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Benedict, Viganò, Francis, and McCarrick: Where things stand on nuncio’s allegations

“On its face, the arc of Archbishop Viganò’s story is straightforward,” says JD Flynn of CNA, “but the the fallout from the Viganò testimony has become quite complex.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI is seen with Pope Francis in this 2015 file photo. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

By J.D. Flynn

Denver, Colo., Sep 3, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- On its face, the arc of Archbishop Viganò’s story is straightforward.

In a testimony released Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Viganò wrote that in 2006, he sent a memo to his Vatican superiors, which said that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had a history of sexual misconduct with seminarians and priests and that an example should be made of him for the good of the Church.

Viganò claimed that his memo was ignored, and so he sent a second one in 2008. That one, he said, had its desired effect. His testimony said he was told that Pope Benedict XVI imposed “canonical sanctions” on McCarrick in 2009 or 2010, forbidding him from living in a seminary, celebrating sacraments publicly, and from making other kinds of public appearances.

Finally, Viganò alleged that Pope Francis knowingly ignored Benedict’s sanctions on McCarrick, and made the cardinal one of his closest advisors. For that, Viganò said, Pope Francis should resign.

The story is simple, but the the fallout from the Viganò testimony has become quite complex.

In the week since the testimony was released, Viganò detractors have pointed out that the nuncio may himself have shut down an investigation into the former Archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis, that he had axes to grind with several of the people he implicated in the memo, and that he may have dishonestly misrepresented some family obligations at the time he was appointed apostolic nuncio to the United States.

At the same time, facts have emerged that seem to corroborate some parts of Viganò’s account, and affirm the credibility of his subsequent press statements.

Two sources told CNA last week that they were witnesses to a 2008 meeting in which Viganò’s predecessor, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, told McCarrick to move out of the seminary where he’d been living. An auxiliary bishop in Minneapolis, Andrew Cozzens, released a statement Friday that seemed to corroborate Viganò’s account of the Nienstedt investigation. Sources told CNA yesterday that they could confirm a meeting Viganò claimed to have had with Pope Francis in 2015. And several American bishops have spoken out to say that they believe Viganò to be a man of integrity, encouraging that his allegations be thoroughly investigated.

The most serious complicating factor came in an Aug. 31 report from the National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin. While Viganò has claimed that Benedict imposed “canonical sanctions” on McCarrick, Pentin reported a source close to Benedict telling him that, as far as the former pope could remember, “the instruction was essentially that McCarrick should keep a ‘low profile.’ There was ‘no formal decree, just a private request.’

Pentin, who broke the story of Viganò’s testimonial, had reported in his initial coverage of the memo that a source told him the former pope remembered issuing restrictions of some kind, but could not remember exactly how the matter was handled. His Aug. 31 report elaborated, with a source saying that McCarrick might have been the recipient of a “private request.”

There is a great deal of distance between what Viganò claimed- that Benedict imposed “canonical sanctions”- and what Pentin’s source revealed- that the restrictions might have come through no more than a “private request.”

For some commentators, Pentin’s report seems to discredit Viganò’s entire testimonial. “Private requests” are not “canonical sanctions,” they argue, and therefore Viganò has been untruthful about the central argument of his memo.

Those commentators have a point, in part: private requests are not canonical sanctions. Viganò, who has a doctorate in canon law and a lifetime of ecclesiastical service, should know the difference. Misrepresenting a “private request” that a cardinal keep a low profile as “canonical sanctions” seems very obviously to be a grave defect in Viganò’s report.

Of course, it is possible, though unlikely, that Viganò directly and intentionally misrepresented Pope Benedict’s actions. This seems unlikely because the archbishop has called consistently for a release of files and documents; if he believed those documents would prove him wrong, he would not likely be doing so.

It is also possible that the archbishop wasn’t certain exactly what happened, and that he overcommitted to what he did know by claiming to have “certainty” Benedict had imposed canonical sanctions. This seems a likely scenario, given that Viganò’s entire testimony has a certain dramatic flair.

But there are a few other factors worth at least considering in a responsible assessment of the situation.

The first is the effect of a game of ecclesiastical telephone.

Viganò has not claimed that he saw written letters or decrees enacting restrictions. Instead, his testimony says he was informed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re that Benedict imposed the sanctions on McCarrick. Pentin’s initial reporting says that Benedict instructed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to handle the matter. This means that by the time Viganò heard about whatever happened, the story had gone through at least Bertone and Re, and it’s possible the story had even more intermediaries before it landed on Viganò’s desk.

The Vatican has a penchant for gossip, and many of its officials have a marked zeal for hyperbole. Anyone who knows the Vatican well can imagine how a “private request” made by Benedict could become “canonical sanctions” by the time the story reached Viganò.

The second possible factor is the generally loose relationship many bishops, of all theological perspectives, have with the nuances and finer points of canon law.

The frequency with which some bishops misuse or fail to use canon law as it’s written was on full display in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which depicted countless instances in which bishops failed to follow the procedures required of them by Church law. Many commentators have argued, for years in some cases, that if bishops in the United States had followed canon law exactingly in recent decades, they might have stopped the most egregious stories in the grand jury report even before they happened.

But if bishops have misused or failed to use the processes outlined in canon law with regularity, they even more frequently misuse canonical terms.

Every canon lawyer can tell stories about bishops who say that they have “suspended” a priest- a formal action that can be undertaken only as the result of a penal process- when they mean simply that they have temporarily benched him, sometimes without paperwork.

Similarly, the word Viganò used -“sanction”- is understood to mean a technically imposed penalty in canon law- but it is the kind of word that is often used loosely by hierarchs, in reference to any number of on or off-book disciplinary measures.

It is quite possible that Viganò has not grasped some of the implied distinctions contained in the phrase he chose, and includes in his definition of the term “sanctions” less formal verbal instructions.

Whatever the backstory, it seems absolutely clear that when Viganò used the term “canonical sanctions” he was not referring to a technical penalty imposed after a penal process. If McCarrick had undergone a formal penal process-a trial- the entire Church would know about it.

It seems clear to most commentators that Viganò should have used a less technically loaded term. By failing to be clear about what he meant, he’s opened the door for criticism, and those who take issue with the substance of his letter have marched through that door with indignation.

But none of that changes the big-picture allegations of Viganò’s memo: that after receiving multiple reports, Benedict took some action against McCarrick, and that action was later reversed or rescinded.

In the past week, several sources, speaking to different media outlets, have provided evidence that Benedict did make some kind of response to reports he received about McCarrick’s sexual misconduct. While it seems highly unlikely that response was technically a “sanction” in the formal sense, it also seems increasingly apparent that Benedict did give some kind of restrictive instruction to McCarrick.

Viganò says he might have received a memo about Benedict’s restrictions in 2011, and that if so, it would be found in the archives of the U.S. nunciature or the Congregation for Bishops. That would likely shed some clarity on the matter. It remains to be seen whether the Holy See will review those archives and release pertinent documents, but few journalists expect documentary clarity to be forthcoming from the Vatican.

It seems unlikely that semantic disagreements about Viganò’s claims will lead Catholics to dismiss entirely the questions he has raised, implicitly and explicitly, about whether, and by whom, McCarrick’s situation was inadequately addressed or simply papered over.

Those are the precisely the questions for which Catholics have been seeking answers.

Many Catholics have asked this week why, if Benedict did respond in some way to the Viganò memos, he didn’t respond in a stronger fashion.

Benedict is well known to have a record of active intolerance for sexual misconduct in the Church. During his tenure leading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he led a charge to develop more stringent processes and penalties for clerics accused and convicted of abuse. He is known to have referred to sexually abusive priests as a “filth” in the Church.

Viganò says he reported that McCarrick had sexually coerced young priests and seminarians, publicly embarrassed at least one who would not acquiesce to his demands, and possibly committed related canonical crimes of sacrilege. Many Catholics assume that such a report would have caused Benedict to issue an immediate, public, and serious set of penalties. Taking a soft approach on McCarrick seems incongruous with his record.

A source told the National Catholic Register this week that “as well as being very active, the media and public opinion didn’t speak any more about McCarrick, and sometimes it’s better if something is sleeping to let it sleep.” To many Catholics, such reasoning is unacceptable, and to many close observers, it doesn’t sound quite like Benedict.

Viganò’s report alleged that some of Benedict’s most powerful advisors shielded McCarrick from the pope. True or not, the allegation merits investigation as the former pope’s action- or inaction- is reviewed and evaluated.

Catholics have also asked why Francis, if he knew that McCarrick had been reportedly sexually engaged with seminarians for decades, would make a him an important advisor and emissary.

To understand and assess the responses of Benedict and Francis to allegations about McCarrick, it is important to understand the canonical context in which those allegations were made.

Since 2002, all bishops in the United States have known exactly how to address an allegation that a cleric sexually abused a child. The procedure is uniform and clear, and bishops seem to understand the importance of following it precisely and promptly. But the manner in which allegations of sexual misconduct with adults are handled looks nothing like those clear procedures.

Church law does not expressly establish that sex between a cleric and an adult is a canonical crime. As a consequence, bishops everywhere find themselves vexed, and frequently, about how exactly they should handle allegations of clerical sexual misconduct involving adults- even in cases like McCarrick’s, where coercion is an operative factor.

Bishops often send priests accused of sexual misconduct involving adults to inpatient therapy, and it has become typical for bishops to unofficially and temporarily sideline priests who engage in sexual dalliances with adults, usually until the bishop is convinced that the priest has addressed whatever issues are believed to have contributed to his misconduct. But there is almost never a canonical process involved in such cases, and, at the moment, there is not even an obvious canonical crime with which such priests could be charged.

Those practices might help to explain why Benedict didn’t act more publicly or directly on McCarrick. They might also explain, at least in part, why Francis was apparently able to be convinced that McCarrick had been reformed, and that he could be brought into the pontiff’s inner orbit.

That context is not offered as an excuse; most commentators on the matter argue compellingly that, whatever the context, both popes should have understood the seriousness of the situation. But it is possible that one or both of them did not, which is the reason why an investigation into all available records and testimonies would be of great help to the Church.

In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, and the McCarrick revelations, it is now becoming clear to bishops and other Church leaders that priests and bishops are almost always in unbalanced relationship of power with other Catholics  and so clerical sexual misconduct with adults should never be presumed to be consensual, as it often has been presumed to be in the past. And it is becoming especially clear to bishops that when the sexual partners of clerics are seminarians, “consent” is really not an operative or relevant principle.

As a result of what’s happened, some bishops are now beginning to understand that they need the same kinds of clear procedures for handling misconduct involving adults that they have for handling allegations involving children. The specifics might be different, but the importance of developing some kind of clearly delineated protocol is becoming obvious, mostly so that bishops can be nearly conditioned to handle them in appropriate manner each time they arise.

There remain Catholics who defend Benedict or Francis by arguing that since sexual misconduct with adults is not canonically prohibited, bishops and popes are free to handle those matters as they wish. While that argument is technically correct, it is obvious that most Catholics expect bishops and popes to enact severe punitive measures for any kind of sexually coercive activities involving clerics and other adults. The U.S. bishops’ conference has the opportunity to lead on this matter at its November meeting, since it is unlikely anything will come from the Vatican on the matter before that.

In fact, several sources tell CNA that the most likely long-term outcome of this summer of scandal is a universalized protocol for handling allegations of clerical sexual misconduct or abuse involving adults.

A review of the responses from Benedict and Francis to allegations about McCarrick seems to be a reasonable response to the Viganò testimonial.

Viganò says that he warned Francis about McCarrick, informing him that Benedict had restricted his ministry, but he claims the pope ignored those warnings and drew McCarrick into his inner circle, allowing him to influence key episcopal appointments in the United States. Journalist David Gibson in 2014 wrote about McCarrick’s restored place of importance in the Francis pontificate, and Rocco Palmo wrote in 2017, before McCarrick allegations became public, that the cardinal had been influential in at least major U.S. episcopal appointment.

If Francis did knowingly place into a position of influence a cardinal who was alleged to have sexually abused priests and seminarians, the Church should know about it, and know who helped to influence that decision. It seems immaterial to Francis’ position whether Benedict imposed formal sanctions on McCarrick, made a “private request,” or something happened in between. No pope is bound by the administrative decisions of his predecessor, and, as with Benedict, a full review of Francis’ response to the allegations against McCarrick seems appropriate.

Viganò alleges that a number of documents related to these questions can be found in several different Vatican archives. Some journalists, including CNA’s reporters, have begun requesting those documents. But again, it remains to be seen whether they’ll be made available.

The big-picture of Viganò’s memo is that Benedict, Francis, and other Vatican officials may have mishandled allegations raised to them about McCarrick. That big-picture is not changed if Viganò did not accurately convey Benedict’s actions on the matter.

There could be important lessons to be learned by a thorough review of Viganò’s claims, whatever the outcome. But, as a surprise to almost no one, the archbishop’s memo has mostly been reduced to a cudgel to be used in the ideological culture wars that divide U.S. Catholics. Viganò has been attacked relentlessly, and his credibility has been impugned far beyond those criticisms supported by evidence. Cardinals and bishops have called Viganò’s claims a distraction, and some prominent Catholics have openly called the former nuncio a liar.

Catholics of all theological perspectives could do justice for abuse victims through an unbiased investigation of facts. Viganò’s memo raises questions that, whatever the answers, seem to merit serious inquiries. It remains to be seen whether those opposing such an investigation, including some prominent bishops and cardinals, will relent, or at least better articulate their positions. It also remains to be seen whether Pope Francis will support such an investigation, making files available, and breaking his silence on Viganò’s story.

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  1. Pentin should not mention sources who want to be anonymous…ie the source of “private request”; and the above piece should note that Cardinals Re,Bertone, and Parolin would not answer the Register’s questions…so where does that leave the airplane press whom Francis told to do their job and investigate. If they investigate, key figures are not talking…and Francis is likening his silence to that of Christ. Result…a lame duck papacy that will continue with haters and praisers. But as to bringing the light of Christ to the world, the world will find that squinting might be helpful because the light is always there from certain quarters like the Trappists who probably have no scandals because they do hard farm work and what perv wants in on hard farm work and chanting earlier than roosters rise.
    No they want ambiguous work hours as in the Jesuits and in diocesan posts. The papacy cannot be a reliant source of light because the canons make immunity for Popes the wise thing because it’s ancient. Stoics killing disobedient children to age 15 was even more ancient but only ISIS does it now.

    • Would the spin and misdirection on the sex abuse whistleblower Archbishop Vigano’s credible allegations like “complexity” and “[conservative] haters and [liberal] praisers” be tolerated if the credible accuser was a Weinstein whistleblower?

      Answer: yes or no.

      Do you think the Catholic and secular media as well as the world Catholic bishops and cardinals should protect any sex abuse covering-up Pope rather he is liberal or conservative or for any reason in listed in the above article or for any reason imaginable and not demand an investigation to get to the truth about Francis or any other pope thus credibly accused?

      Answer: yes or no.

      Pray an Our Father now that Catholics will demand an honest investigation and the truth on credible allegations of sex abuse rather it is Weinstein or a pope and not simply attack credible whistleblowers.

      • We need the Truth to come out!
        The victims are who we should protect, not them!
        Get rid of the bad, and protect the good.
        God did that all the time in the Old Testament!

  2. Complexity is one thing, false complexity is another….

    On a placid Sunday morning I noticed above a dense urban neighborhood a thick column of black smoke rising hundreds of feet into the clear blue sky. I found the house and called 911, but could not identify to the operator the exact house address. The fire station was only a quarter mile away. In frustration I hollered into the phone: “Look out the damn (a theological term!) window and follow the smoke!”

    So, today, what’s so complicated about Archbishop Vigano’s possible lack of precision in the details of his letter?

    The really “big picture” is whether by a series of half-steps self-positioned Church mouthpieces are going to, in effect, normalize the active homosexual lifestyle, or not.

    Soon to come, a blessing from members of one national bishops conference or another, here and there, of particular gay “marriages” (like Luther approving the bigamy of the Elector Phillip of Hesse and of Henry VIII), and then widespread despair in what’s left of the perennial Church (“rigid, bigoted, fundamentalist, fixistic”!).

    All in the name of a new paradigm of straight-faced and ever-higher love and “mercy”…

    On this exact point, it was only twenty-five years ago (!) that we heard from Pope St. John Paul II the enduring truth that “the commandment of love of God and neighbor does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken” (Veritatis Splendor, 1993, n. 52).

    The long-term issue here is the drift toward formless, spectrum theo-ideology versus elementary intelligence and intellectual honesty. The self-evident principle of non-contradiction cannot be “discerned” away. A fireman does not negotiate with the fire.

  3. The one indisputable fact is that Pope Francis elevated Cardinal McCarrick to prominence at the Vatican as an adviser including selection of prelates. Whether the Pontiff knew of McCarrick’s now infamous record is debatable without actual documentation and other witness besides Archbishop Viganò. That claim if not reasonable seems preposterous from two Nuncios the other Msgr Lantheaume with longimpeccable records. That other witness then is Msgr Lantheaume, who has expressed fear of deadly retribution as has Viganò. Is such a claim theatre? The arguments against his allegations and defamation of Viganò are expected. If there is a motive attributable to the Pontiff for ignoring Archbishop Viganò’s alleged testimony to him it’s the Pontiff’s track record. There is a long list of dirty laundry in respect to “rehabilitation” of clerics for “sins of their youth”. Or for sins of adulthood Fr Inzoli among the most notorious McCarrick deserving the award for sins of longevity. The other indisputable fact is the Pontiff’s refusal to answer a straightforward yes or no to CBS journalist Ms Matranga. That shifts the benefit of the doubt away from the Pontiff to Archbishop Viganò and Msgr Lantheaume. May I add without appearing vitriolic Our Lord’s admonition, “Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no! Anything else is from the Evil One”.

    • The one question that would show Pope Francis and Vatican Officials as liars is did Kim Davies, jailed for ‘conscientous objection’have a private audience or not at the Papal Nunciature during Pope Francis’ trip to America? If this can be proved, and it should be relatively easy to prove, than we can discount anything that spokepersons for the Vatian says.

  4. I find this kind of thinking both frustrating and disgusting.
    Jesus IS the truth. stop writing these mouth-full-of-marbles rationalizations with no other purpose than to add yet another layer of complexity to the gordian knot of confusion and start seeking the true Truth.
    In the full light of God’s face, the innocent will be vindicated and the guilty can go where they will. One way or another, Christ will purify His Bride – without any help from the spin-doctors.

  5. Aside from showing the world how the Church does business, Bergoglio is setting a fine example for the youth of the world: give the idea you’re being Christlike in your “silence” while coopting others to exonerate you (the press, the imagined/defined “non-rigid, good people”) a la Juan Peron. It’s clear now why Bergoglio dislikes philosophy/theology because then there’s no Socrates making a distinction between “really convinced” “really refuted” and just “seems to be”. Frankly though does Bergoglio and all the hierarchy think young people want any of this mess in their lives? And the “dumb” faithful have to now pay money to support this new paradigm which is essentially their self-affirmed lifestyle? It’s not just McCarrick but a cast if characters. Btw”rigid” works for a lot of Jesuits when it’s “private” vs “canonical.”

  6. While we are informed there are no provisions for the removal of a pope, is it so that the Code of Canon Law is also deficient in providing relief from an ecclesiastic who publicly perjures himself, testifying before God false accusations against the Holy Father.
    Surely there is provision for the canonical correction of a flagrant ecclesiastic calumniator. If Archbishop Viganò has committed calumny against the Supreme Pastor let the trial begin. Let the evidence be brought forth. Rid us of this liar. Rid us of this criminal who undermines our confidence in Peter. Souls are at stake! Truth and justice are not to be denied but embraced. Why would such an avenue be avoided?
    Obviously Pope Francis in his wisdom sees this perfectly resonable method for resolution as counterproductive. Whatever could his reasoning be?
    Is there a fear that a canonical trial would inadvertently find the “perceived” victim to be the victimizer rather than Archbishop Viganò? Archbishop Viganò has placed himself firmly in the crosshairs of public opinion, ecclesiastical and civil authorities, let alone before Almighty God. Pope Francis, on the other hand, has taken refuge in a questionable silence, simultaneously equating himself with the innocent person of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who remained silent before his mendacious accusers.
    Our Lord exhibited little patience with his closest confreres when they sought to spare Him lighthearted engagement with the little ones. Is one to wonder what our Lord would have done had one His disciples abused a boy and one of his apostles brought the crime to the attention of a Peter who then remained silent and let the offender loose?
    The Holy Father does no one justice, least of all his office, by misapplied silence in the face of crimes and bureaucratic comportment unworthy of the disciples of Jesus Christ. His responsibility at this moment is to recognize its mortal character while establishing a mode of operation that will insure the corrective will be faithfully applied by a successor who is constitutionally up to the concrete transformation required with utter fidelity to Holy Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the perennial Magisterium of the Church.

  7. Catholic Clergy Sexual Misbehavior in the US
    It has been the perception of the clergy in America that there appear to be two or three different sets of standards in the Catholic Church in America for clergy that misbehave sexually. Priests are sent to either Saint Luke’s in DC or Downingtown, PA or other psychiatric institutions. Typically the time is 6 months to a year; or they are thrown in jail- or both. In either case, innocent or guilty, their faculties are suspended and they can no longer practice as priests if the situation involves children- In a few cases I know two career chaplains in the US Army were cleared of any civil or criminal wrongdoing by the courts once they retired. But when they went back to their endorsing dioceses (where they were ordained) they were no longer allowed to practice as priests. If the situation involves consenting adults in the US, faculties are still suspended and the priest goes to a psychological care facility for a minimum of 6 months.
    Bishops on the other hand can use the financial resources of their dioceses to fight cases (Hubbard, Mccarrick, Marino) just to name a few. Marino went to Servants of the Paraclete for “a life of prayer and penance” and later became a counselor at a similar facility- St. Vincent’s in NY until he died. Though in a different category, Bishop Anthony Acerra of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (who was a retired Colonel in the Air Force) died leaving everything to his wife and nine year old son…….to this day the Archdiocese only acknowledges this in whispers.
    Cardinals have no immediate supervisors in the states or elsewhere unless they are in Italy, or unless the local bishop will/can act. Two out of four that had problems- Keith O’Brien and Bernard Law were dealt with differently. O’Brien excused himself from the recent conclave and retired in obscurity without ever facing civil or criminal charges for what he did and lived a so-called “life of seclusion, prayer and penance” being waited on hand and foot until he died. Law fled the US at night after hiding in the Mercy Sisters Convent in Clinton Maryland for a bit, got a prestigious job in the Vatican, did JP II’s funeral and never faced justice for knowingly transferring pedophiles in the Archdiocese of Boston- the files of which he took to the Vatican. Cardinal Mahoney was removed from public ministry for covering up pedophile priests, but barring his death or hitting 80, will elect the next Pope- let me guess “seclusion, penance, and prayer…?” Mccarrick is still in the states and has not been sent to any psychiatric care facility and other than “no recollection” and denial, he still lives in DC and has waited for press to die down and now merely lives in obscurity until his eventual death (more prayer, penance, and seclusion). It is doubtful that Pope Francis will provide him with shelter unless Mccarrick is exonerated from civil and criminal courts which to date have no intention of pursuing him as statutes of limitations have run out. Also, as he is too old to vote in a conclave, his resignation from the College of Cardinals is meaningless. In light of Vigano’s scathing letter of resignation, laicization of the Cardinal (and others complacent in similar wrongdoings and cover ups would be a good shot across the bow.
    Seminary and continuing clergy formation has to deal with its hetero, homo, and “ambigusexual” issues rather than teach that sexuality can be prayed away. Future priests should be taught how to make healthy boundaries, protect themselves from predators, report wrongdoings, and defend themselves against false accusations.
    In what was thought to be the apex of the pedophilia crisis of the Catholic Church in the US, in 1991, the bishop’s conference met in Washington, DC to write a document on seminary formation. The 365 page document mentioned prayer once: “Seminarians should be men of prayer”; and celibacy only once “…they should be celibate”. There has never been a serious or otherwise well defined meeting on sexuality in the priesthood. The belief is that one can pray away any desires. The lukewarm conclusion of a possibility of allowing a married clergy in Central America seemed like a novel idea, but that already exists worldwide in a Roman Catholic group called the Chair of Peter. The pat answer of “they should allow priests to get married” will not address the rampant issue of homosexuality or pedophilia in any church or religion. And, as we know, marriage does not solve all ills.
    Do not give in to the calumny of “” that has clergy and religious listed even if exonerated; they should be pursued for slander rather than advocates of “freedom of speech”. Nor place us in the position of “lay councils” as over watch groups that can be either alt left or alt right (to coin democrat party terms) and lead to a congregationalism that can be rather divisive. Quo vide the continuing to divide Protestants. Odd that the largest denomination in the US military has never had their own services- Baptist…
    I do not expect change in my lifetime, but the Holy Spirit is full of surprises. It may very well be that with all that is going on, the crisis of vocations will be overtaken by a crisis of the faithful that may increasingly see the Catholic Church as irrelevant. And irrelevance is far more frightening. Teach the faithful that the “some” is not the “all.” So continue pray for the Church, it needs it! And above all, do not abandon it! And one day it will be again “Hello Good Men.”

    • Thank you for your work in that post. If one’s parish is good, perseverance thrives easier.
      Our pastor is older and from India…wonderful preacher, quiet and gentle. I hope Pope Francis’ new found love of silence increases exponentially…and that his airplane use of fossil fuel abates exponentially.

    • ” In either case, innocent or guilty”

      That is what I find very, very troubling about this, and about the “me, too” movement, and the idea that there should be no statute of limitations: Upon accusation, people are presumed guilty unless they can somehow prove themselves innocent (and your letter indicates that even then they are treated as if they were guilty). And after decades and decades, how can anybody prove anything?

    • The newly minted Cardinal Ticona has immediate survivors and a common law wife according to widely held perception in Bolivia. Of course this tale too is counted erroneous, along with Barros, Ricca, McCarrick, Capozzi, Pineda, et al.,

  8. Pope Francis is a deceitful and manipulative abuser of justice.

    That is why Marie Collins knew she had to have herself photographed giving the victim’s letter to Cardinal O’Malley. She knew hiw to be “wise as a serpent” when she was working amongst the wolves of the Vatican.

  9. “it is now becoming clear to bishops and other Church leaders that priests and bishops are almost always in unbalanced relationship of power with other Catholics and so clerical sexual misconduct with adults should never be presumed to be consensual, as it often has been presumed to be in the past. And it is becoming especially clear to bishops that when the sexual partners of clerics are seminarians, “consent” is really not an operative”

    Lack of consent makes it worse, but in whose twisted mind should priest’s or bishop’s sexual misconduct with *anybody* not be a matter for discipline, and homosexual activity especially? The only difference between consensual and non consensual activity between clergy is whether one or both should be subjected to severe discipline, And homosexual behavior of any kind is not canonically prohibited?? What kind of idiocy is that?

  10. “Viganò detractors have pointed out that the nuncio may himself have shut down an investigation…” Catholic News Agency is always happy to perpetuate a lie that has been fully refuted.

    • Not quite fair. Re-read the eighth paragraph, where Flynn cites new evidence that corroborates Vigano’s account of the Nienstedt affair.

  11. In the final analysis, its irrelevant whether Archbishop Vigano has an axe to grind. What’s relevant is the truthfulness of his statements. Therefore, the Vatican needs to release all relevant documents so that the truthfulness or falsity of the claims will be known.

  12. Another long-winded article from CNA, intended to divert attention from the real issue: that homosexuality (of course never mentioned in the article) is now rampant at the very center of the Church. The journalistic obfuscation – couched in semi-legalese – is disgusting. Let’s talk about everything but the real issues, just like our environmental alarmist, immigration propagandist Pope.


  14. There remain Catholics who defend Benedict or Francis by arguing that since sexual misconduct with adults is not canonically prohibited, bishops and popes are free to handle those matters as they wish.

    An assertion refuted by Canon Law.

    Can. 277 §1 Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy. Celibacy is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbour.

    §2 Clerics are to behave with due prudence in relation to persons whose company can be a danger to their obligation of preserving continence or can lead to scandal of the faithful.

    Can. 599 The evangelical counsel of chastity embraced for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, is a sign of the world to come, and a source of greater fruitfulness in an undivided heart. It involves the obligation of perfect continence observed in celibacy.

  15. When my child is hurting, if I remain silent I am hurting my child! HOLY FATHER, BE AFATHER NOW! EVEN IF YOU ARE HUMILIATED IN SPEAKING< PLEASE DO NOT BE SILENT!!!!

  16. Sept. 4th: There are no ‘canonical penalties’ for Cardinals and Bishops who coerce seminarians and others to have sex with them? What!!??? This is absurd! If Cardinals and Bishops are so sick that they engage in deviant sexual activity and coerce those subordinate to them to comply, they should be defrocked – laicized and should not be given positions of authority on any level until this happens. All this technical banter should cease…the Grand Jury report is never even mentioned. Also never mentioned is why Pope Francis knowingly placed known deviant clergy in places close to him … perhaps it is ‘mercy’ – but mercy will not turn them from their deviant practices if they seem to be approved so much by Pope Francis that he chooses them for his close advisers while exiling good and holy prelates like Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Mueller.

  17. The crux of this issue on Pope Francis’ silence is the direction that the Pontiff is apparently determined to take the Church. That has become evident by words and appointments as a normalization of homosexuality and its integration in the Church as a natural good, part of the New Paradigm Shift previously envisioned by Cardinal ‘Tucho’ Fernandez and others. If there is no determined effort to purify the Church we can be virtually assured this policy of sanitizing homosexuality will resume to the detriment of the Faith and grievous offence to Christ.

    • Yes Father and all of this has left me in tears. The first sting from Francis was his dismissal of the pro life workers in the church. I often think about the prodigal son and find myself looking back to his brother and thinking, “Wait a second. Doesn’t he deserve a pat on the back?” (And, yet, I hope to be greeted as the prodigal son by Jesus.) I think too of the image of the Holy Family and wonder how it is reconciled with gay marriage. Will the church diminish the importance of the Holy Family in order to reconcile gay marriage within the church? Vigaro’s statement makes it clear that 80% of the trouble in the church is from homosexual priests and their agenda. I know of at least 3 stories of men discerning for the priesthood who left seminary because of the overwhelming homosexual activity in those places. I think PF is silent because all of this interferes with his agenda.

  18. Secrecy has been the worst aspect of the scandals in the U.S. Secrecy prevented timely criminal trials. Secrecy allowed nearly all the abusers to continue their misconduct. Money and secrecy abetted the cover-ups. Recommending more secrecy or ordering it (Cardinal Tobin in Newark has forbidden priests and seminarians from talking to the media) will not work in the U.S. The faithful, not the hierarchy, comprise the Church and the faithful in the U.S. are used to freedom of speech. Wrongdoing by the hierarchy needs to be exposed and punished by removal from service as leaders.

  19. JD, thank you for this thorough analysis, it does help as we wait for more. You are missed here in Lincoln but are giving a good account of yourself in Denver! God bless,

  20. I know I am late i this, but I believe that the controversial Ms. Barnhardt herself has pointed out the possible reason why Viganò called the sanctions “canonical” whil they remained “secret.”

    Because Canon Law for ordinaries (Bishops) allows sanctions against Bishops for grave offenses or suspected grave offenses, but if the offenses were not publicly known (ie the phrase in Canon Law is “occult offenses”), then the sanctions CANNOT be made public (ie “occult offenses” are treated with “occult sanctions”).

    Would a Canon Lawyer associated with CWR please weigh in on this?

  21. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the
    Son, but only the Father.”

    There are many parables and stories in the New Testament where Jesus warns good Catholics to always be ready for their end.

    Today, as I read many news media stories, blogs & comments, I wonder out loud are those who are responsible for sexual abuses and cover ups today REAL Catholics? If they were, how could they ever commit such horrendous crimes; yes crimes against fellow human beings & The Holy Trinity.

    To keep this view short all I can say is that those clerics, who not only violated criminal law but also Church Law, were never, in any way, a REAL Catholic. How can anyone commit criminal crimes but worse than that offend The Holy Trinity in not only sexual abuses but in a variety of sacriligiouses that are responsible for the many scourges, thorns, wounds & finally crucifixion of Jesus? You may think, because your not truly committed to the vows you originally took as a seminarian, that all of that happened on Good Friday. Believe me, anyone who truly loves Christ, realizes that not only Christ is still offended but also His Mother who suffered with Him on that day.

    True Catholics know the meaning of above & make every effort to avoid anything that would keep them from viewing the Face of God; but thats Catholics who truly believe. I have come to the conclusion that we, the public Catholics, who read article after article about the crimes against The Holy Trinity, have come to the conclusion that those who are actually guilty and have no remorse, don’t really care or believe and will some day meet the Prince of the World in his domain and nothing anyone says will make them remorseful or cause them to reveal the REAL truth of what is going on in our Catholic Church today!

  22. In this story there is not one word about Francis whitewashing the background of the depraved Cardinal Danneels. Nor is there any discussion of his history of covering for degenerates while he was a bishop in Argentina.

  23. The article wrongly states that sexual relations between a priest and an adult are not a crime in canon law! Please read the code again. Not only it’s a crime but may even allow dismissal from the clerical state!

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