DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Six months after the Theodore McCarrick revelations touched off the "summer of shame," Abp. Allen Vigneron of Detroit has yet to acknowledge the role of homosexuality in the clerical sex abuse crisis.
In multiple statements over the past few months, Abp. Vigneron has repeatedly blasted clerical sex abuse while avoiding any mention of the homosexual root of the vast majority of predation. In an Oct. 7 homily read in parishes across Detroit, Vigneron spoke out against "the renewed crisis regarding clergy sexual abuse, abuse of minors and the failure of bishops and others in authority to protect those who were victimized."
He lamented "profoundly disturbing reports that some of these leaders have even been in collusion with perpetrators," adding that "there is no excuse in the world ever for abusing a child, especially by someone who is a pastor in the Church. And likewise, there is no excuse ever for covering up sinful and criminal behavior by priests and bishops."
But many observers note that by deliberately skirting the issue of homosexual predation of adults — e.g. seminarians — Vigneron is, in effect, colluding with past and future perpetrators.
"And so then, what is to be our response, as a people of faith, as the disciples of Jesus? My response and the response of my brother bishops and priests, as leaders, pastors of our community?" the archbishop asked.
"It has to be about examination — self-examination — and it has to be about change," he continued. "Because abusing a child — especially that done by Church leaders — is an abomination. And likewise, covering up sinful and criminal behavior of priests and bishops is an abomination."
"And here and now, these behaviors have to be called out and have to be overcome once and for all," the archbishop demanded. "This requires a clear examination of our problems and walking the path of change, illuminated for us by God's Spirit. Our response must be based on accountability and transparency."
Again, many faithful Catholics are suggesting that by intentionally focusing only on the predation of minors — implying the problem is one of pedophilia, and not homosexuality — Vigneron is himself failing in terms of accountability and transparency, effectively committing the very same abomination of cover-up he has repeatedly denounced.
The archbishop has also downplayed the scale of the crisis in his archdiocese. In an Oct. 12 interview with Catholic broadcaster Al Kresta, he seemed mystified as to why Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has launched an investigation into every Catholic diocese in the state.
"I'm not sure why our attorney general here in the state thinks that — judges — that for the common good he needs to see how we bishops have handled this matter," the archbishop told Kresta. "Perhaps it's because it's so much in the forefront of people's minds, he feels he owes it to the populace."
Though insisting the "approaches that the leaders in the Church, the bishops, have taken, have had a really remarkable effect in diminishing this evil in our midst," Vigneron made no mention of recent events in the diocese of Saginaw — part of the the province of the archdiocese of Detroit — involving gay clergy and sex abuse.
Kresta asked the archbishop about how he prioritizes other forms of sexual impropriety, noting reports of "significant sexual misconduct among clergy, among consenting adults."
"Is that showing up as a problem in the archdiocese of Detroit, such that it requires special efforts on your part?" he queried.
I don't understand it to be particularly more grave in this age than in any times past. ... When it's brought to my attention, I act on it, and I was asked this question last night by a broup of laypeople, and not only in the most grave sense of fornication and adultery, but even in the case of falling, or a wound to clerical chastity that has to do with an inappropriate intimacy, even though it might not involve genital intimacy, my job is to help the priests be better priests, and chastity is part of that. And when I find out that there is a difficulty, that a priest has wounded his virtue, we support him and insist he take all the natural and supernatural steps to restore his virtue, because unless his virtue is restored, I can't entrust pastoral care to him.
"At what point does it become necessary to make this kind of problem public?" Kresta asked, pressing Vigneron on the issue of transparency. "In other words ... at what point do you say to yourself that this is not just a one-time weakness or lapse, but has become a regular problem?"
"In some cases, at least from conversations I've had with former priests," Kresta noted, "some people have no intention of remaining chaste."
The archbishop replied simply: "Well I appreciate your insight on that, Al. I'd have to say that's something I probably need to talk to my priests about."
Over the years, Vigneron has cultivated a reputation of conservatism while reportedly allowing heterodoxy to flourish behind the scenes. As bishop of Oakland from 2003–2009, for example, Vigneron publicly opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage in California. But in a 2007 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, homosexual Bay Area cleric Fr. Richard Danyluk said Vigneron "supports gay priests."
Church Militant contributor Jay McNally, a former chancery insider, has repeatedly spotlighted Vigneron's homosexualist sympathies.
McNally, a faithful Catholic journalist fired from the archdiocesan newspaper for refusing to participate in covering up for predator priests, has warned that the archbishop "has been working for more than 40 years with a loyal band of colleagues — some of whom were his seminary classmates — to undermine both the Church and all of Western civilization."
"Countless times throughout his career," McNally wrote, Vigneron "has squandered easy and painless opportunities to defend the Faith; instead, he has led clever attacks against Church teaching."
"Simply put, there are too many contradictions between Vigneron's behavior and his carefully managed public persona not to raise serious questions about what side he is really on," he said, adding that "Vigneron's treachery, which can only be described as a determined and deceitful effort to undermine the Church, was in full flower throughout the many years he spent as a professor (1985), dean (1988–1991) and president-rector (1994–2003) at his alma mater," Sacred Heart Seminary (SHS).
McNally noted that "for more than a dozen years," Vigneron "had extraordinary control over any and all who wanted to become a priest" in the archdiocese of Detroit (AOD). "The whole time Vigneron was in leadership roles at SHS, American conservatives complained that most seminaries in the U.S. were intentionally preventing admission of tradition-minded and faithful men and instead favored liberals and homosexuals. This was especially true in the AOD."
McNally recalled that in the course of investigating Vigneron's tenure at Sacred Heart Seminary, "Three former SHS seminarians and one priest all verified for publication the brutal process of intimidation and persecution mandated by Vigneron if they showed 'conservative colors.'"
"All the seminarians indicated there was overwhelming pressure for them not to reveal that they adhered to a traditional view of homosexuality in the seminary," he noted.
"As seminary rector, Vigneron was part of the effort to create a dramatically different kind of priesthood for the United States," McNally observed, spotlighting "unassailable evidence that Vigneron encouraged the ordination of homosexuals while at the same time advancing the persona of being a 'conservative.'"
This would explain why, almost a decade after becoming archbishop, Vigneron continues to allow pro-gay Dignity Masses at Detroit's Marygrove College. It would explain why archdiocesan priest Fr. Randy Phillips — a Dignity priest — feels free to fly the rainbow flag at his parish. It would also explain why Msgr. Michael Bugarin, the archbishop's episcopal vicar and delegate for matters of clergy misconduct, refuses to acknowledge homosexuality's role in clerical sex abuse.
In a September meeting with archdiocesan priests on the abuse crisis, Bugarin reportedly announced that any topic was open for discussion — except homosexuality. A month earlier, the monsignor was a guest on WJR talk radio in Detroit, where he answered questions about abuse crisis. Church Militant called in and asked Bugarin two questions:
"So the homosexual crisis, like I'd indicated earlier — yes, you are correct the John Jay study says about 80 percent are male victims, they're not the only victims. There are female victims," the monsignor replied in answer to Church Militant's first question. "And so it is a crisis across the board. And again I go back to the quote I stated earlier, this is not a gay problem, this is not a straight problem, this is not a left, right, this is not about living the Gospel."
Bugarin declined to answer the apostolate's second question.
In his Aug. 13 statement on the Theodore McCarrick revelations, Abp. Vigneron warned: "To cover over, not to mention dissenting from, one part of Christ's vision for chaste living is to weaken every other dimension of that sexual purity Christ demands of his followers."
Though applauding Vigneron's statement, faithful Detroit Catholics lament that four months on, the archbishop is failing to live up to its truth, choosing instead to look past the role of homosexuality in the clerical sex abuse crisis.