Pope Francis and McCarrick: where does the evidence lead?

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Archbishop Viganò made four major claims. But do the facts support them?

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s testimony, published on Saturday, goes on for 7,000 words and names more than 30 public figures, mostly to denounce them. But at its heart are a small number of very serious allegations about Pope Francis’s treatment of Theodore McCarrick. Since the letter’s publication, some more evidence has emerged against which to test Viganò’s major claims. How do the allegations stand up?

Claim 1: Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on McCarrick

Viganò writes: “Pope Benedict had imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis: the Cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.” These came into place, Viganò says, in 2009 or 2010.

Do the facts support the claim? Mostly – but there are complications. Several glimpses have been recorded of sanctions on McCarrick:

  • The Catholic News Agency reports two eyewitness (but anonymous) accounts of McCarrick being told he had to leave the seminary on Pope Benedict’s instructions.
  • On Monday, the Archdiocese of Washington confirmed that, in 2011, it had cancelled a meeting between McCarrick and young men discerning their vocation. The request came from Viganò, who was then the nuncio (Vatican representative) to the US.
  • In July, the Washington Post quoted someone who “worked with McCarrick”. The source is paraphrased as saying “they suspect Church leaders in Rome had McCarrick had chastised McCarrick in some way, telling him to pull back from public life.”
  • On Monday, another witness said Viganò was correct. Mgr Jean-François Lantheaume, who used to work at the nunciature in Washington DC, was asked whether it was true that Vatican officials had told McCarrick he was sanctioned. Mgr Lantheaume replied: “Viganò said the truth. That’s all.”

One complication is that not all sources have corroborated Viganò’s story. According to America magazine, some “Vatican officials … who asked not to be named said they knew nothing about sanctions or restrictions on Archbishop McCarrick.” That doesn’t discredit Viganò’s account – he always claimed that the sanctions were only communicated through a few channels – but it makes it harder to confirm.


by Dan Hitchens
posted Friday, 31 Aug 2018

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