It all started back in 2015 with the blessings from our parishes Priest as we continue to grow.
As virtually the whole world now knows, Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has published a blockbuster 11-page letter, naming names of people involved in sexual abuse and cover-ups in America, and their enablers in Rome, up to the very highest levels, including Pope Francis. He provides dates and details and information on where the relevant documents may be found; speaks of persons who can corroborate his story; and has called on everyone implicated, including the Holy Father (who already knew about McCarrick in 2013 and did nothing, he says), to respect the Church’s Zero Tolerance policy, become an example to others, and resign.
I knew Viganò somewhat in Washington and always liked him; he was the best Vatican ambassador we’ve had in recent years. My esteem had grown, even prior to this letter. At Rome’s Marcia per la Vita (March for Life), bishops do not participate (the Italian bishops’ conference, displaying deeply misplaced faith, thinks it should work through elected politicians, not public demonstrations). At the last one, I saw Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider; as for other bishops – only Viganò.
Many call him as a man of honesty and integrity. This comes through clearly in passages from his letter such as this:
My conscience requires me also to reveal facts that I have experienced personally, concerning Pope Francis, that have a dramatic significance, which as Bishop, sharing the collegial responsibility of all the bishops for the universal Church, do not allow me to remain silent, and that I state here, ready to reaffirm them under oath by calling on God as my witness.
Defenders of the pope have already raised questions about specific details of the letter. Those will all be settled in good time. But no one has disputed the overall picture, which can be easily confirmed – and probably will be, if there’s any real accountability. The Vatican has so far been silent; Francis declared that he would not say a word for now on the flight back from Dublin to Rome.
Today, I’d intended to give a wrap-up of the papal trip to Ireland (I left as he was arriving because it’s actually easier to follow the pope’s movements via electronic media than in the mob). One Irish journalist was already lamenting before the pope even arrived that “this visit feels too much like a ceremonial procession.” Given the destruction that sexual abuse has caused not only to numerous individuals and families in Ireland, but Chile, America, Honduras, Australia, and many other nations, I suggested weeks ago that the World Meeting on Families should be canceled and a penitential procession, to be repeated annually, should take its place.
That all seems like ages ago now on a planet far away. Just Friday, at the alternative conference on the family sponsored by the Lumen Fidei Institute in Dublin, somewhat to my own surprise, I played the prophet and predicted that more major revelations, in addition to the McCarrick case, were going to erupt within weeks.
And it’s just at the beginning.
We are in for a long string of painful days now, but I believe it will become a “cleansing fire.” Many in the Church hierarchy, especially in Rome, are still under the delusion that they can manage this monstrosity. They can’t.
The American bishops took a while, but finally realized that they had to take at least some action after the McCarrick revelations. In his letter to American victims of abuse – and in remarks during his visit to Ireland – Pope Francis basically expressed his confidence that existing safeguards can deal with the various situations. No need to create special tribunals, etc. This is fantasy and will soon be widely seen as such, to the further detriment of the pope’s credibility if he doesn’t take serious, large steps. As one commentator put it: “Pope to U.S. Church: You’re on your own.”
Pope Francis already found in Ireland that expressing the Church’s sorrow and shame over failures placates no one. People want action – and answers. To begin with, Viganò says McCarrick was 14thon the list to become archbishop of Washington. Who in Rome moved him up to the top? Cupich and Tobin were not on the lists of bishops submitted to the Vatican for Chicago and Newark. Who promoted them? And why?
We also have to start asking the right questions about the mess as a whole. It wasn’t “the Church” that committed crimes and abused power. Neither was the problem a general “clericalism,” but the acts of specific individuals and others who protected them. Unless, as the anti-Catholics say, the Church is really a criminal syndicate, we want to separate the sheep from the goats now.
According to Viganò, McCarrick and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga (himself under suspicion for financial misdealings and widespread scandal at his seminary), were instrumental in the appointments of Cardinals Cupich and Tobin (Newark), as well as Cardinal Farrell to the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. And in the election of Jorge Bergoglio as pope.
At the very least, every one of those named now – and the list goes one – is under a cloud, given that the Catholic bishops themselves have, sadly, put in question their own right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. How for instance, was Cardinal Tobin just appointed by Pope Francis as one of his personal choices to participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth? Tobin, it should be recalled, said he knew nothing about payouts and settlements over McCarrick in the very diocese he currently heads. Same with Farrell. Same with Cardinal Wuerl, though Viganò provides convincing evidence and says Wuerl is lying shamelessly.
His whole letter is worth studying carefully. One episode I find quite revealing: when Viganò first met the Holy Father as Nuncio, Francis asked him in conversations about McCarrick and Wuerl, what they were like or whether they were good. (Francis also said American bishops must not be “ideologized” [sic] – neither right nor left, but he specifically mentioned “Philadelphia,” i.e., Archbishop Chaput.) Viganò only realized later that Francis was really asking whether he, Viganò, would support McCarrick and Wuerl, despite the damning information he’d just provided.
The pope had never been to America before his trip in 2015, knows little about us, and relies on figures like McCarrick and Maradiaga, and others like Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, who have expressed a quite laughable view that traditional Catholics and evangelicals have forged an “ecumenism of hate” in America. Even liberal Catholic outlets were embarrassed by that spectacle. In fact, if you put together the various names in Viganò’s letter, almost all of Francis’ closest advisors lie close to the heart of the problem, not its solution.
If there is a solution now, it’s going to come primarily from lay people and the few bishops – so far – willing to speak candidly and do something. All Catholics everywhere now must firmly keep pressing the Church to come clean. Completely. No one gets a partial or plenary indulgence. No one. Nothing else will do.
As for those who are compromised: it would be wise to be careful what you say and do next. The old days of deception and delay, even in Rome, have ended. People are watching who steps forwards and who doesn’t; who tries to spin obvious facts and hide behind pious platitudes; whether heads roll or it’s all talk.
Much of what was hidden – including any further lies or actions – will become known now. Stonewalling will only make the ultimate day of reckoning even worse.
*Image: Catherine of Siena escorted pope Gregory XI at Rome on 17th January 1377 by Giorgio Vasari, c. 1550 [Sala Regia, Apostolic Palace, Vatican]
If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are! We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. It will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. Then, they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
Curious it seems this young lady feels that Abortion has been an economic growth…..Let’s pray that as Catholic’s we stand up to this. FCMG is asking for your prayers against this mess.
Has abortion made America more prosperous? Chelsea Clinton seems to think so.
The former first daughter spoke recently at a “Rise up for Roe” event in New York City, one of a series of meetings organized by NARAL and Planned Parenthood to oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. In the course of her remarks, she suggested that one way to strengthen support for keeping abortion legal and readily available is to emphasize what a boon Roe v. Wade has been for the US economy.
It is time for clergy and laity to begin a movement for the purification of the Church. The shameful sexual sins and crimes of clergy—including cardinals, bishops, and priests—can no longer be tolerated. Tolerance is precisely what has allowed these problems to multiply for decades and persist up to today.
As Fr. Thomas Berg recently explained, the issue is sexually active priests and bishops. In the main, the persistent problem is with homosexually active priests. Fr. Roger Landry argues—rightly, I think—that most priests who persist in infidelity with women eventually leave the priesthood, but priests who cheat on their vocation with men often continue to live a double life. Most of the issues stem from this kind of duplicity. Networks of active homosexual priests have developed: They protect and promote their own and others who will tolerate them. They become a major problem when they insinuate themselves into positions of power (in a seminary, in a chancery or diocese, in a religious order, in the Roman curia)—as occurred in the case of Theodore McCarrick.
The sins here are more grave than adultery or homosexual acts because they besmirch what is holy. Properly speaking, this is sacrilege, the perversion of Holy Orders, and the defilement of a person solemnly and publicly consecrated to God in chastity. The sin is even more serious when a bishop, a seminary formator, or a priest uses the authority of his office—an office instituted by Christ for the sanctification of the faithful—in a perverse way, in the service of shameful and selfish passions. The higher the abuse of authority in the Church, the more grave is the sacrilege. These are not private sins of individual Christians, and the victims suffer more because they are abused not by “private individuals,” but by priests. These crimes dishonor and offend God, and they wound the Church in a unique way.
Focusing on sacrilege is important because it helps us remember that we are dealing with something holy: the holiness of the priesthood, of the episcopacy, and of the Church. We must not give up on this call to holiness. Bishops and priests should be holy, they must pray for it, and with the help of grace, strive for it. (And some really do become holy—something we should not overlook.) When priests habitually commit mortal sins, they lose their zeal for the gospel, they become numb to the truth of the Eucharist’s holiness, and they water down the doctrines of the faith. This leads to many other infidelities, and to a kind of pastoral despair.
What, then, can be done to fix this problem? We should begin by articulating clearly what remedies are needed. (Getting the bishops and the Vatican to adopt these reforms is another question, but first we need to know what reforms are needed.) Here are five bullet points.
First, we need to investigate the past and have a transparent accounting of the failures. How were known networks of active homosexual priests (and bishops) allowed to continue? What structures of accountability were missing? This investigation won’t fix the future, but it will begin to identify where the biggest problems are.
Second, every diocese and religious order needs to implement an affirmative program to screen out vocations applicants with a history of deep-seated same-sex attraction—and certainly those who have engaged in homosexual activity. Applicants should not be allowed to apply for the seminary unless they are already able to live as habitually chaste single men, without recurring falls into unchastity. Candidates in seminaries who act out sexually should be dismissed. This policy is not homophobic in any way. It is simply non-hypocritical: The Church has to cultivate vocations of men who live and practice what the Church professes.
Third, American bishops should enact, as “particular law,” the canonical norms from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (they were mostly dropped from the current Code of Canon Law when it was revised in 1983) dealing with the sexual acts of clerics (whether homosexual or heterosexual, and whether with minors or with adults). Those provisions made sexual activity by clerics, even with other adults, a canonical crime. The punishments included “being deprived of office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases, they are to be deposed.”
Fourth, there should be an apostolic visitation of all provinces of religious orders, diocesan chanceries, seminaries, the offices of vocation directors, and of the USCCB, to investigate whether they have networks of active homosexual priests, structures of manipulation, or other such misconduct.
Fifth, there needs to be a system for reporting clerical sexual infidelity—even infidelity with “consenting adults”—akin to the system that currently exists for reporting clerical abuse of minors. The reports should not just go to the bishop or religious superior; they need to involve a review board and other lay outsiders. Allegations should be investigated, using fair and just procedures, and should be concluded with a report of findings recommending canonical charges where warranted. This process needs to be instituted for both religious orders and dioceses alike.
These prescriptions are actually rather straightforward and simple. The hierarchy needs help from laity and investigators from outside the dioceses, religious orders, and seminaries to expose the corruption and begin the process of dismissing the wrongdoers. Let us cleanse the sacrilege, so that the Church will again be holy.
Hand-wringing and pious platitudes won’t fix things. It is time to confront the real problem with courage and sobriety.
Dominic Legge, O.P., is a Dominican priest and a professor of theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit
(He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree)
— Latin proverb