Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has finally spoken in his own defense about a decade-long legal battle with his brother, Father Lorenzo Viganò, over the sizable family estate left to the two brothers by their parents.
The statement from Viganò comes after a series of increasingly ad hominem attacks on the character of the formal papal nuncio, who has singlehandedly altered the conversation on the sex abuse crisis in the Church with allegations that cover-ups go all the way to the pope. Certain Catholic media outlets and commentators aligned with the pope’s agenda settled in last month on this story, which has been at times characterized in a way that appears to make Viganò look petty and vindictive.
The longtime legal battle over the Viganò family estate, which is estimated to be valued at over 20 million euros, has been in the Italian courts for years. Reports from outlets like Jesuit-run America Magazine made it sound as though the former papal nuncio and now infamous accuser of Pope Francis was a selfish, cruel, and greedy man, who kept the family fortune at the expense of his wheelchair-bound brother, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 1996.
Father Lorenzo Viganò has accused his brother of outright theft, of attempted kidnapping, and of lying about wishing to care for him. (Archbishop Viganò had at first rejected the idea of becoming papal nuncio to the United States, wanting instead to bring his brother to Rome, with the stated intention of caring for him there.)
But a new statement made through his attorneys today, available in English at the National Catholic Register, paints the archbishop in something of a different light. In the statement, Viganò reveals that his brother had initially requested almost 40 million euros, “a grossly unrealistic figure in respect to the actual value of the entire joint ownership of property.” Further, it states, “For over 10 years, Fr. Lorenzo Viganò has subjected Archbishop Viganò to a judicial siege and a veritable defamation campaign in the press, while failing to inform obliging journalists that the accusations of Fr. Lorenzo Viganò have been abandoned or dismissed in the 10 civil, criminal, and administrative cases attempted to date” and that Fr. Lorenzo had refused “any mediation from the family.”
The statement says that the archbishop has “already willingly paid in full” the amount of the judgment and that for his own part, he “has allocated most of this patrimony to works of charity and religion, including the construction of a Seminary in Nigeria and a Carmel in Burundi, and will continue to do so.”
“As for the painful personal relationship with his brother,” the statement says, “Archbishop Viganò deeply loves his brother Fr. Lorenzo and will never stop hoping and praying that his brother would make peace with him and resume relations with him, which he unilaterally, totally and suddenly spurned in November 2008, when he fled from Milan accusing his brother, Archbishop Carlo Maria, of wanting to kidnap him. This is also why, despite having valid reasons to do so, Archbishop Viganò did not appeal the judgement of the Court, even though he considers it, in many ways, wrong and unjust. Archbishop Viganò intends to entrust his lawyers with the task of prosecuting by means of lawsuits any attempt to defame him.”
This final statement concerning his intention to prosecute those who defame him could be read as a shot across the bow to his detractors; the former papal nuncio has now been revealed to have the financial means to defend himself in court and to aggressively pursue those who seek to damage his reputation rather than address the specifics of his allegations.
Whatever the true story of the legal battle between the Viganò brothers, it appears that that chapter is over. What remains open are the questions Archbishop Viganò has raised about institutional cover-up of abuse in the Church – particularly as regards the case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.