Archbishop’s letter stuns the Church

What happened?

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former nuncio to the United States, accused Pope Francis of ignoring clams against Theodore McCarrick. Viganò’s claims were made in a testimony given to Catholic media. He said that Francis lifted sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI against McCarrick even though Viganò had told Francis about the allegations in 2013. Viganò further alleged that Francis made McCarrick an influential adviser. On Sunday the Pope declined to comment on the claims.

What the vaticanisti are saying

Several commentators expressed scepticism about the apparent sanctions imposed by Benedict XVI. Viganò claimed that McCarrick was ordered to leave the seminary where he lived and forbidden from exercising public ministry in 2009 or 2010. The National Catholic Register reported a source from Benedict XVI’s circle saying the pope “remembers instructing Cardinal Bertone to impose measures but cannot recall their exact nature”. The sanctions seem to have been limited in their effect: as America magazine pointed out, McCarrick continued to keep a high profile. Viganò alleged that Vatican officials protected McCarrick.

Rod Dreher, writing at The American Conservative, described the letter as an “atomic bomb” that accused the Pope of bringing McCarrick into his inner circle and sending him “around the world on papal missions”, despite knowing of his sexual misconduct.

But John Allen, at Crux, said the Viganò letter required a “large grain of salt”, given that it hurled accusations around so “lightly” and “contains charges of some form of wrongdoing or questionable behavior against no fewer than 32 senior churchmen”. For now, Allen suggested, “a sober point of departure right now probably would blend genuine curiosity with healthy scepticismOn Twitter, Ross Douthat argued that the letter could not be discredited just because Viganò had “lost internal Vatican battles and strongly dislikes Francis and writes in a shrill and sweeping style”. He added: “That’s just the profile of the kind of person most likely to become a whistleblower.”

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