It’s an act of hubris so stunning, I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it.
Confronted on the plane back from Ireland by a reporter from CBS News who wanted a simple true-or-false answer about whether the pope could confirm allegations that former apostolic nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò had personally told him about McCarrick’s sexual abuse in 2013, Francis dodges the question and redirects it back at the journalist in the most unconvincing, condescending way imaginable.
“I will respond to your question,” says the pope in a video of the plane presser translated by LifeSiteNews. “But I would prefer that we first speak about the trip, and then other topics[.] … This morning I read that statement. I read it, and I will say sincerely that I must tell you all this – you [CBS] and all of you who are interested: Read the statement carefully yourselves and make your own judgment. I am not going to say a word about this. I believe that the statement speaks for itself, and you all have sufficient journalistic ability to draw conclusions.”
“It is an act of trust,” he continues. “When a little time goes by, and you have drawn conclusions, perhaps I will speak about it, but I would like your professional maturity to do this work. It will do you all good, really.”
Stop the tape for a second.
Did the vicar of Christ just tell journalists asking him a binary question that drawing their own conclusions about an accusation only he can answer is a character-building exercise for them?
Pressed on when he first heard about the accusations against Cardinal McCarrick, the pope responds again: “This is part of the statement on McCarrick. Study and then I will say something.”
He then quickly changes the subject.
Watch the video. The grasping for words. The patronizing smile. There is nothing about this that inspires confidence:
Meanwhile, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) obtained a brief statement from Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counselor of the nunciature in Washington, whose job it was to inform Cardinal McCarrick of the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI. Lantheaume, who declined to give an interview, merely confirmed the veracity of Viganò’s report.
“Viganò said the truth. That’s all,” said Lantheaume, in a written response to CNA.
Meanwhile, papal defenders have closed ranks around the pontiff, attempting to attack the character of Archbishop Viganò – with one writer for a notoriously heterodox “Catholic” publication referring to him as a “disgruntled former employee” who was “always a crackpot.” Cardinal Wuerl is, unsurprisingly, denying allegations that he, too, knew about McCarrick’s activities.
Fr. Carlos Martins, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, posted some interesting context to his Facebook page today, saying:
I just spent the last two hours on the phone with a friend in the Vatican Curia. He said that the news of Archbishop Viganò has hit the Curia like an atomic bomb. Two things are universally noted regarding Viganò: 1) He is highly respected as a professional, and 2) His Curial positions gave him clear access to the damning information he reported. In other words, he is not a hack, and he is not relying on rumor. This makes his report absolutely worthy of belief.
Viganò always had a reputation for being a combatant of internal Vatican corruption. In fact, during the Vatican leaks scandal, whistle-blowing reports that he authored were among the main documents that were leaked. This was an attempt by the persons he outed to pre-empt the report’s impact and suck the energy out of the attempt to investigate their claims. …
In the words of the Curial official I spoke with this afternoon, what Viganò has reported “makes the Borgia popes look like saints.” The feeling in the Curia right now is that the response of Viganò’s enemies will to try to discredit him personally, both because of the impeccability of Viganò’s character and the impossibility of his having interpreted the facts incorrectly. Their only hope will be to try to take energy away from the perversion and corruption that he uncovered. They will likely state that he is a bitter man who is seeking personal aggrandizement after having been exiled from Rome. When this occurs, don’t buy into it. Viganò is retired. He has nothing personally to gain from this.
At the Papal flight presser, Pope Francis gave Archbishop Vigano the back of his hand, saying he won’t even engage his charges. I guess we are supposed to be impressed by this. Of course, it is just guilty posturing. He won’t engage Vigano’s charges because he has no defense against them. During my research for The Political Pope, I came across numerous cases of Bergoglio overlooking the sleaziness of bad priests. He prided himself on his “understanding” and “mercy,” which he regarded as superior to the “rigid” attitudes of his colleagues. One small but obvious indication that Francis knew about McCarrick’s lunges at seminarians is that he would make jokes to McCarrick about his dubious reputation. One time he told “Teddy” that his longevity was due to the fact that Satan needed more time to complete his room in Hell.
If true, can you even imagine a pope making a joke of this nature?
Thus far, only two bishops have come out in support of Viganò: Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.
“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,” said Cardinal Burke in comments to LifeSiteNews. “Each declaration must be subject to investigation, according to the Church’s time-tried procedural law.”
In a directive to “all priests” of his diocese “to include this notice in the masses on August 26, and post it on their websites and other social media immediately,” Bishop Strickland included the full statement (PDF link) of Archbishop Viganò and wrote, “Let us be clear that they are still allegations but as your shepherd I find them to be credible. Using this standard the response must be a thorough investigation similar to those conducted any time allegations are deemed to be credible. I do not have the authority to launch such an investigation but I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that it’s findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the Church.”
We will see if there are any other bishops with backbones in all of Christendom as the week continues.
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.