Things just got worse. And they also got better.

The interview and the documents made public on Tuesday answer some questions and raise others; it’s going to take a while to comb them and sift them and parse them.

Pope Francis waves outside St. Patrick in the City Church in Washington, Sept. 24, 2015, while accompanied by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then the apostolic nuncio to the United States.(CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A while back, a friend of many years wondered aloud, “How bad does it need to get?” My friend was wondering about the crisis of leadership in the Church — a crisis that reaches across several generations and runs all the way up and all the way through the hierarchy — and what it will take for things to start to improve. On Tuesday, May 28th, 2019, things got worse. They also got better.

Crux and CBS had reports on leaked correspondence that provides further confirmation of restrictions placed on the disgraced and defrocked former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore Edgar “Uncle Ted” McCarrick. It also shows very senior Vatican officials who were lax in their efforts to enforce the restrictions Pope Benedict XVI imposed on Uncle Ted in 2008. It shows that McCarrick’s successor in the US capital archdiocese, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, knew of the restrictions, despite repeated and increasingly implausible protestations of ignorance.

Pope Francis himself, in a lengthy interview with Televisa’s veteran Vaticanologist, Valentina Alazraki (who blew the doors off the Synod Hall with her speech to participants at the child protection summit in February), also offered protestations of ignorance. “About McCarrick, I knew nothing,” Pope Francis said. “Obviously,” he continued. “Nothing,” he repeated, “nothing,” he said again.

Francis also said he could not remember whether the former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, spoke to him about McCarrick when they met in 2013. “When [Viganò] says he spoke to me that day — he came — and I do not remember if he told me about this — if it is true or not,” the Pope told Televisa. Viganò claims Francis asked him about McCarrick. Even if the former nuncio himself misremembers who initiated the conversation, Francis’s claim is that he can’t for the life of him recall whether his nuncio told him one of his cardinals is a pervert. Let that sink in.

Pope Francis’s powers of recollection do not appear to be at their apex in the interview. At one point, Alazraki asks him about his approach to people in “irregular” life situations, and offers the example of an Argentinian divorcée who spoke with Francis by phone, after which she reported that Francis had given her permission to receive Holy Communion. “What I said to that lady, I don’t well remember,” said Francis to Televisa’s Alazraki, “but I must surely have said to her, ‘Look, in Amoris laetitia there is that, which you must do. Talk with a priest, and search with him’.”

Pope Francis made the phone call to Jaqui Lisbona in response to a letter she had written, seeking counsel from the Holy Father with regard to her spiritual life and relationship with the Church. This was in April of 2014 — Easter Monday of that year, according to several reports — two years almost to the day before Francis published Amoris Laetitia. Pope Francis makes lots of phone calls, though. Perhaps he confused Mrs. Lisbona with someone else, with whom he has spoken more recently.

In the spring of 2018, after the long festering crisis in Chile became an international scandal, Pope Francis swore he’d learned his lesson, and promised to do better. The Chile business exploded in Francis’s face when he repeatedly accused prominent abuse survivors and victim-advocates of calumny, saying that they brought allegations against Bishop Juan Barros without any proof, without evidence.

In the interview with Televisa’s Alazraki, Francis answered a question regarding his staunch support for Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is accused of corruption and mismanagement as well as coverup. “They say all kinds of things [about] him,” Francis said, “but there is nothing certain.” The Pope went on to say, “[Maradiaga] is honest and I have taken care to look into things well. These are calumnies.”

Francis’s interviewer asked for clarification. Did the Pope mean to say the allegations against Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the long-serving Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and the Coordinator of Francis’s hand-picked Council of Cardinal Advisers, are calumnies? “Yes,” Pope Francis said, “because nobody could prove anything.”

“[Maradiaga] may have been wrong about this or that, he may have made some mistakes, but not at the level they want to pin on him,” Pope Francis continued. “This is the important thing, therefore I defend him.”

There’s a good deal more in both the interview and the documents made public on Tuesday. It’s going to take a while to comb them and sift them and parse them.

Things got better, because a rank-and-file cleric — one with a past and doubtless alloyed motives, as all flesh has for everything — is sick of the status quo and will no longer keep silence. The document dump on which the Crux and CBS reports are based came from Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, a priest who served as private secretary to Theodore Edgar “Uncle Ted” McCarrick when he was Archbishop of Newark. McCarrick ordained Figueiredo to the priesthood a quarter century ago. McCarrick had Figueiredo as his secretary for about nine months between September of 1994 and June of 1995.

Msgr. Figueiredo has spent the last two decades in Rome, during which time he continued to correspond and assist McCarrick in various matters. “I would be part of the cover-up if I simply kept that correspondence to myself,” Msgr. Figueiredo told CBS.

“Indeed,” wrote Figueiredo in a statement explaining his decision and presenting some of the key points contained in the correspondence, “my actions in releasing this report at this time are encouraged by the Holy Father’s motu proprio, Vos estis lux mundi, based on the overriding principle that it is imperative to place in the public domain, at the right time and prudently, information that has yet to come to light and impacts directly on allegations of criminal activity, the restrictions imposed on my now laicized former Archbishop, and who knew what and when.”

Truth will out.


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About Christopher R. Altieri 110 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, writer, and editor based in Rome, Italy. He spent more than a dozen years on the news desk at Vatican Radio. He holds the PhD from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

14 Comments

  1. “The truth will out.” The truth not only will out, the truth is out. In response to Pope Frankenstein’s three-fold Petrine denials of knowing anything about one of his cardinals being a sexual pervert, Archbishop Vigano has issued a public statement specifically calling the pope a liar and reminding pope that it was he himself who had raised the question about McCarrick’s turpitude. We thus have a pope publicly and repeatedly lying about matters of utmost gravity, with the lies documented by McCarrick’s long-time former personal secretary and by a former top official in the Secretariat of State who was the Governor General of the Vatican City State and Nuncio to the United States. For the good of the Church and the salvation of his own soul, Pope Frankenstein should be declared the liar, hypocrite, and heretic that he is.

  2. Yes, I read it last night and retained a copy.

    Figueiredo’s report affirms the direction indicated by Viganò, in the direction of Pope Francis.

    PF is denying he knew anything, and know layering with lots of “I don’t remember.”

    The rope just got shorter…and tighter…

  3. I have met Msgr. Figueireda twice – once in Guadalajara, Mexico at a Vatican sponsored conference and a few years later at a meeting in Rome. He even heard my Confession in Mexico. My sense of him is that he is a good man, a faithful priest. Fully expect that the Vatican will try to smear him because of his past foibles, just as Francis is now trying to do to Vigano regarding his legal battle with his brother over an inheritance. When it comes to the “trust” issue raised by Francis, my trust will be placed on the testimony of Vigano and Figueiredo.

  4. Fr Anthony Figueiredo’s same day revelations contain admission by McCarrick that he showed an unfortunate lack of judgment in sharing his bed with priests and seminarians at his summer house, but denies ever having or seeking sexual relations with anyone, man, woman, or child. Cardinal Viganò said he saw memos about McCarrick’s habit of luring seminarians into bed at his beach house. He allegedly spoke directly with Francis in response to the Pope’s query about McCarrick. Viganò revealed that Pope Benedict XVI had disciplined Cardinal McCarrick for his misconduct, ordering the prelate to retreat from public life. Cardinal Viganò added Francis later lifted that sanction, giving McCarrick influence as papal adviser and allowing him a key role in the appointment of American bishops [later confirmed]. “Viganò said the truth,” in corroboration as reported by Msgr Jean-François Lantheaume, a former counselor at the nuncio’s office in Washington who had first-hand acquaintance with Benedict’s order (excerpts CWR 5.28.19 and Philip Lawler First Things 8.27.18). C Altieri ends his account of the good the bad and the ugly with Truth will out. That depends on whether Fr Figueiredo’s claim of further documented evidence is exculpatory or incriminating. Fr Figueiredo’s revelations to date repeat was is already known and what is new, McCarrick’s admission above favors McCarrick and by inference the Pontiff. The matter as it stands apparently cannot be resolved without a real investigation. Although I hope for benefit of our Church the Pontiff is innocent.

  5. I’m very grateful for Pope Francis. He’s helped me realize that I had made a false idol out of the papacy. Its been strong medicine, but I now listen very little to the Pope or the Vatican. I turn to the Bible, immemorial Holy Tradition and common sense (combined with prayer). Thanks Francis. You’ve succeeded in decentralizing the Church by making your office redundant! I know longer trust you or your cronies to teach the Gospel.

      • Not necessarily. As long as Tradtion is part of Andrew’s regimen and his prayer life reflects reverence for sacraments and saints, he’s a Catholic in very good standing. My recent journey has mirrored his exactly.

  6. The entire interview is a jumble of contradictions, non-sequiturs and incoherence. Limiting it just to the McCarrick issue he says:

    1. He does not remember if Vigano told him about McCarrick.
    2. He did not know about McCarrick.

    If #1 is true, then how can he state #2 as a fact? It doesn’t follow and is internally inconsistent. Hence, the Vatican press office deleting #1 from the interview to “save” him from himself. As if they wouldn’t be caught manipulating the record – again. Then he claims that he has already denied knowing about McCarrick many times in virtually the same breath where he gives his explanation for having remained silent!

  7. I have no confidence in Pope Francis.
    Champagne is cold and ready for the moment this nightmare papacy ends.

  8. Much as I appreciate the rope getting “shorter, and tighter” the fact remains that the there is no rope literally or figuratively. Sitting here texting this response I have as much influence on events as do you, you and you. No influence at all outside of prayer. The fact remains that this chastisement of a pope is ultimately serving good. Of this I have every confidence. I do not have to understand the how of it today. I only know that it is true because God will not forsake His faithful children. We, dear readers, all know this. This current disappointment of a pope will exit the Chair in His time when His purpose is served. The Church will emerge from this stronger. Until then pray and fast. Deo vindice.

  9. Joseph –

    In my “rope” metaphor, I am certainly not suggesting that there is any earthly or institutional Church power that I or we are influencing…that would be insane…knowing how totally rotten the Church hierarchy (and indeed our Church in general) has become.

    Instead, the rope is the rope of the invisible power of the head of the Church, Our Lord Jesus, who is the head of the Body of Christ.

    Indeed, as Jesus prophecied, some evil can only be driven out by prayer and fasting, and so you and I and others pray and fast, so that Jesus closes in on these criminals defrauding the Body of Christ.

    And just to show I am not indulging in fantasy…there is no reason for us to believe that “things will be better” after the next conclave. That is very unlikely, since a PF has picked Cardinals at 2-3 times the rate of his predecessors.

    The crisis of mediocrity and fraud and mammon is getting and will get worse…before it gets better.

    Let’s face it…thanks to a now known pedophile (and long known practicing homosexual seminary predator) McCarrick, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (murder Incorporated) is picking Bishops (and future Cardinals) for Rome, and the current Pope and Parolin and their pals are delighted.

  10. Pope Francis won’t be going anywhere soon. He is the last Pope on St. Malachy’s list, in this fifth Church age that we live in. This age is “coming to a close”, after the 10 events unfold that Mary, Mother of Jesus has given to us through her latest apparitions. Here is an example of a prophecy that is unfolding before our eyes. Sister Agnes Sasagawa, at Japan, in 1973, claimed that Mary said to her: “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church, in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God…” After this rage of things and the intervention of God with the 10 events, an age of peace is promised. A book and web site called, “After The Warning To 2038”, has many prophecies from credible, Catholic sources that are predicting many more future events.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Things just got worse. And they also got better. -
  2. When it comes to Viganò, Pope Francis continues to deflect and distract – Catholic World Report
  3. Vigano vindicated? Catholic voices discussion Msgr. Figueiredo revelations - Real News

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