In the wake of explosive accusations (PDF link) from former apostolic nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the complicity of high-ranking churchmen – including Pope Francis – in covering up abuse from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a number of Catholic bishops have issued public statements of support for Viganò and concern over the allegations he has brought to light. Thus far, the list includes:
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who ordered all priests of his diocese to read his statement this past Sunday – a statement in which he asserted that he found the allegations “to be credible” and argued that “the response must be a thorough investigation similar to those conducted any time allegations are deemed to be credible.”
Cardinal Raymond Burke, who said, “The declarations made by a prelate of the authority of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò must be totally taken to heart by those responsible in the Church,” and that “[e]ach declaration must be subject to investigation, according to the Church’s time-tried procedural law.”
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, who affirmed in a statement that he has “known Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò for 39 years” and has “always known and respected him as a man of truthfulness, faith and integrity.” “For this reason,” writes Olmsted, “I ask that Archbishop Viganò’s testimony was taken seriously by all, and that every claim that he makes be investigated thoroughly.”
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Michigan, who issued a statement saying Viganò’s report “is another daunting challenge to our confidence in the reliability of the Church’s leadership, during a summer of devastating news regarding clergy sexual abuse and infidelity.”
“The Lord assures us,” writes Vigneron, “that ‘the truth will set us free’ (Jn 8:32). We have nothing to fear in facing squarely the allegations made by Archbishop Viganò. I join with the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Detroit in praying for the triumph of truth and transparency – and praying that it comes quickly. Whether the Archbishop’s claims are confirmed or proved to be unfounded, the truth which comes to light will show us the sure path to the purification and reform of the Church.”
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, who offered support for Cardinal DiNardo, head of the USCCB, in his insistence that “the questions raised” by Viganò “deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence.”
Morlino also took issue with the pope’s response to the Viganò statement, saying he felt compelled to confess his “disappointment that in his remarks on the return flight from Dublin to Rome, the Holy Father chose a course of ‘no comment,’ regarding any conclusions that might be drawn from Archbishop Viganò’s allegations.”
Pope Francis further said expressly that such conclusions should be left to the “professional maturity” of journalists. In the United States and elsewhere, in fact, very little is more questionable than the professional maturity of journalists. The bias in the mainstream media could not be clearer and is recognized almost universally. I would never ascribe professional maturity to the journalism of the National Catholic Reporter, for example. (And, predictably, they are leading the charge in a campaign of vilification against Archbishop Viganò.)
Having renewed my expression of respect and filial affection for the Holy Father, I must add that during his tenure as our Apostolic Nuncio, I came to know Archbishop Viganò both professionally and personally, and I remain deeply convinced of his honesty, loyalty to and love for the Church, and impeccable integrity. In fact, Arch. Viganò has offered a number of concrete, real allegations in his recent document, giving names, dates, places, and the location of supporting documentation – either at the Secretariat of State or at the Apostolic Nunciature. Thus, the criteria for credible allegations are more than fulfilled, and an investigation, according to proper canonical procedures, is certainly in order.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, who says, “Archbishop Viganò confirmed his statement by a sacred oath invoking the name of God. There is, therefore, no reasonable and plausible cause to doubt the truth content of the document of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.”
Ruthlessness and transparency in detecting and in confessing the evils in the life of the Church will help to initiate an efficient process of spiritual and moral purification and renewal. Before condemning others, every clerical office holder in the Church, regardless of rank and title, should ask himself in the presence of God, if he himself had in some way covered sexual abuses. Should he discover himself guilty, he should confess it publicly, for the Word of God admonishes him: “Be not ashamed to acknowledge your guilt” (Sir 4:26). For, as Saint Peter, the first Pope, wrote, “the time has come for the judging, starting with the house (the church) of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
Time will tell if more prelates and other clergy will come forward in support of Viganò, who has reportedly traveled abroad to a safe, undisclosed location following the publication of his exposé.
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 seven children.