Bishop Civil War Over Viganò Testimony

by David Nussman  •  •  August 28, 2018   

Bishops, cardinals issue conflicting statements on bombshell exposé

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DETROIT ( - After a Vatican official released a bombshell exposè on Pope Francis and Theodore McCarrick, U.S. bishops are issuing conflicting responses.

Some American prelates have publicly supported Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's testimony and encouraging people to read it, while others are casting doubt on Abp. Viganò's motives and trying to debunk his claims.

For example, Cdl. Raymond Burke spoke favorably of Abp. Viganò's testimony, writing, "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."

In contrast, prelates like Cdl. Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey have lampooned Viganò. Tobin told The New York Times on Monday, "I do think it's about limiting the days of this pope, and short of that, neutering his voice or casting ambiguity around him."

"And it's part of a larger upheaval both within and without the church," the cardinal added.

In a separate statement Monday, Cdl. Tobin cast doubt on Abp. Viganò's reliability, accusing the former U.S. papal nuncio of "factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology."

This is the same Cdl. Tobin who mistakenly tweeted out "Nighty-night, baby. I love you" — then claimed he meant to send a private message to one of his sisters.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Chicago archdiocese, one of the prelates that Viganò's testimony mentions by name, tried to discredit Abp. Viganò the day after the testimony's release. Cupich accused Viganò of confusing the sequence of events regarding Cupich's elevation to cardinal.

Cardinal Cupich also claimed that Viganò "personally participated in my installation ceremony in Chicago in November 2014 and personally presided at the imposition of the pallium the following summer."

Lastly, Cdl. Cupich doubled down on his insistence that homosexuality has little to do with the clergy sex abuse crisis.

But a number of American prelates spoke in favor of Abp. Viganò's testimony.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas wrote of Abp. Viganò's allegations in a statement over the weekend, "Let us be clear that they are still allegations, but as your shepherd I find them to be credible."

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Priests of the Tyler diocese were urged to spread the word by featuring Bp. Strickland's statement in parish bulletins, homilies, social media accounts and websites.

Also speaking in favor of Abp. Viganò's testimony was Bp. Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin. He said in a statement:

I must add that during his tenure as our Apostolic Nuncio, I came to know Archbishop Viganò both professionally and personally, and I remain deeply convinced of his honesty, loyalty to and love for the Church, and impeccable integrity. In fact, Arch. Viganò has offered a number of concrete, real allegations in his recent document, giving names, dates, places, and the location of supporting documentation — either at the Secretariat of State or at the Apostolic Nunciature. Thus, the criteria for credible allegations are more than fulfilled, and an investigation, according to proper canonical procedures, is certainly in order.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix likewise affirmed Abp. Viganò's reliability as a person, and supported his testimony. The bishop wrote, "Although I have no knowledge of the information that he reveals in his written testimony of August 22, 2018, so I cannot personally verify its truthfulness, I have always known and respected him as a man of truthfulness, faith and integrity."

Bishop Olmsted also said, "For this reason, I ask that Archbishop Viganò's testimony be taken seriously by all, and that every claim that he makes be investigated thoroughly. Many innocent people have been seriously harmed by clerics like Archbishop McCarrick; whoever has covered up these shameful acts must be brought to the light of day."

Let us be clear that they are still allegations, but as your shepherd I find them to be credible.

Some have framed the dispute among Catholics about how to handle the clerical homosexual sex abuse crisis as a "civil war" — as Matthew Schmitz of First Things recently said in The New York Times.

But regarding Abp. Viganò's explosive allegations, some prelates have taken lukewarm stances, declining to take sides in the conflict.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Viganò's testimony raises some important questions which "deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence."

A milquetoast response came from Detroit's Abp. Allen Vigneron: "Whether the Archbishop's claims are confirmed or proved to be unfounded, the truth which comes to light will show us the sure path to the purification and reform of the Church."


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