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When Pope Francis was elected in 2013, the talk was the cardinal-electors brought him in to reform the Curia — the Vatican's internal government — and address the priest sex abuse scandal which was seen as somewhat improving but nowhere near fast enough as various cases continued to emerge around the world.
So from the earliest days, the new Holy Father made very clear that only a zero tolerance policy would be acceptable under his reign.
He repeated his commitment to this policy in 2016, saying, "I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. … In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to 'zero tolerance.'"
As Church Militant has been reporting, former papal nuncio Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò published his bombshell testimony Sunday alleging Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict on McCarrick for his sexual crimes and then reverse those sanctions.
While Pope Francis is refusing to comment on the grave allegations against him and others in Viganò's testimony, defenders of the Francis papacy are busy mobilizing to discredit Viganò, with bishops and cardinals named in the report like Cdls. Donald Wuerl, Blase Cupich and Joseph Tobin dismissing his testimony as unreliable, and members of the left-wing media attacking Viganò's supporters.
But a number of bishops and cardinals as well as laymen have come forward in support of Viganò, vouching for his credibility and integrity, including Cdl. Raymond Burke and Bps. Robert Morlino, Joseph Strickland, Thomas Olmsted and Athanasius Schneider.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, issued a statement yesterday saying the testimony of Viganò is sufficient to warrant an investigation which he is going to ask the Pope to convene.
But the strongest testament yet to the truth of Viganò's claims is coming from Msgr. Jean-François Lantheaume, a direct eyewitness to a conversation in which McCarrick was informed of his sanctions.
As secular media is reporting, the Pope's potential cover-up pivots on when and if sanctions were imposed on McCarrick and Lantheaume testimony if true provides the strongest evidence for the truth of Viganò's claims in this regard.
This is what Viganò said in his testimony published Sunday:
In any case, what is certain is that Pope Benedict imposed the above canonical sanctions on McCarrick and that they were communicated to him by the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Pietro Sambi. Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, then first Counsellor of the Nunciature in Washington and Chargé d'Affaires a.i. after the unexpected death of Nuncio Sambi in Baltimore, told me when I arrived in Washington — and he is ready to testify to it — about a stormy conversation, lasting over an hour, that Nuncio Sambi had with Cardinal McCarrick whom he had summoned to the Nunciature. Monsignor Lantheaume told me that "the Nuncio's voice could be heard all the way out in the corridor."
Lantheaume has since come forward and indeed corroborated this, telling the press Viganò's testimony is entirely true, further confirming them in remarks on his personal Facebook page: "I am a witness. The nuncio Viganò is the most honest Prelate that I know in the Vatican. ... I can tell you as being the direct witness that Viganò is telling the truth: I was the direct witness!"
The news is that, ever since releasing his bombshell statement Sunday, Viganò has gone into hiding in fear of his life.
In a revealing post on his blog, Italian doctor Aldo Maria Valli, a Vatican expert, recounts his personal meetings with Viganò, who gave the doctor his testimony to publish on his site.
During the course of their private meetings, Viganò confirmed the existence of a homosexual network in the Church, which Valli recounts on his blog:
Sexual abuse is a more extensive phenomenon than one might imagine, and it is not correct to talk about pedophilia, because in the vast majority of cases it is a matter of homosexual clerics that hunt for adolescent males. More correct, says the monsignor, is to talk about ephebophilia instead. But the point is that the network of complicity, silence, cover and mutual favors is extensive beyond all words, and involves all the leaders, both in America and in Rome.
When Valli asked Viganò why and how all this could have happened in the Church, Valli says his response froze his blood: "Because those cracks mentioned by Paul VI, from which Satan’s smoke would have slipped into the house of God, have become chasms. The devil is working powerfully. And not to admit it, or to turn your face to the other side, would be our greatest sin."
Valli goes on to say that after Viganò's testimony was published, he got a final call from the former papal nuncio telling him he's bought a plane ticket and was going abroad — but he would not say where.
Further support for Viganò's testimony, specifically the sanctions imposed by Benedict, have surfaced via Catholic News Agency, who spoke with not one but two sources present at the 2008 meeting between McCarrick and then-Nuncio Sambi, the same meeting where Lantheaume was present.
They both heard Sambi tell McCarrick that he had to leave D.C.'s Redemptoris Mater Seminary where he was living. Sambi said the orders came directly from Pope Benedict.
Vatican expert Ed Pentin says Pope Benedict himself has confirmed he imposed sanctions on McCarrick, although Benedict can't recall the precise nature of the sanctions.
And two cardinals have independently confirmed with Church Militant that all of Viganò's testimony is entirely true.
Secular media have also confirmed that McCarrick had in some way fallen out of favor under Benedict but was revived by Francis.
David Gibson, writing for the National Catholic Reporter in 2014, wrote, "McCarrick is one of a number of senior churchmen who were more or less put out to pasture during the eight-year pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. But now Francis is pope, and prelates like Cardinal Walter Kasper (another old friend of McCarrick's) and McCarrick himself are back in the mix and busier than ever."
And The Washington Post published a piece hinting at McCarrick's sanctions on July 31 of this year.
For Viganò's critics, like Cdls. Cupich, Tobin and Wuerl, to be correct in accusing Viganò of lying, they would also have to accuse Lantheaume, two other priests, reporter Ed Pentin and Dr. Valli of all lying as well.
The evidence continues to mount that Viganò is indeed telling the truth. If Pope Francis did, in fact, reverse McCarrick's sanctions, it wouldn't be the first time he has acted in a manner contradicting his own zero tolerance policy.
The record shows Francis has a history of reviving clerics condemned for sex abuse.
Case in point: Msgr. Mauro Inzoli, convicted by the Vatican in 2012 for abusing several boys aged 12 through 16 and ordered to be laicized.
In 2014, Inzoli appealed to Pope Francis, who reduced his sentence, not ordering that he be laicized, and instead leaving him a priest and ordering him to seek treatment. He was forbidden from being around children and barred from active ministry.
In November of the same year, Inzoli was convicted in Italian criminal court for sex abuse of five teen boys and sentenced to almost five years in prison. The prosecutor said Inzoli had more victims but he could not pursue those cases because the statute of limitations had run.
Pope Francis was forced to apologize for his decision and laicize Inzoli.
According to the Associated Press, Pope Francis' actions with regard to Inzoli were not unique. A February 2017 article states
The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be defrocked, two canon lawyers and a church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry.
There's also evidence Pope Francis revived disgraced former Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who oversaw the largest lump-sum sex abuse payout in American history, two-thirds of a billion dollars.
In early 2013, the retired Mahony was barred from all public ministry and administrative duties by his successor, Abp. Jose Gomez, who cited credible evidence that Mahoney had covered up sex abuse.
Less than two weeks later, Pope Benedict announced he would step down as Pope, and a month later, controversy exploded over Mahony attending the conclave that would elect Pope Francis.
Within a matter of weeks after Francis was elected, Mahony was suddenly back in public doing confirmations of teens, something he had been strictly forbidden to do by Abp. Gomez. When media contacted Gomez asking why, Gomez offered no comment.
Then there's Cdl. Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels. In 2010, he was caught on tape telling a young man to keep quiet about sex abuse he suffered at the hands of Danneels' good friend, Bp. Roger Vangheluwe, who had molested the man, his nephew, over the course of 13 years.
The tape was released to the press and a firestorm ensued, Danneels receiving withering criticism for his attempt to cover up his friend's homosexual predation.
Vangheluwe admitted to molesting his nephew, but because the statute of limitations had run, he could not be prosecuted. He was forced to resign in disgrace.
Two priests later came forward and said they had brought reports of Vangheluwe's sex abuse to Cdl. Danneels in the mid-1990s and 2000s, yet nothing was ever done.
The Belgian police raided the cardinal's office and residence, publishing its findings in a 200-page report, revealing nearly 500 complaints of abuse spanning four decades, two-thirds of the complainants being male. Cardinal Danneels was named in 50 cases as actively covering up sex abuse.
Danneels' reputation suffered irreparable harm as a result of the scandal, but to the shock of many Belgian Catholics, Pope Francis made Danneels a delegate to the 2015 Synod on the Family.
A number of orthodox Catholic media outfits expressed bewilderment over Francis' choice of Danneels as a delegate.
Church Militant has also reported on charges that Pope Francis, when he was head of the archdiocese of Buenos Aires, allegedly covered up sex abuse.
Father Ruben Pardo admitted to molesting 15-year-old Gabriel Ferrini in 2002.
The mother immediately reported the abuse to the diocese of Quilmes, which notified the Holy See of the abuse and ordered Pardo to leave the diocese.
In 2003, Pardo was found teaching in a school and hearing children's confessions in Buenos Aires, even though the Buenos Aires archdiocese had been given information about Pardo's sex abuse.
The mother sued the Quilmes diocese for cover-up and won, but no public explanation was ever given why then-Abp. Jorge Bergoglio allowed a known homosexual predator to teach in a primary school.
Pope Francis also appears to have abandoned his zero tolerance in the case of Bp. Juan Carlos Maccarone, busted in 2005 in one of the biggest sex scandals to rock the Argentine Church, when a video surfaced of him engaging in homosexual sex with his 23-year-old chauffeur, Alfredo Serrano.
The papal nuncio sent the video to Pope Benedict, who immediately accepted Maccarone's resignation.
But the disgraced bishop surfaced five years later in 2010 offering confirmations of children in a church in a neighboring diocese.
Maccarone continued to live in Buenos Aires, under Bergoglio's jurisdiction and was offering Mass for a group of nuns in charge of taking care of disabled children.
It turns out Bergoglio had never removed him from active ministry.
And the Pope's slowness to act against Chilean Bp. Juan Barros earlier this year was described at the time as the worst crisis of his pontificate. In spite of multiple allegations that Barros had covered for a homosexual predator priest, Francis named him bishop of the diocese of Osorno, provoking strong backlash and loud protests from angry Catholics, who even stormed a Mass where Barros was presiding.
Pope Francis, at one point, was forced to apologize after insulting Barros' accusers as calumniators and gossips, even calling them dumb.
When credible evidence surfaced that Barros had indeed covered up for a homosexual predator priest, Francis offered yet another public apology, hauling all the bishops of Chile to Rome, where they submitted their resignations en masse. So far, he has accepted three of their resignations.
One of the clearest violations of Pope Francis' failure to follow his zero-tolerance policy is the case of Cdl. Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, nicknamed the Vice Pope for his level of influence over the Holy Father.
A 2017 Vatican investigation revealed that Maradiaga's right-hand man, Abp. Juan Pineda, sexually assaulted seminarians and had a live-in gay lover. He was also implicated in financial mismanagement, investing more than a $1 million in questionable firms, which ended up losing all the money.
Pope Francis sat on the report for about a year, leaving the public to wonder why he was not acting against Pineda.
It wasn't until a longtime family friend of Maradiaga, a widow named Martha Alegría Reichmann, who has known him for 40 years, publicly accused Maradiaga of protecting his friend Pineda that the Pope finally accepted Pineda's resignation.
Reichmann went to the media in June and said of Maradiaga, "Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga knows everything his right hand does, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Pineda, but he has always covered and protected him." Although Pineda had to step down in July, Maradiaga remains head of his archdiocese in Honduras.
Cardinal Wuerl is, of course, an ongoing case highlighting a clear violation of Pope Francis' zero-tolerance policy, which says that if credible evidence is brought forward, then the offending cleric must be removed.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed numerous instances in which Wuerl transferred and reassigned predator priests, cases Wuerl has yet to deny, and yet two weeks later, he remains head of the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and a member of the College of Cardinals.
Anger among faithful Catholics is reaching a boiling point with daily prayerful protests taking place beneath Wuerl's Embassy Row penthouse, and one priest even tweeting the following: "If Wuerl is still in office by Monday evening, then on Tuesday morning every fed-up priest in the USA should get in our cars, drive to DC and refuse to leave until he goes into exile. I can't take any more of this crap."
And a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Washington, D.C. said that after Sunday's homily, the pastor, Father D'Silva, called for his own archbishop, Cdl. Donald Wuerl, to step down, receiving a standing ovation from parishioners.
What lies at the heart of the threat to the Francis' pontificate is ironically enough the very thing he was supposedly elected to fix, the sex abuse crisis within the clergy, a crisis that turns out to be largely homosexual in nature.
But in what seems to be an increasing flow of such cases, with reports pouring out of multiple countries on an almost weekly basis, and now added to all that, the explosive testimony that Francis had prior knowledge of all this and did nothing until media reports forced him to, it's looking more and more as though what Francis elected for may force him into retirement.
On assuming the throne, he promised, and repeated frequently, the need for zero tolerance.
Yet the record shows that time and time again, he has violated his own policy and covered for, resurrected and even promoted multiple predators with deep ties to and involvement in the homosexual clerical network in the Church.
Many are waiting for the next shoe to drop and wondering just how much longer Pope Francis can hold out, as calls for his resignation become louder and louder throughout not just the Catholic world, but around the globe.