A shocking 11-page letter by a former apostolic nuncio (a papal diplomat) to the United States has rocked the Catholic world after it was widely released last week.

The testimony offered by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, accuses several senior church officials of complicity in covering up allegations of sexual abuse of minors and young men by former Archbishop of Washington D.C., Theodore McCarrick. Viganò also claims that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI, chose to ignore those sanctions, and allowed McCaarrick to become a power-player in determining church appointments in this country.

The letter and its contents are now being discussed and debated throughout the country, especially among the Catholic faithful. As a Catholic, I would encourage everyone to read the 11 pages (link here), which are extremely detailed, and discern for themselves how to best address the matter of abuse, cover-up, and politicization within their own parishes and dioceses.

As the contents, their meaning, and the potential consequences are significant for many of us, I would like to break this discussion into 3 parts:

1) Specific items from Viganò’s missive concerning the extraordinary claims.
2) What are the repercussions are for Pope Francis and the Church?
3) Where do Catholics go from here?

1) QUOTES FROM VIGANO’S TESTIMONY

Here is a brief introduction into McCarrick’s proclivities:

Indeed, according to what Nuncio Pietro Sambi wrote, Father Boniface Ramsey, O.P.’s letter, dated November 22, 2000, was written at the request of the late Nuncio Montalvo. In the letter, Father Ramsey, who had been a professor at the diocesan seminary in Newark from the end of the ’80s until 1996, affirms that there was a recurring rumor in the seminary that the Archbishop “shared his bed with seminarians,” inviting five at a time to spend the weekend with him at his beach house. And he added that he knew a certain number of seminarians, some of whom were later ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Newark, who had been invited to this beach house and had shared a bed with the Archbishop.

Therefore, Catholic Church officials knew in 2000 and did nothing about the activity until 2009, when Pope Benedict imposed non-public sanctions (e.g., McCarrick could not give Mass, could not travel, and had to spend time in penance and prayer). That all changed in 2013, when McCarrick was allowed by the newly elected Pope Francis to travel to China. When the Pope Francis asked Viganò for his thoughts on McCarrick, he indicated that his reply was:

I answered him with complete frankness and, if you want, with great naiveté: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.” The Pope did not make the slightest comment about those very grave words of mine and did not show any expression of surprise on his face, as if he had already known the matter for some time, and he immediately changed the subject.

Finally, McCarrick became highly influential in making key appointments in the church in America.

It was also clear that, from the time of Pope Francis’s election, McCarrick, now free from all constraints, had felt free to travel continuously, to give lectures and interviews. In a team effort with Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, he had become the kingmaker for appointments in the Curia and the United States, and the most listened to advisor in the Vatican for relations with the Obama administration. This is how one explains that, as members of the Congregation for Bishops, the Pope replaced Cardinal Burke with [Cardinal Donald] Wuerl and immediately appointed [Blase] Cupich right after he was made a cardinal. With these appointments the Nunciature in Washington was now out of the picture [the usual body in charge of assignments of this nature] in the appointment of bishops.

I would like to point out that there is a new video of Cardinal Blase Cupich out, in which he dismisses charges by saying, “The Pope has a bigger agenda”. The video clip (link HERE) provides a glimpse into the quality of McCarrick-influenced appointments in this country.

“The Pope has a bigger agenda,” Cardinal Cupich said. “He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

2) REPERCUSSIONS IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Pope Francis responded to the letter with uncharacteristic silence, while some of his supporters assert Viganò is a conservative crank who has it out for the pope. However, another Vatican official said Viganò, told “the truth” and others describe the Archbishop as an “ecclesial straight shooter” and a “serious man.

Priests, deacons, and lay people throughout the country are clamoring for a full investigation. Many are demanding Pope Francis resign if Viganò’s claims are true. While many homilies on this topic were given this Sunday, I think one of the best had to be that from Father Anthony Saroki of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (link to podast, which is worth a full listen).

…We have to begin by acknowledging priest sex abuse is a diabolical evil. All sexual abuse is a grave evil, damaging the victim physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually that has led to life-long suffering, loss of faith and even suicide. The damage is exponentially worse when it is done by a man who was ordained to represent Jesus Christ. The victims need healing and justice.

The perpetrators need to be punished and prevented from hurting others. We have also learned how many bishops covered up the abuse and allowed predatory priests ongoing access to children. They, too, should be punished.

…Viganò says he personally told Pope Francis back in 2013 about McCarrick, and not only did he [Pope Francis] not do anything about it, but he welcomed McCarrick into his circle of advisors and gave McCarrick great influence in appointing bishops in the United States. If what Viganò asserts is true, I think Pope Francis should resign as well.

3) Where do Catholics go from here?

Father Anthony believes that the solution to the continuing cabal of cover-up must come from the lay church. In fact, many Catholics are voting with their pocket books already.

Part of the solution may be the lay church forcing a priority reformation in the hierarchy. The focus on climate change and Trump-bashing needs to shift to more spiritual concerns that are less divisive and actually based on the Holy Bible.

A deep priority schism has arisen. For example, some Church leaders promote social outreach and make choices that have now led to unintended consequences, such as homoerotic murals in churches and young men being groomed in seminaries. As Father Anthony notes, one of the most troubling developments in recent years has been the evolution of a “Lavender mafia”, an arrangement that protects priestly sexual secrets and supports mutually assured religious career success.

Father Anthony notes that a solution to that current cultural problem would be to ordain devout married men of proved virtue. The move would increase the number of priests, and would likely inspire more young men to consider a religious vocation, if they were protected from being targets of unwanted attention. Additionally, initiating a #MeToo movement to reveal all the abusers while defrocking priests (starting with McCarrick, who resigned from the Holy See in June but should not die as a priest) would be welcome steps in the right direction.

There is clearly no quick fix. However, attacking the whistleblower and telling your flock that the pope has other priorities are steps in the opposite direction…the one that leads to damnation.

For more analysis, check out the Canto Talk podcast featuring my discussion on this topic with fellow Catholic, Silvio Canto Jr.