to pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth. Yesterday, I convened our Executive Committee once again, and it reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.
“The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.
“I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action. That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops. Inspired by his recent letter to the people of God, and his motu proprio of two years ago, As a Loving Mother, I am confident Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparency in the matter of disciplining bishops. We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days.
“To the survivors of abuse and the families who have lost a loved one to abuse, I am sorry. You are no longer alone. Since 2002, hundreds of professionally trained staff across the country have been working with the Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse. Nationwide, the Church has a zero-tolerance policy toward priests and deacons who abuse, safe environment training, background checks for those working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities, and lay review boards in dioceses.
“In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church’s firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation.”
Statement by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò regarding the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis
Accusations against my person appeared in the media – in July 2016, when I had already left my mission in Washington, D.C. – following the publication of a memorandum written by Father Dan Griffith, the then delegate for the protection of minors in the Archdiocese.
These accusations – alleging that I ordered the two Auxiliary Bishops of Minneapolis to close the investigation into the life of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt – are false.
Father Griffith was not present during my meeting at the Nunciature with the Archbishop and the two Auxiliaries on April 12, 2014, during which several affidavits containing accusations against Archbishop Nienstedt were handed to me.
These affidavits were collected by the firm, Greene Espel, who was retained by Father Griffith on behalf of the Archdiocese to investigate Archbishop Nienstedt. This firm belongs to the group “Lawyers for All Families,” who fought against Archbishop Nienstedt over the approval of same-sex marriage in the State of Minnesota.
In one of these affidavits, it was claimed that Archbishop Nienstedt had had an affair with a Swiss Guard during his service in the Vatican some twenty years prior.
Private investigators from the Greene Espel firm had conducted an inquiry in an unbalanced and prosecutorial style, and now wanted immediately to extend their investigation to the Pontifical Swiss Guard, without first hearing Archbishop Nienstedt.
I suggested to the bishops who came to the Nunciature on April 12, 2014, that they tell the Greene Espel lawyers that it appeared to me appropriate that Archbishop Nienstedt be heard before taking this step – audiatur et altera pars – which they had not yet done. The bishops accepted my suggestion.
But the following day, I received a letter signed by the two auxiliaries, falsely asserting that I had suggested the investigation be stopped.
I never told anyone that Greene Espel should stop the inquiry, and I never ordered any document to be destroyed. Any statement to the contrary is false.
However, I did instruct one of the auxiliary bishops, Lee A. Piché, to remove from the computer and the archdiocesan archives the letter falsely asserting that I had suggested the investigation be halted. I insisted on this not only to protect my name, but also that of the Nunciature and the Holy Father who would be unnecessarily harmed by having a false statement used against the Church.
The very day the news appeared in the New York Times, on July 21, 2016, the Holy Father asked Cardinal Parolin to phone the Nuncio in Washington, D.C. (Christophe Pierre), ordering that an investigation into my conduct be opened immediately, so that I could be reported to the tribunal in charge of judging abuse cover-up by bishops.
I informed the Vatican Press Office in the persons of Father Lombardi and Mr. Greg Burke. With the authorization of the Substitute of the Secretary of State, then-Archbishop Becciu, Mr. Jeffrey Lena – an American lawyer working for the Holy See – went to the Congregation for Bishops where he found documents proving that my conduct had been absolutely correct.
Mr. Lena handed a written report exonerating me to the Holy Father. In spite of this, the Vatican Press Office did not deem it necessary to release a statement refuting the New York Times article.
The Nunciature also responded to Cardinal Parolin with a detailed report, which restored the truth and demonstrated that my conduct had been absolutely correct.
This report is found in the Vatican Secretariat of State and at the Nunciature in Washington, DC.
On January 28, 2017, I wrote to both Archbishop Pierre and Archbishop Hebda (who had succeeded Nienstedt), asking them to publicly correct the Griffith memorandum. In spite of repeated emails and phone calls, I never heard back from them.
August 26, 2018