The Backlash against Viganò from Implicated Prelates, Pro-Francis Prelates, and the Jesuits
As was to be expected, the backlash against Viganò’s open letter, as his allegations spread via the internet worldwide, was enormous.
There were the refutations by various men implicated by Viganò. Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago implicated in Viganò’s document, wrote an article in response, naturally enough disputing the allegations strongly.
Likewise, the cardinals Joseph Tobin and Donald Wuerl, also implicated in Viganò’s testimony, responded negatively, denying the allegations, etc. In fact, not only did Tobin issue his denial, but he lost no time in saying that when he arrived in Newark two years before to lead the archdiocese, no one bothered to tell him that “Church” lawyers had secretly arranged to pay $180 000 to settle two claims of sexual abuse against his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick. He claimed he was embarrassed and shocked. And he stated that he was launching an internal investigation into why he was not told, and had even hired an investigative firm to examine the archdiocesan files on sex abuse.
As for Wuerl, as this cardinal and archbishop of Washington addressed the priestly sex abuse scandal in a religious service on Sunday, 2 September, in the wake of the Viganò allegations, “apologising” for what he called his “errors in judgment” and “inadequacies” and urging the people to pray for the pope who was “increasingly… the object of animosity”, one man in the service shouted, “Shame on you!” and walked out, and a woman turned her back on Wuerl in protest.
Huge numbers of Roman Catholics are angry with their priests and bishops. Very angry. And the anger is growing. And yet, incredible as it may appear to non-Papists, although there is this growing anger and disgust, there are still multiplied millions of Roman Catholics who remain loyal to their bishops and priests, and utterly loyal Roman Catholics. Such is the vice-like hold this evil religion has on its adherents. When Wuerl ended his address at the service in which one man walked out and a woman turned her back on him, most of the congregation clapped for Wuerl! And as they left the service they shook his hand and offered sentiments of support.
Not surprisingly, Viganò’s character came under attack. This is the usual “shoot the messenger” approach of Rome. He was almost immediately accused of lacking credibility, because he himself was alleged to have mishandled a case of alleged sexual abuse of an archbishop in Minneapolis, by blocking an investigation into it and suggesting that correspondence relating to it be destroyed. Viganò denied these allegations.
The point, however, is this: whether he did or did not mishandle the case, his allegations in his open letter stand or fall on their own merits! As journalist Rod Dreher put it, who has studied these matters in detail: “Yes, he did this [i.e. covered up the investigation]. Shame on him. This makes Vigano a hypocrite, but not a liar.” Absolutely correct. Perhaps indeed, as Dreher claimed, Viganò was involved in a cover-up at one point. But this did not mean he was lying when he wrote his open letter! All that matters is: are the accusations he made credible? In all honesty, it has to be said that they are. He would have been a fool to have named names, made such accusations, etc., at this stage in his life and knowing the backlash he would experience, unless he believed that what he alleged was the truth. The fact simply is that the evidence against McCarrick is extensive. As reported in an Associated Press story in late August after the allegations were made, “The historic record is rife with evidence that McCarrick had lived under no such [Papal] restrictions. He travelled widely…. He celebrated Mass publicly.”
Viganò was also accused of perhaps having a personal vendetta against Francis. But as Roman Catholic Vatican watcher and editor of Inside the Vatican magazine, Robert Moynihan, put it: “I believe such factors may play a role in these events, but not the principal role. The way Vigano has written his letter is at times emotional, but is also written in a way that speaks to ecclesial issues, not to his own personal issues. I would exclude this as a major factor.” And as journalist Rod Dreher said: “It is undeniable that Vigano has personal motive to strike out at his enemies within the Curia…. but again, motive is beside the point. Are the allegations true?” This is all that matters.
What about the possibility that Viganò was serving someone else, some group or lobby, and was therefore “put up” to writing the letter? Perhaps, it was suggested, the “old guard” in the Curia feel threatened in their positions by Francis, or perhaps Viganò wished to become the leader of such a group, perhaps even become pope himself. To these things Moynihan wrote: “Vigano comes from an old and wealthy Catholic Milanese family; he has no need of personal wealth, so there seems to me little likelihood that he would act as anyone’s ‘agent’ in this matter; I do not think he has been ‘paid off.’ I would exclude that idea. I think he is acting in prima persona – as an independent agent. I could be wrong. And I do not know if he has allies, and if so, who they might be. But I would exclude that he is acting for others, as a ‘stalking horse.’”
Moynihan may be wrong about Viganò acting alone. Time will tell, but it appears very likely he was acting as the spokesman for secret but powerful allies. And yes, it is certain that high-ranking, anti-Francis prelates within the Vatican hierarchy do feel threatened by Francis and the direction he is taking the “Church” of Rome, and they may have found in Viganò a mouthpiece for their anger and their own agenda. This makes perfect sense, and indeed would appear very likely. But Moynihan was surely correct in saying that Viganò did not do it for the money, nor from any desire to become pope himself.
Francis’ Own (Non)Reaction to Viganò’s Allegations
Without doubt the most interesting, and significant, reaction was from the pope of Rome himself. He told reporters: “Read [Viganò’s letter] attentively and make your own judgment. I will not say a word about this.” And, true to his word, he kept his mouth obstinately and tightly shut in the days that followed, as the scandal swirled all around him and his evil, lecherous henchmen.
Days later, in a homily he gave, Francis said, “the truth is humble, the truth is silent.” Many believed it was an oblique reference to, and justification for, his silence after the Viganò allegations. But… nothing more.
It is surely quite obvious that Francis believed the Viganò allegations were true. Only this could explain his silence!