F Rosa Rubicondior: Catholic Abuse News - Why Francis and Benedict are Staying Silent

Monday 24 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Why Francis and Benedict are Staying Silent

Why Francis and Benedict won't answer the accusations dividing their church - CNN

An intriguing insight into the Byzantine machinations in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church is beginning to emerge as the fall-out from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical child abuse continues.

And it's becoming apparent why Pope Francis is under a self-imposed code of omerta concerning the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, knew of the sexual abuses by disgraced Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick but allowed him to continue in his role as the senior American Catholic Cardinal.

Viganò has alleged that Pope Benedict XVI, now in seclusion as self-style Pope Emeritus in the Vatican, the first pope to resign in 600 years and giving Catholicism the unique experience of having two Popes in the Vatican, placed McCarrick under restraint and that that restraint was removed by Pope Francis, even though he too knew of McCarrick's predatory sexual activities. The last time there were two popes (1309-1376), one of them took himself off to Avignon in France to live under the protection of the French crown, so having two current popes in the Vatican is giving those oposed to Francis' attempts to give Catholicism a human face something to coalesce around.

The only comment we have on record of Francis' response to Viganò's allegations is of him saying he intends to say nothing about it - a comment that was taken at the time as Francis implying that Viganò's comment wasn't worth taking seriously enough to grace it with a reply. However, the motive may have had more to do with not wanting to embarrass Pope Benedict. Benedict is in the double bind position that if he did not know anything about McCarrick's activities then he should have known and if he did but did nothing he was culpable. However, if he did know and did do something, then he is in the clear but Francis is dropped in the caca.

But why would Viganò's allegations be in any doubt anyway? Why would he make unfounded allegations against Pope Francis in the first place? Here we need to go back three years to the Kim Davis affair. Readers may remember how devout Catholic Kim Davis became the darling of the extreme right in America when she refused, despite a court ruling that her refusal was unlawful, to do the job for which she was paid, as a Kentucky clerk, to do and sign same-sex marriage certificates, citing her faith as her entitlement to discriminate.

She and her conservative Christian supporters could see no problem with her demanding an exemption from the law, and despite the Establishment Clause, being paid by the state to impose her personal religious bigotry on others as though the right to deny full civil rights to others is a basic right of Christian fundamentalists. One of her supporters was Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who, as papal nuncio to the United States was in charge of a visit by Pope Francis.

The visit had been something of a triumph for Pope Francis as he thrilled the liberals with promises of reform, even making the right noises about climate change and Man's responsibility to the planet. However, it ended in a diplomatic faux pas when it was triumphantly leaked to the world's news media that Francis had had a clandestine meeting with Kim Davis to compliment and encourage her. Here was 'liberal' Pope Francis on a visit as head of state to another country encouraging a citizen of that country to ignore the rule of law and and continue with her illegal discrimination against homosexuals. This was widely seen, especially by the conservative right, as a dog-whistle signal from Pope Francis that his 'reforms' were merely a PR exercise and that it would be business as usual.

It then transpired that the Pope had effectively been duped by Viganò into meeting Davis and that he had been unaware of her or the right wing cause for which she was the standard bearer; that he had been tricked into appearing to endorse criminal activities and right-wing bigotry to please the conservatives and to satisfy the need for revenge of an Archbishop who felt he had been ignored and deprived the position for which he felt entitled.

As the New York Times put it at the time:

Archbishop Viganò, a cultural conservative born into a wealthy family in Varese, received the title of archbishop from John Paul II in 1992. He later joined the church’s diplomatic corps, which is one of the traditional sources of power in the Vatican, and in 2009 was installed by Pope Benedict XVI as secretary of the governorate of Vatican City State, a position not unlike the mayor of Vatican City.

Benedict wanted the ambitious Italian to enact government reforms, but Archbishop Viganò’s efforts in that goal earned him powerful enemies. In early 2011, hostile anonymous articles attacking Archbishop Viganò began appearing in the Italian news media, the bulletin board of Vatican power politics. Archbishop Viganò appealed to Benedict’s second in command, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who instead echoed the articles’ complaints about his rough management style and removed Archbishop Viganò from his post.

Those appeals and protests, later leaked by the pope’s butler, became the heart of the church scandal known as VatiLeaks, which many church observers say contributed to the resignation of Benedict XVI.

In one missive copied to the pope, Archbishop Viganò wrote to Cardinal Bertone accusing him of getting in the way of the pope’s reform mission, but also of failing to make good on a promise to elevate him to cardinal. When faced with a transfer to the United States, he protested that the move would give heart to those opposed to his efforts to “clean up” the “corruption and abuse of power” in the Vatican.

On July 7, 2011, he wrote to Benedict that on issues of malfeasance inside the Vatican, “the Holy Father has certainly been kept in the dark.”

The question now is did Archbishop Viganò, left to linger in the United States as a new administration has taken power in Rome, keep Pope Francis in the dark or simply underestimate the off-message media storm that a meeting with Ms. Davis would provoke. Or, after executing orders from Rome, has he once again found himself being hung out to dry at the end of his career. In January, Archbishop Viganò will turn 75, the age at which bishops must submit a formal request to the Vatican for permission to resign. These requests are not automatically accepted, and bishops often stay in their appointments long after. It seems unlikely, church analysts say, that Archbishop Viganò will be one of them.

Viganò had been shuffled off by Pope Benedict XVI to languish in America and away from the centre of power and influence for revealing the financial corruption inside the Vatican.

The NYT was correct in its prediction and Viganò's normally token offer of resignation on reaching the age of 75 was accepted without hesitation. He was sacked for deliberately using Pope Francis for his faction's own political ends without regard for any embarrassment it caused him nor how it caused what looked like a triumphal visit to the USA to collapse in acrimony with Pope Francis appearing to be meddling in the internal affairs of his host state and encouraging criminal activity.

There is good reason then to suppose that Viganò is not an objective observer in these matters and has good reason to want to embarrass both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict.

A letter dated Oct. 11, 2006 from Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, then substitute for the Vatican Secretariat of State, to Father Boniface Ramsey references a Nov. 2000 letter Father Ramsey had written to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Vatican nuncio to the United States, warning about sexual abuse committed by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. The letter, scanned and released by Father Ramsey to Catholic News Service Sept. 7, confirms past remarks by Father Ramsey and also confirms elements of the Aug. 26 testimony by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States. (CNS photo/courtesy of Father Boniface Ramsey) See MCCARRICK-SANDRI-RAMSEY Sept. 7, 2018. EDITORS: Name of priest redacted by Father Ramsey and CNS.

But now a letter has been revealed which appears to confirm what Viganò is alleging. It contains a tacit admission that Pope Benedict was indeed aware of McCarrick's behaviour.

The letter was passed to Catholic News Service by Father Boniface Ramsey is from the then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs, to Father Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Yorkville, New York City asking for information regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was being vetted for a Vatican post.

It seems then that regardless of the pleasure it gave Viganò to make these allegations, they were not the invention of a deranged and vengeful mind but rather a dirty little secret that he had been waiting for an opportunity to share with the world.

Here then is the reason for 'honest' Pope Francis' conspicuous silence over the Viganò allegations. He can't outright call Viganò a liar because there is too much evidence and too many people willing to come forward to verify his story. He can't admit Benedict knew of McCarrick's homosexual activities with young seminarians at the Immaculate Conception Seminary and elsewhere because this would require Pope Benedict XVI to explain what he did about it.

Did he do nothing, in which case he becomes complicit in McCarricks abuses? Or did he take action as Vigano says? If so, this points the finger very frmly at Pope Francis who must then have undone what Benedict did, knowing the truth about McCarrick but happy for him to carry on as normal.

And of course all this is playing into the hands of those conservative Catholic bishops and cardinals in the USA who would like nothing more than to see the back of Pope Francis with his liberal reforms, and get back to the good old days when they could operate like a state within a state, outside the law and accountable only to themselves. The good old days when the recreational abuse of children as sex toys was seen as a perk of the job, some recompense for a vow of celibacy and only as a problem if it became public knowledge.

The traditional intriguing and maneuvering for position within the Catholic Church has added layers of complexity now for two reasons: the first is obviously the wreckage caused by a decade and a half of almost daily revelations of abuses of power, with just about every parish and diocese in the world having its share of child abuse scandals and consequent collapse in membership, power and income; the second is that for the first time the opposition had a figurehead in the form of an alternative Pope.

No matter what his rare public utterances are, Pope Benedict XVI is widely assumed by the conservatives as being on their side. As one Catholic website, CatholicCulture.org, put it on June 2017, Benedict XVI is silent, but we all know what he thinks.

The sinister figure of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI lurks in the background, an ever-present reminder to Pope Francis of the power and influence of the conservatives within his church and reminder that he is on a short leash.

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