Archbishop Alleges Popes Benedict And Francis Covered Up Sexual Abuse Reports

A top Vatican official is alleging that Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI were both aware of previously unknown allegations of sexual abuse and chose to allow them to be covered up rather than bringing them to light.

A top Vatican official is alleging that Pope Francis was a war of allegations of sexual abuse and impropriety on the part of a top American Cardinal and that he participated in covering those allegations up, and an allegation that, if true, threatens to taint Pope Francis with responsibility in the Catholic Church’s ongoing abuse scandal in a way that he has not been before:

DUBLIN — On the final day of Pope Francis’ mission to Ireland, as he issued candid apologies for devastating clerical sex abuse scandals, a former top Vatican diplomat alleged in a letter published on Sunday that the pope himself had joined top Vatican officials in covering up the abuses and called for his resignation.

The letter, a bombshell written by Carlo Maria Viganò, the former top Vatican diplomat in the United States and a staunch critic of Francis, seemed timed to do more than simply derail the pope’s uphill efforts to win back the Irish faithful, who have turned away from the church in large numbers.

Its unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks amounted to an extraordinary public declaration of war against Francis’ own papacy at perhaps its most vulnerable moment, intended to unseat a pope whose predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first to resign in nearly 600 years.

Mr. Viganò claimed that the Vatican hierarchy was complicit in covering up accusations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had sexually abused seminarians and that Pope Francis knew about the abuses by the now-disgraced American prelate years before they became public.

The 7,000-word attack on Francis’ allies in the Vatican, published early Sunday Dublin time by several conservative Catholic outlets antagonistic to Francis, marked a steep escalation in the longstanding, and increasingly caustic, rivalries within the church.

Factions have battled over the direction the church has gone under Francis, with conservatives warning that his pastoral and inclusive approach and emphasis of social issues dilute church doctrine and pose a mortal threat to the future of the faith.

Already on Sunday afternoon, the battle was being joined.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, a leading conservative voice in the Catholic Church, who according to the letter was disparaged by Francis, cited Archbishop Viganò’s integrity in a statement to The New York Times from his spokesman.

“The Archbishop enjoyed working with Archbishop Viganò during his tenure as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and found his service to be marked by integrity to the church,” said Ken Gavin, spokesman for the archdiocese of Philadelphia. “However, he can’t comment on Archbishop Viganò’s recent testimonial as it is beyond his personal experience.”

The willingness of the pope and his allies to reach out to gay Catholics has infuriated conservatives, who, like Archbishop Viganò, blame homosexuals for the sex abuse crisis. The pope has argued that the abuse is a symptom of a culture of privilege and elitism and imperviousness among priests who value the church’s traditions over its parishioners.

John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, stressed that the clerical sexual abuse is a “personal, professional and institutional tragedy.”

“We need to find out who knew what when, and what they did or did not do to protect young people,” Mr. Carr said. “The weaponization of the sexual abuse scandal uses the suffering of the vulnerable to advance ideological agendas and makes a horrible situation worse.”

Last month, Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal McCarrick, the first such resignation in living memory, after The New York Times and other news outlets published accounts of the alleged abuse and an internal investigation by the American church deemed credible an accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.

But Archbishop Viganò alleges that Benedict had already punished Cardinal McCarrick for his abuse of seminarians and priests. The archbishop writes that Benedict banned the American cardinal from publicly celebrating Mass, from living in a seminary and from traveling to give lectures.

There is no public record of such a sanction and the allegation has not been confirmed.

But Archbishop Viganò accused Francis of failing to apply the sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick and instead rehabilitating and empowering him to help choose powerful American bishops.

Archbishop Viganò despises those bishops, who now wield influence and promote Francis’ pastoral approach, and he complained in the letter of being deprived the voice typically given to a papal nuncio in choosing them. He targeted those bishops and cardinals by name, but saved his most ambitious fire for the head of his church.

“He knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator,” Archbishop Viganò writes of Francis, calling for the pope to resign.

“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.”

At a 2013 reception in the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican shortly after Francis was elected pope, Archbishop Viganò was effusive with praise for Francis, calling him “a man you may talk to with an open heart” and saying his audience was “extremely nice, extremely warm.”

But in the letter, he said he had received an icy reception from Pope Francis. And he said the pope had told him on June 23, 2013: “The bishops in the United States must not be ideologized, they must not be right-wing.” Francis then added, according to Archbishop Viganò, that they must not be left-wing, “and when I say left-wing, I mean homosexual.”

It was then that Francis asked his opinion of Cardinal McCarrick, to which Archbishop Viganò said he had replied: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests, and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”

Archbishop Viganò, who blames homosexuals for the child abuse crisis that has destroyed the church’s standing in many countries, dedicates entire sections of the letter to outing cardinals who he claims belong to what he characterizes as a pernicious “homosexual current” within the Vatican.

“These homosexual networks,” he wrote, “which are now widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, religious orders, etc., act under the concealment of secrecy and lies with the power of octopus tentacles, and strangle innocent victims and priestly vocations, and are strangling the entire church.”

More from The Washington Post:

A former Vatican ambassador to the United States has alleged in an 11-page letter that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis — among other top Catholic Church officials — had been aware of sexual misconduct allegations against former D.C. archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick years before he resigned this summer.

The letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who was recalled from his D.C. post in 2016 amid allegations that he’d become embroiled in the conservative American fight against same-sex marriage, was first reported by the National Catholic Register and LifeSite News, two conservative Catholic sites. The letter offered no proof, and Viganò on Sunday told The Washington Post he wouldn’t comment further, beyond confirming that he was the letter’s author.

“Silence and prayer are the only things that are befitting,” he said.

The accusations landed as Francis was wrapping up one of the most fraught trips of his papacy, coming face-to-face with the church’s damaged credibility in a country reeling from decades of abuse. In a Mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, Francis spoke in Spanish and asked for forgiveness for what he called “abuses of power, conscience, and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the church,” according to a translation of his remarks by Vatican News.

“We ask forgiveness for some members of the church’s hierarchy who did not take charge of these painful situations and kept quiet,” Francis said.

Some 500,000 had been expected to attend the Mass, but the crowd was noticeably smaller, with patches of grass visible in areas that had been intended for spectators.

The sexual abuses — in Ireland, the United States, Australia, Argentina, Belgium Brazil, Canada, Chile and other countries — have fed and amplified the bitter polarization within the Catholic Church. Some of Francis’ critics, including Viganò, are calling for the pope to step down.

The Vatican had no immediate comment.

The letter was the latest dramatic development stemming from a fresh wave of allegations related to clergy sex abuse and its coverup. Rumors that had swirled for decades about McCarrick exploded in June when Pope Francis suspended the cardinal. Last month, McCarrick, facing credible allegations of abusing seminarians and minors, became the first U.S. cardinal in history to resign.

Viganò, 77, was the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio, or ambassador, in Washington from 2011 until 2016. He has been a lightning rod within the Vatican who lost a power struggle in Rome under Benedict, emerged as a Francis critic, and reportedly ordered the halt of an investigation into the alleged sexual relations between an archbishop in Minnesota and seminarians.

Jason Berry, who has written several investigative books about the Vatican, said he believes this is the first time a pope has been accused from within.

“From within the Vatican hierarchy, from within the Roman Curia, I don’t think anyone has ever publicly accused a pope of covering up for a sex abuser,” Berry said. “That’s why this is such a big deal.”

Viganò’s letter said that McCarrick had been privately sanctioned under Benedict — though only after years of warnings about his alleged behavior toward seminarians and young priests — not toward minors. Viganò wrote that the measures, taken “in 2009 or 2010,” banned McCarrick from traveling, holding Mass, or participating in public meetings.

Yet McCarrick appears to have done essentially the opposite. He regularly appeared as a speaker and celebrant at church functions and represented the church in prominent foreign diplomatic efforts in places like China and Iran. A video from 2013 shows Benedict warmly greeting McCarrick in Rome, at the pope’s resignation (and the subsequent election of the new pope), where McCarrick gave round-the-clock television interviews and stayed at a seminary.

It wasn’t immediately clear why a pope taking the dramatic step of suspending a cardinal from ministry, as Vigano said, wouldn’t monitor McCarrick in any way.

However, when the archdiocese of New York last year began its investigation into analtar boy’s allegation against McCarrick – the first accusation involving a youth – the Vatican ambassador Archbishop Christophe Pierre told McCarrick to be less public while the probe was underway, a personal familiar with McCarrick said Sunday. However McCarrick still appeared in public as he wished, the person said, including attending an ordination ceremony in May in his cardinal’s garb.

Viganò’s letter says that in 2013, he met Francis months into his papacy and told him face to face that there was “a dossier this thick” about McCarrick. He says he then told Francis about Benedict’s order that McCarrick remove himself from public life.

“He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance,” Viganò says he told Francis. “The Pope did not make the slightest comment about those very grave words of mine and did not show any expression of surprise on his face, as if he had already known the matter for some time, and he immediately changed the subject.”

Viganò also alleges in that conversation that Francis told him American bishops “must not be ideologized, they must not be right-wing . . . and they must not be left-wing, and when I say left-wing I mean homosexual.”

Barry Coburn, McCarrick’s lawyer, said in a statement: “These are serious allegations. Archbishop McCarrick, like any other person, has a right to due process. He looks forward to invoking that right at the appropriate time.”

He declined to elaborate further.

It was not possible to reach Bened.ict or his representatives right away. Francis has not commented previously about what he was told about McCarrick, and on Sunday Vatican spokesman Greg Burke did not respond to a request seeking comment.

The roots of these claims lie not only in the broader child abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church for the past twenty years or more, which has received renewed attention in the light of the report issued by a Pennsylvania grand jury that found evidence of abuse involving hundreds of children and more than a thousand Priests as well as the active participation of a number of Bishops in covering up evidence of that abuse but also a more contemporary scandal. As I noted earlier this month, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who had served as the Bishop of three separate dioceses including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. was forced to step aside by Pope Francis after reports became public regarding sexually abusive and inappropriate behavior both toward children and seminarians. In the wake of both of these reports, Pope Francis took the unusual step of sending out a letter addressed to all the world’s Catholics in which he expressed deep regret for the scandals but failed to announce any concrete steps that the Church intends to take in response to the new reports of abuse. For that reason, the Pontiff’s letter has largely been regarded as all talk and no action. These latest allegations go far beyond where the situation stood after the Pope’s letter and create the potential that the abuse scandal, which had largely disappeared from the headlines, was about to become a headache for the Church yet again.

The importance of these latest allegations cannot be understated. If they are true then it means that Pope Francis, who until now has seemingly not been touched by allegations of having knowledge of abuse and the coverups that were conducted in the past and who has allegedly been doing what he can to make up for the Church’s past, not only had direct knowledge of abuse on McCarrick’s part but actively sought to cover the allegations up and looked the other way while McCarrick essentially violated the restrictions on his priestly duties that Pope Benedict XVI had placed on him during his Papacy. The allegations also seem to suggest that Francis has been aware of other instances of abuse that have not come to light yet and which have also been covered up by Bishops and other members of the Church hierarchy.

While much of the focus in the wake of this letter will be on what Popes Benedict and Francis knew and when they knew it, this letter is also part of a broader battle inside the Church between conservatives who believe Francis is changing other elements of Catholicism too quickly and reformers who have, until now at least, gathered around him in support of changes they believe are long overdue:

Since the start of his papacy, Francis has infuriated Catholic traditionalists as he tries to nurture a more welcoming church and shift it away from culture war issues, whether abortion or homosexuality. “Who am I to judge?” the pope famously said, when asked about gay priests.

Just how angry his political and doctrinal enemies are became clear this weekend, when a caustic letter published by the Vatican’s former top diplomat in the United States blamed a “homosexual current” in the Vatican hierarchy for sexual abuse. It called for Francis’ resignation, accusing him of covering up for a disgraced cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick.

With the letter — released in the middle of the pope’s visit to Ireland — an ideologically motivated opposition has weaponized the church’s sex abuse crisis to threaten not only Francis’ agenda but his entire papacy. At the very least, it has returned the issue of homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church, which many conservatives are convinced lies behind the abuse crisis, to the center of debate.

Vatican intrigues and power struggles are nothing new, but they usually remain within the medieval walls or fly over the heads of the Catholic faithful around the globe.

This battle, however, is being waged in an exceptionally open and brutal manner. It is fueled by a modern media age, the pope’s reluctance to silence critics, and an issue — child sexual abuse — that perhaps more than any other has prompted defections among the faithful.

The accusations in the letter remain unsubstantiated. Asked Sunday night about their validity, Francis said he would not dignify them with a response.

But they are serious, and the pope’s vague answer has only heightened public interest, particularly in the core accusation — that he was told about Mr. McCarrick’s history of sexual relations with seminarians and did nothing about it.

“It’s a serious problem,” said Sandro Magister, a veteran Vatican observer at L’Espresso magazine, who said the remarkable public broadside was indicative of enormous frustration among conservatives toward Francis. He doubted whether Francis, who has essentially ignored such salvos in the past, would be able to do so this time.


The child sex abuse scandal has riveted the attention of the world’s Catholics, but the shift in the church’s direction under Francis has enlivened his enemies. They believe that the pope’s message of inclusion is undermining longstanding church rules, and that it is leading to confusion and perhaps schism.

The explosion of conservative Catholic blogs — many in the United States — in an era of lightning-fast modern media, as well as the strategically timed release of the letter combined to make a potent rear-guard action against the 81-year-old pontiff.

“Let us be clear that they are still allegations, but as your shepherd I find them to be credible,” the conservative Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Tex., wrote in an open letter to his diocese. “I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that its findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the church.”

If Francis thought that the debate over homosexuality in the church was behind him, the events of this week suggest otherwise.

“The homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated,” Archbishop Viganò wrote, arguing that it was the root cause of abuse.

What is important to understand here is that there are two separate issues being raised in Vigano’s letter, but only one of them is relevant outside of the Church itself.

The primary issue, of course, deals with the long-standing issue of the abuse of children by Priests and the efforts of members of the church’s hierarchy to cover up those abuses and protect the Priests from criminal prosecution and the church from civil liability. This is obviously a concern not only for the Church and the world’s one billion Catholics but also for civil society as a whole, and it is one that properly ought to be investigated by authorities outside the Church as it was in Pennsylvania,

The second issue involves a battle that has been joined ever since Francis became Pope and involves efforts by conservative Catholic clerics and parishioners to resist many of the changes that this Pope is making when it comes to the Church’s attitude toward homosexuals, divorced Catholics, and a whole host of other issues. For these people, the roots of the child abuse scandal are directly connected to the issue of homosexual Priests regardless of whether or not these Priests have ever abused a child. A good part of this, of course, is rooted in the long-standing lie spread by people biased against homosexuality that there is some kind of connection between being gay and being a child abuser notwithstanding the fact that there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. These people have also alleged the existence of a “homosexual network” inside the Church and widespread violation of the Church’s celibacy rules and claim that this “network” is responsible for Francis changing church teaching. This second issue is, of course, and internal church matter and entirely irrelevant to the issue of child sex abuse and the church’s coverup of that abuse. The context that ties all of this together, though, is the fact that Vigano is firmly in the conservative’s camp in the battles with Francis, so it may be advisable to take his allegations with a grain of salt since they could be motivated by something other than a desire to reveal the truth.

So far, the response from the Pope has been less than satisfactory:

Pope Francis said Sunday that he will not comment on claims by a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. that the pope knew about allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and reinstated him in ministry. The pope said people should make up their own minds about the claims.

Asked whether it was true that Archbishop Carlo Viganò, the statement’s author, had informed him in 2013 about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct with priests and seminarians, and if it was true Benedict XVI had previously imposed sanctions on the former cardinal, the pope said he was distracted by the previous question and would have preferred to talk about the trip.

“I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested: Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment,” he answered. “I will not say a single word on this.”

Speaking aboard the papal plane from Dublin to Rome Aug. 26, Francis said he believes in the “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions,” calling it an “act of faith.”

“When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak. But I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you,” he told members of the press.

Asked in a follow up question when he first learned about the abuse allegations against McCarrick, Pope Francis responded, “This is part of the statement. Study it and then I will say.”

As with the Pope’s statement last week, this is obviously insufficient. If the allegations in this letter are true then this Pope is as guilty of engaging in cover-ups as his predecessors were and his claims to be concerned about reform seem to be nothing but empty rhetoric. This is especially true given the fact there have been very few concrete steps taken since Francis was elected Pope in the way of actually reforming the Church or engaging in anything that would qualify as penance under Catholic doctrine. Instead, there has just been the same old excuse-making, empty rhetoric, and dodging of responsibility.

It is quite appropriate that this news broke as the Pope was finishing up his visit to Ireland. As I have noted before, that nation was once one of the most devoutly Catholic countries in the world, but that is clearly no longer the case. The crowds that greeted Francis this weekend, for example, were far smaller than those that greeted John Paul II when he visited the Emerald Isle some two decades ago. At his final Mass, for example, it is estimated that roughly 150,000 people attended an event that planners had expected more than 500,000. By way of comparison, John Paul II held a mass in the same location that attracted more than a million people. The fact that the intervening twenty years have seen revelations about child abuse similar to what has happened in the United States as well as allegations regarding abuse at the church-operated orphanages that used to exist all over Ireland no doubt has something to do with this. If the Church doesn’t get on top of these news scandals soon, it’s going to find similar developments in other parts of the world.

A PDF of the original letter in Italian can be found here, and I have embedded an English translation below:

Vatican Testimony of Archbi… by on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Religion, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. KM says:

    Viganò is deliberately mudding waters here for his own agenda. Seminarians and priests are not children. If what he states is true then it’s more analogous to a professor abusing his power to get adult college students to sleep with him then the horrors of child abuse we keep hearing about. Abusive power dynamics absolutely need to be addressed and perpetrators disciplined but it’s really uncouth to try and shoe-horn it in the conservation about abuse survivors just because Viganò hates gays (and he’s made it VERY clear it’s about homosexuality, not abuse).

    Speaking of discipline…..

    But Archbishop Viganò alleges that Benedict had already punished Cardinal McCarrick for his abuse of seminarians and priests. The archbishop writes that Benedict banned the American cardinal from publicly celebrating Mass, from living in a seminary and from traveling to give lectures.

    THAT’S what he thinks is appropriate punishment for a “known abuser”? Not jail, not getting kicked out but being shunted to the corner and have privileges taken away? How is Viganò not part of the problem when his idea of a solution is to keep the abuser in the fold?! He’s literally only doing this to punish people he thinks are sinners that are being “forgiven” by the Pope for what he considers unforgivable…. and it’s not for the abuse but for having the nerve to seem even remotely gay. I’d take anything he says with a grain of salt till someone speaks to the actual victims for their opinion.

  2. drj says:

    The Catholic Church is incapable of the institutional reform, i.e., openness, that is necessary to keep widespread abuse in check. For to do so would go against its very core:

    * The sheep must never distrust the shepherds.
    * Because the trust in the shepherds is a necessary condition for salvation of the sheep (“extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” in Church speech).

    From which follows that scandals (a scandalum is “stumbling block” or “trap” in Latin) must be kept under wraps at pretty much any cost. In order to prevent that ordinary believers “stumble” on their path to salvation – which is obviously the greater good when eternity rather than the now is concerned.

    In other words, what the Church should do would go against a tradition that is two millennia old. I don’t think the Church can do it.

    Best to let it die IMO.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    If this organization were anything other than a ‘church’ it would long since have been forced out of business. This is corruption spanning every country that’s looked into it, over the course now of decades and more likely, centuries. The rape of children. The physical abuse amounting to torture in church orphanages. The endless cover-ups and lies.

    The Roman Catholic church is a profoundly sick organization. Maybe Saint Malachy had it right in his ‘prophecies’ of the popes. We have, after all, reached the last of Malachy’s popes:

    Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills [i.e. Rome] will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people.*

    But that bit of whimsy aside, the only thing propping the Roman Catholic church up is the passivity of parishioners who continue to financially support this refuge for sexual predators.

    *Petrus Romanus, qui paſcet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus tranſactis ciuitas ſepticollis diruetur, & Iudex tremẽdus iudicabit populum ſuum.

  4. Leonard says:

    @KM: Your first poitn is right that fooling around with seminarians and priests is different than with minors. But if that’s what was known about McCarrick, then Benedict couldn’t have punished him for his crimes, right? It says that “Benedict had already punished Cardinal McCarrick for his abuse of seminarians and priests”. You quoted it. Then you say that Benedict should have punished him more for his abuse of kids. But where does it say that Benedict knew about htem?

    Also the heading of this article is wrong. “Archbishop Alleges Popes Benedict And Francis Covered Up Sexual Abuse Reports” That equates Benedict and Francis. But according to Vigano, Benedict punished McCarrick quietly, and Francis promoted him privately. Not the same thing.

  5. al Ameda says:

    Doug, in my opinion the Church hierarchy, including every pope since 1980 has known of the sexual abuse behavior of many priests, bishops and cardinals, and has avoided taking action to purge the Church of these offenders. With the exception of settling lawsuits the Church has done very very little.

    I’m shocked that ANYONE is surprised by the latest allegations of cover-up. Even the holiest and most admired of recent popes – John Paul II – did nothing.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    @al Ameda:

    Even the holiest and most admired of recent popes – John Paul II – did nothing.

    Much worse than doing nothing. As Bishop of Berlin he actively participated in at least one coverup. Unless you believe his ridiculous “excuse”: that although he chaired the meeting where the priest’s crimes where discussed and it was decided to move him to another location and lie about the reason, the then Bishop was distracted by other, more important church matters at that time and missed the discussion.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    The trads are trying to use this as a way to drive everyone with the slightest speck of gayness out of the priesthood. I’ve pointed out at TAC that if they go down this route they may not like the results–they will have a much smaller population of priests, all of whom will be absolutely terrified of being accused of gayness by anyone at all–thus able to be manipulated–and a Catholic Church which will have wrapped its identity around heterosexuality to the point where it is the defining characteristic.

    (You can’t really go around pushing the story about how much you accept and love everybody when you’ve already said “except for that chunk of the population over there–you don’t count. Get lost.” )

    (I always thought that sexuality would be the rock on which the hollow craft of the Roman Catholic Church would crash, and this proves it.)

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I had two reactions reading the post. The second was that since Vigano is a known opponent of Francis, this is just the Roman Catholic version of the Conservative political attack machine.

    The first was “didn’t we already know this?” I don’t harbor any illusions about what Francis did or didn’t know. I’ve assumed that at least some of his statements were the result of having learned something from watching the past 20 or 30 years of Vatican history evolve. Maybe not?

  9. Leonard says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Your first thought is you’re not interested in the truth, and your second thought is to attack a perceived enemy.

  10. KM says:

    @Leonard :
    My point was that Viganò is deliberately conflating potentially abusive power dynamics with out and out child abuse. His claims about adult seminarians are problematic because someone in authority having a relationship with people directly under them / have control over is a recipe for disaster. Maybe one can do it ethical but it’s really, really hard to pull off. It maybe consensual in that they all agree willingly but there’s always the concern the authority figure can injure the underling in some way should compliance cease. It’s why bosses dating employees is a huge no-no; they work for you and they’re off limits. You get fired for that but you generally don’t go to jail.

    Kids can NEVER consent and it’s ALWAYS abuse. Any child abuser that is not held fully accountable is a stain on the Church’s honor and must be dealt with by the law, not the clergy. Viganò is trying to tap into that instinctive revulsion normal people feel towards kids being molested and is directing it at his chosen target – people he thinks are gay. That’s why he’s sooooo pissy Francis mitigated what Benedict did. Benedict may or may not have had evidence of a crime but it was a violation of Church doctrine. Francis likely felt the whole anti-gay stench Viganò was casting meant the issue was more complicated then it seemed and tried to be “Christian” about it aka offered forgiveness. This seems to be too much for Viganò who wanted the same fire and vengeance actual kiddie diddlers are experiencing to fall on his foes.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t know enough about this to say who’s right but I’m actually leaning to Benedict – you don’t sleep with people you’re responsible for and who’s lives /careers you control. However, it’s not because of anything homosexual but rather simple managerial propriety. Viganò and his hate can go get stuffed.

  11. SKI says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I had two reactions reading the post. The second was that since Vigano is a known opponent of Francis, this is just the Roman Catholic version of the Conservative political attack machine.

    Knowing a bit about the intra-Church wars and how they have been fought, this was my first thought. Extremely skeptical of the source. Add in that the claim rests on a single comment made that along the lines of “you should check out the file on him – it is an inch thick” and I’m even more wary.

    It might be true. Nothing about the Church circling the wagons and protecting the institution over people would surprise me but I’m not presuming its true at this point.

  12. Han says:

    @Leonard: I think KM is saying that the punishment was insufficient even if limited to the abuse of seminarians and priests. So presumably Benedict punished them insufficiently, even given the knowledge he had.

    Your second paragraph is spot on though. Vigano isn’t accusing Benedict of anything. In fact, he wants Benedict back. This is after all the nutcase who arranged for Kim Davis to meet the pope, while keeping Francis in the dark about who she was and what she was (in)famous for.

    ETA: Seems I was a bit late, and KM clarified for themselves. I do want to add though that there is no evidence Benedict doled out this or any sort of punishment. Or that Francis lifted said punishment. Vigano is a wack-job. His accusations mean about as much as the lunatic preaching on the college quad that the coeds are all going to hell.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: I find it totally on-message that my factual statement about John Paul Deuce’s time as Bishop of Berlin has been down voted by someone both times I’ve mentioned it. This is perfectly in keeping with Catholic philosophy and exactly what got them into this mess. (And 2000 years worth of other messes too…)

  14. Han says:


    @MarkedMan: I find it totally on-message that my factual statement about John Paul Deuce’s time as Bishop of Berlin has been down voted by someone both times I’ve mentioned it.

    Perhaps because JPII was never Bishop of Berlin? I’m not the one that downvoted you, nor do I know specifically what you’re referring to, so it’s just a guess. Personally, my biggest peeve with JP II was not cutting Bernard Law loose and leaving him to hang. So to speak.

  15. Gustopher says:

    The letter was the latest dramatic development stemming from a fresh wave of allegations related to clergy sex abuse and its coverup. Rumors that had swirled for decades about McCarrick exploded in June when Pope Francis suspended the cardinal. Last month, McCarrick, facing credible allegations of abusing seminarians and minors, became the first U.S. cardinal in history to resign.

    So Francis did more than his predecessor? Not enough, perhaps, but still more? And after the first reports of child abuse?

    Vitago’s moral judgement is deeply confused. He equates consensual behavior between adults with raping children — both may be a sin, but there’s a not so subtle difference. I wouldn’t trust his thick folder of deranged rantings.

  16. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    These horribles crimes are point out to horrible dysfunction inside the Church. Popes become Popes when normal people are either working toward retirement or already retired – John Paul II, that began his work as Pope at a “young” age, was 58 at the time.

    Celibacy is also a problem – most of the parishioners are people that are married and have children, and celibacy(That most priests and nuns does not follow) means that they are out of touch from these people.

    One could argue that Evangelical Pastors can marry and they also have a large problem with sexual abuse. On the other hand the celibacy help fosters a culture of corruption(Since lots of people are having sexual encounters in the hiding, and there is incentive for one to help hide the secrets of other people).

    The absence of diversity in leadership, both in age, race and in gender is also recipe for dysfunction. You’d need to have women in positions of leadership, you’d need women as Cardinals.

    There are several challenges to the Church that requires changes as the Church as an institution and both Liberals and Conservatives Catholics are not ready to deal with it.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Han: Ouch. You are absolutely right. I’m mixing up my scandals. It was Benedict who was Archbisop of Munich (not Bishop of Berlin) and chaired the meeting during which he was “distracted by more important matters” when the priest was discussed. Although in this NYT article, it turns out that he had also received a memo on the priest. I guess he just saw that it was a memo about a pedophile being sent to a new parish in secret and thought “Hey, I’ve got more important things to think about…”

    I had that scandal of Benedict’s and John Paul the Deuce’s biggest (arguably) sexual abuse scandal reversed. It was JPII who covered up for Maciel and protected him. In the US we remember that JPII was the guy who secreted Cardinal Bernard Law to the Vatican and gave him a cushy job when it looked like that piece of trash was in danger of getting arrested in Boston for protecting hundreds of pedophile priests. But JPII’s protection of of Maciel was even more depraved. Maciel was an arch conservative (remember the crazy albino priest in “The DaVinci Code” whipping himself and tying barbed wire around his thigh? That’s the teaching of Opus Dei, an ultra-ultra conservative arm of the church and a huge supporter of Maciel), and ally of JPII in his efforts to roll back Vatican II. And he was also an alpha predator, reigning supreme over an entire network of pederast priests. But JP II protected him to the end.

    My mistake in switching these wasn’t just trivial. Benedict was JPII’s enforcer when he was still Archbishop Ratzinger and not only was he not the one who protected Maciel, he actually went after him, and was rebuffed by JPII. It is a fairly common thread in the Catholic community that follows such things that in 2003-2004 Ratzinger experienced a revelation and changed from being a dependable protector of the church’s reputation into someone who was intent on purging the filth from the institution. That reputation was at least tenuously believable until the truth came out about McCarrick and others in the intervening years, and what was known about them by JP II, Benedict and Francis. In an interesting RetCon, Dreher is trying out the idea that it was JPII’s inability to root out this evil in the church that caused his unprecedented retirement. There is no evidence for this other than wishful thinking.

  18. Gustopher says:


    the punishment was insufficient even if limited to the abuse of seminarians and priests.

    Do we know that seminarians and priests were abused?

    The other possibility is that these “celibate” men were not all that celibate, and those that were inclined towards other men were finding each other. There are workplace issues that complicate that, but without credible accusations, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions.

    Given that our information here comes from Vitago, and he cannot distinguish between hot gay sex and raping children, I am not inclined to put any weight on his information, nor would I fault anyone else for not putting any weight on his information.

    Here’s an alternate narrative:

    Reports of McCarrick having consensual gay sex reach Benedict. Benedict tells him to pray away the gay.

    Francis comes in, says “consensual sex? That’s wrong, but not so wrong, there’s more to you than that.” Vitago points to his folder, Francis says “yes, yes, crazy man, yes yes” and sends him on his way.

    Reports of McCarrick and an alter boy come up, and Francis tells McCarrick to stop appearing in public, and avoid unsupervised contact with alter boys while this is investigated. An informal suspension.

    McCarrick continues appearing in public, may be around alter boys too, so Francis formally suspends him. Investigation continues.

    Unless I am missing something, this fits the facts that we know as well as the more sinister plots do. It just requires that Francis generally think the best of people, and recognize that Vitago is not the best source of information.

    It’s a danger with crazy people making accusations. Sometimes they might be right, but you can’t tell. Did Bill Clinton rape anyone? I have no idea, because his accusers so clearly have another agenda, and they are being promoted by people who have promoted complete bullshit.

  19. Kathy says:

    The last time there was widespread dissatisfaction with the corrupt practices of the Catholic church, we got the Reformation and decades of religious wars. But also the beginning of the end of the coercive power of the church in the west.

    This time around it seems we’re getting further erosion of the church’s membership, along with a more radical church. Fortunately the likelihood of war is very small; largely because western religions have no coercive powers left.

  20. KM says:


    Given that our information here comes from Vitago, and he cannot distinguish between hot gay sex and raping children, I am not inclined to put any weight on his information, nor would I fault anyone else for not putting any weight on his information.

    Indeed. Most of the information we have about these scandals come from survivors themselves coming out and providing covered up info and now here’s Viganò dropping truth bombs everywhere that are suspiciously about things he takes super personally? Where was he regarding all the other sex scandals and why didn’t he give ALL the deets? This man’s not even hiding the axe he’s grinding and he’s the source of these allegations. Where’s the corroborating…. well, anything and what makes him so trustworthy a source that he waits till now to speak?

  21. Leonard says:

    Yes. Vitago was an albino Opus Dei member when he was Bishop of Berlin.

  22. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:


    The other possibility is that these “celibate” men were not all that celibate,

    It not a possibility. Most of these people are not celibate, both priests and nuns. We don’t know exactly the number of priests and nuns that are celibate, but I don’t believe that the majority of them are.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, Garry Wills, Jesuit trained and observing Catholic, observes:

    But Catholic priests are charged with maintaining The Big Crazy on sex all the time. These functionaries of the church are formally supposed to believe and preach sexual sillinesses, from gross denial to outright absurdity, on the broadest range of issues—masturbation, artificial insemination, contraception, sex before marriage, oral sex, vasectomy, homosexuality, gender choice, abortion, divorce, priestly celibacy, male-only priests—and uphold the church’s “doctrines,” no matter how demented…

    To be a priest is to be a company man, the company being the pope and the hierarchy. The farther one rises in the hierarchy, the higher the stakes. Pope Francis probably does want to do something about the priest mystique; but he is surrounded by loyalists of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and he is trammeled by his predecessors’ many years of priest-mystique maintenance, which is the principal task of many in Rome. Waiting for the pope to do something is to hope that the protector of the mystique will forswear the mystique.

  24. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: I wonder what Holy Hell Pope Francis would cause if he said, referring to the decades (or centuries) of abuse, that some priests would go to hell. Or even some Popes.

    Not naming names, or anything gauche like that. Perhaps even saying that he prays for their souls.

    But taking a great big sledge hammer to the Church’s unquestioned moral authority. A self-inflicted wound that might save the Church.

    I’m not religious, but I think that religion can be a force for good. It saddens me to see people abandoning the good along with the bad as they turn away from their church.

  25. Leonard says:

    @Gustopher: St John Chrysostom said 1600 years ago that the roads of hell are paved with the skulls of priests, with bishops as the signposts.

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: I didn’t excerpt Anne Laurie’s remarks on the Garry Wills piece. She left Catholicism after Catholic HS, noting that , “If only you’d been born a boy — you’d have been such a good Jesuit!” from the Dominican Sisters was not necessarily a compliment. She goes on to note that she’s still spiritual, that people need to be spiritual. (Trying to be a pragmatist, I object to that sentiment. People feel a great need to be spiritual, which is not the same as needing to be spiritual.) ” there are plenty of other humans who feel the need/ compulsion for “faith” and its communal practice. Some of who, deprived of traditional outlets, end up as servants to doctrines as ugly and anti-life as the worst of Christian tradition, such as for instance Trump’s hardcore Deplorables.”

    I agree. The psychological need to believe drives much of politics, and most of the bad in politics. (Really the willingness of corrupt elites to exploit that need.) I also think formal religion conditions people for political belief. If you can believe transubstantiation, you can believe tax cuts reduce the deficit.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Leonard: ok. I deserve some sarcasm because I mixed up the scandals. (So many to keep track of!). But the whole Opus Dei self flagelation thing is real. Here’s what wiki says:

    Much public attention has focused on Opus Dei’s practice of mortification—the voluntary offering up of discomfort or pain to God; this includes fasting, or for some of its members self-inflicted pain such as self-flagellation. Mortification has a long history in many world religions, including the Catholic Church. It has been endorsed by Popes as a way of following Christ, who died in a bloody crucifixion and who speaking of anybody that sought to be his disciple: “let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23)[59] Supporters say that opposition to mortification is rooted in having lost (1) the “sense of the enormity of sin” or offense against God, and the consequent penance, both interior and exterior, (2) the notions of “wounded human nature” and of concupiscence or inclination to sin, and thus the need for “spiritual battle,”[60] and (3) a spirit of sacrifice for love and “supernatural ends,” and not only for physical enhancement.

  28. Tyrell says:

    Luther was right.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    …western religions have no coercive powers left.

    And thank God for that…

  30. Modulo Myself says:

    This is the end of a gangster movie when everybody goes down, and the audience has to root for the ‘good’ sociopath.

    You have to be insanely repressed to end up a Catholic priest in 2018; also to be a Catholic, unless you’re like 70 or something. Like, beyond any norms of society repressed. The sides on this are irrelevant. If you’re a Catholic and don’t become an Episcopalian, which has parts of the Bible, wholesome marital sex, and great music, you are part of the problem.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You have to be insanely repressed to end up a Catholic priest in 2018

    You must not know many Catholics. I know many, and the vast majority think the priests and bishops are more or less irrelevant, other than being necessary to wear fancy robes and officiate at major life events.

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: About what? You do realize that he never admitted that the denomination that bears his name separated from Catholicism, right?

  33. Herrnhut says:

    “Having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Now these avoid. For of these sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, who are led away with divers desires: Ever learning, and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Mambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no farther; for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as theirs also was.” Second letter of St Paul to young bishop Timothy about the last days. Chapter 3.