London’s Catholic Herald has done some fact checking on Archbishop Vigano’s testimony and come up with this article.
The essential charge in Archbishop Vigano’s testimony is that Pope Benedict quietly disciplined Cardinal McCarrick, that Pope Francis knew about it, but over-ruled and re-habilitated Cardinal McCarrick.
In other words, Pope Francis knew about egregious homosexual abuse violations, and also knew about proceedings against one of his priests (in this case one of his cardinals) and rather than upholding the disciplinary procedures, over turned them and rehabilitated the offender, thereby contributing to the culture of excusing sex abuse by clergy and helping to cover it up.
I always try hard to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt and it is always necessary to consider the possibility that gossip has circulated, become exaggerated and the parties accused are innocent. It could be that the pope simply errs on the side of mercy. He has a history of reducing penalties for priests accused of sex abuse as Catholic Herald reports here.
However, three particular cases lead me to believe Vigano’s testimony and here’s why: This fits with the pattern of the pope being lenient to sex offenders and there are three particular cases that come to mind:
First: The Case of “Don Mercedes” – Fr Mauro Inzoli.
Michael Brendan Dougherty writes in The Week:
Consider the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli. Inzoli lived in a flamboyant fashion and had such a taste for flashy cars that he earned the nickname “Don Mercedes.” He was also accused of molesting children. He allegedly abused minors in the confessional. He even went so far as to teach children that sexual contact with him was legitimated by scripture and their faith. When his case reached CDF, he was found guilty. And in 2012, under the papacy of Pope Benedict, Inzoli was defrocked.
But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.
This summer, civil authorities finished their own trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses. Another 15 lay beyond the statute of limitations. The Italian press hammered the Vatican, specifically the CDF, for not sharing the information they had found in their canonical trial with civil authorities. Of course, the pope himself could have allowed the CDF to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired.
Only after his conviction in a civil trial did Pope Francis remove Inzoli from the priesthood for a second time.
Second: The case of Monsignor Battista Ricca
London’s Daily Telegraph reports on the story here and veteran Rome journalist Sandro Magister reports here. The sordid affair involves an alleged gay lover, the priest getting beaten up in a gay bar, a suitcase loaded with condoms, porn and a pistol and more.
Battista Ricca was appointed by Francis to clean up the Vatican Bank in 2013 soon after he was elected. To give the benefit of the doubt, Pope Francis seems to have been unaware of Ricca’s murky past. Ricca was, by the way, the priest Pope Francis was referring to with his “who am I to judge?” comment.
Now that Ricca’s history is known shouldn’t Pope Francis have had the man demoted? He still works in the Vatican running the St Martha Hostel where the Pope lives and (as far as I can ascertain) still works at the Vatican Bank.
Third: Cardinal Danneels of Belgium, who advocates gay civil unions, was taped encouraging an abuse victim to keep quiet. The victim was the nephew of one of Danneels’ bishops. Danneels was part of the St Gallen “mafia” who allegedly disapproved of Pope Benedict XVI and helped orchestrate the election of Pope Francis. Danneels was on the balcony when Francis was presented to the world and was subsequently invited to be a key player in the Synod of the Family. A pattern? Pope Francis brings a retired and disgraced Cardinal back into circulation and the circle of influence.
Fourth: The last case is most similar to that of Cardinal McCarrick. The accusation is that Cardinal McCarrick was disciplined for his sexual crimes and cover ups, but he disobeyed the restrictions imposed by Pope Benedict and that he was re-habilitated by Pope Francis.
Consider the case of notorious Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony:
On January 31, 2013, in the wake of a court order requiring the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to release its files on clergy sexual abuse, Archbishop Gómez relieved Mahony of all of his remaining public and administrative duties. According to the archdiocese, Mahony remains “a priest in good standing” and may still celebrate Mass, but he may no longer speak publicly or exercise any responsibilities ordinarily reserved for a bishop, such as administering the sacrament of confirmation. Under canon law, as Mahony is a cardinal, he enjoys the “privilege of forum”, meaning that the only the pope is competent to judge and punish Mahony in matters subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Gómez only has the authority to control Mahony’s administrative assignments within the archdiocese.
Nevertheless, Mahony continued to administer confirmations later in 2013.He still held the titles of Cardinal and Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, and retained his Vatican appointments. Mahony also participated in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.
Five years later to the month, the Diocese of Scranton issued a press release saying, “Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, as his special envoy at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the erection of the Diocese of Scranton, to be observed with a Pontifical Mass on March 4 in the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Scranton. We are most grateful to our Holy Father for appointing Cardinal Mahony to be his personal envoy for this special celebration, and we are honored that the Cardinal has so graciously accepted this invitation.”
It would seem therefore that 1. Mahony was disciplined for his sex abuse cover ups 2. He disobeyed the disciplinary procedures 3. He took part in the conclave that elected Francis 4. He was rehabilitated by Pope Francis.
Vigano’s charge is that Pope Francis rehabilitated members of the hierarchy knowing that they were either sex offenders or guilty of covering for sex offenders.
Given the pope’s record, it is pretty hard not to believe Archbishop Vigano.