Archbishop Vigano accuses the Pope of evil intentions

edited to add: This open letter by Cardinal Ouellet sheds much light on the errors of Archbishop Vigano.

My previous article on this subject is here: Pope Francis and the Vigano accusations. In Archbishop Vigano’s first letter, he accuses Pope Francis of evil intentions and deliberate corruption: “But now that the corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy.” And again, in this paragraph, Vigano makes assumptions on the heart and mind of the Pope.

“Even in the tragic affair of McCarrick, Pope Francis’s behavior was no different. He knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator. Although he knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end; indeed, he made McCarrick’s advice his own, which was certainly not inspired by sound intentions and for love of the Church. It was only when he was forced by the report of the abuse of a minor, again on the basis of media attention, that he took action [regarding McCarrick] to save his image in the media.”

Vigano assumes too much. He says, in his second letter, the Pope “knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator.” What Vigano means is that he told the Pope about some accusations against McCarrick by Fr. George Littleton, who himself was a child abuser. That is not knowledge. It is an accusation (which we now know to be true) from a person who has lost his credibility by sexually abusing children. Is the Pope supposed to assume that every claim made by a child abuser is fact, and then dismiss any Cardinal so accused? Pope Francis acted with reserve and prudence, because the evidence against McCarrick presented by Vigano was from a witness without credibility.

It is likely also the case that Cardinal McCarrick had supporters who misinformed the Pope, speaking in his favor. Therefore, the Pope had a witness without credibility, aside Bishops or Cardinals (supporters of McCarrick) who contradicted that witness. He could not condemn McCarrick on that basis. It turns out that, if the Pope had been better informed, he should have removed McCarrick sooner. But McCarrick did not rise to power under Pope Saint John Paul II without having supporters willing to lie to one Pope after another.

In the first letter, Vigano makes accusations against the Pope’s motivations, against his mind and heart:

“Not happy with the trap he had set for me on June 23, 2013, when he asked me about McCarrick, only a few months later, in the audience he granted me on October 10, 2013, Pope Francis set a second one for me, this time concerning a second of his protégés, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. “

Asking an underling difficult questions, perhaps designed to test him or to see where he stands on different persons and issues is not “setting a trap”. The phrase is accusatory, without any real basis. Consider how Jesus tested the disciples:
{6:5} And so, when Jesus had lifted up his eyes and had seen that a very great multitude came to him, he said to Philip, “From where should we buy bread, so that these may eat?”
{6:6} But he said this to test him. For he himself knew what he would do.

Throughout his letters (two now), Archbishop Vigano has treated the Roman Pontiff with suspicion, without charity, and in a manner that lacks justice. Assumptions of evil intent are unjust because there is no proof of what is within any individual’s heart and mind. Moreover, Vigano fails to trust that God by His grace will guide each Roman Pontiff. He speaks instead as if the Vicar of Christ were merely a political leader.

And now we have a second letter which continues the same approach, assuming bad motivations without evidence, and extending this approach from the Pope to other Bishops:

“The appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick, Maradiaga and Wuerl, united by a wicked pact of abuses by the first, and at least of coverup of abuses by the other two. “

The Bishops in question undoubtedly erred in handling abuse cases. But the claim of “a wicked pact of abuses” assumes evil intent. My assessment of the situation is that most Bishops who mishandled these cases did so out of incompetence, bad advice, and perhaps a misguided attempt to allow for repentance and conversion. There is also a tendency for ordained persons to not want to believe accusations against their fellow clerics, especially if they have worked with them.

The Bishops have behaved no differently from any secular leader of an organization, when someone accuses a member of a grave offense. They can be faulted for this behavior, since they are supposed to be Apostles, not corporate leaders. But many have fallen into the trap of becoming administrators, rather than preachers of the Gospel of love. I don’t know what the solution is to this problem, but it is not this approach of accusing every leader of evil intentions.

Not Say A Word

Vigano repeats the distorted accusation against Pope Francis that he said, “I will not say a word.” That quote is out of context. When the Pope was asked about the Vigano accusations, on a plane trip by reporters, he said this in reply:

“I read that release this morning. I read it and I sincerely have to tell you this, to you and to all those of you who are interested: read the notice carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself, and you have enough journalistic capacity to draw conclusions. It is an act of trust: when some time has passed and you have drawn conclusions, perhaps I will speak. But I would like your professional maturity to do this job: it will do you good, really. That’s okay.” [Independent Catholic News]

He asked people to read the Vigano letter carefully, and to use their own mature judgment in evaluating it. Then he states that, while he will not say a word about it now, after a time “perhaps I will speak.” But quoting “I will not say a word” by itself makes it seem as if the Pope will never speak on the subject, or as if he were covering it up. To the contrary, he asked that the Vigano letter be read and considered.

This type of out-of-context quoting happens a lot in politics. It is unjust to treat the Vicar of Christ like a politician from an opposing party. It is unjust to assume evil intentions in his heart and mind. Trust in the grace of God, that he will never permit evil in any Roman Pontiff.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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