Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Why Archbishop Viganò is almost certainly telling the truth

There are five considerations that seem to me to make it very likely that Archbishop Viganò’s testimony is truthful.  To be sure, given how numerous and detailed are the claims he makes, it would not be surprising if he has gotten certain particulars wrong.  And perhaps in his passion he has inadvertently overstated things here and there.  But the main claims are probably true.  I certainly do not believe he is lying.  The reasons are these:

1. The deafening silence of Pope Francis

Pope Francis has been accused of grave offenses by a churchman of high stature who was in an optimal position to know about the matters in question.  Yet he has refused to deny the charges or to comment on the matter at all.  That is simply not the way one would expect a person to act if such charges against him were false.  You would expect him immediately, clearly, and vigorously to deny the charges.

Some of his defenders suggest that the pope is merely exhibiting a Christ-like lack of concern for his own reputation.  He is not defending himself, so the claim goes, any more than Christ defended himself against those who crucified him.  Yet the pope has defended himself in other contexts.  For example, he has defended himself against the accusation that he is a communist and against charges that he failed to speak out forcefully enough during Argentina’s “dirty war.”  After he was criticized by some on the Left for meeting with Kim Davis in 2015, the Vatican issued a statement asserting that “his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”  In 2016, the pope defended himself against criticism of his refusal to associate Islam with violence.  In 2017, he defended himself against criticism of his comparison of migrant camps to concentration camps.

So, the thesis that the pope prefers to “turn the other cheek” rather than answer critics simply doesn’t withstand scrutiny.  He does answer them, sometimes.  Why, then, would he not defend himself against the far more serious charges now at issue, leveled by an accuser far more eminent than some of the critics the pope has answered in the past?

Furthermore, it is not merely the pope’s own reputation that is at stake.  The good of the Church is at stake.  There is, as people on both sides of the controversy have noted, a kind of “civil war” brewing in the Church.  The pope could help prevent that if he would only respond to the archbishop’s charges.  Yet he has not done so.

Pope Francis’s defenders demand that the archbishop back up his charges with evidence.  But the archbishop has told us where the evidence is.  For example, he has told us that relevant documentation can be found in the files of the Secretariat of State at the Vatican and at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington.

Now, the pope himself has more power than anyone else does to make sure that this evidence is released.  He could order Vatican officials to release whatever relevant documents they have, and order local church officials to do the same.  And if that evidence would exonerate him, you would think that this is exactly what he would do.  Yet he has not done so.

Moreover, at least some of Archbishop Viganò’s charges have to do with private conversations he says he had with Pope Francis.  The archbishop’s own testimony about these conversations is evidence.  If we want further evidence, only Pope Francis can give it, in the form of his own testimony about the conversations.  Yet he refuses to comment.

Again, this is not the way one would expect someone to act against whom false charges have been made – which supports the conclusion that the charges are not false.

2. The apparent silence of Pope Benedict

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has not commented on any of the doctrinal controversies of the past five years, even though he must surely disapprove of some of what Pope Francis is widely claimed to have taught.  For example, though Benedict has made it clear enough that he does not agree with the policy of admitting couples in invalid marriages to Holy Communion, he has remained silent about the controversy over Amoris Laetitia.  The best explanation is that Benedict does not want to say anything that might inadvertently promote schism.  Better in his view, apparently, to leave doctrinal confusion to be sorted out by a future pope than to split the Church apart.

Now, the current controversy is itself something that threatens to split the Church apart.  Since Benedict seems to fear that outcome most of all, you would expect him to act in a way that is in his judgment most likely to prevent it.

So, suppose Archbishop Viganò is lying about the sanctions he claims Benedict imposed privately on Cardinal McCarrick.  Then Benedict could correct the record and more or less end the current crisis.  He wouldn’t even have to accuse the archbishop of lying.  He could phrase his remarks in a way that simply asserts that what Viganò is saying is mistaken.  Viganò’s credibility would be severely damaged, his defenders would have the wind taken out of their sails, and Pope Francis’s credibility would be largely restored at least in many people’s minds.  In other words, the threat of schism would be greatly reduced.

But suppose Archbishop Viganò is telling the truth.  Then, if Benedict publicly confirms this, he will vindicate the archbishop’s credibility and thereby do grave damage to Pope Francis.  Indeed, such an act would be perceived by many as intended to damage Pope Francis.  This would certainly greatly increase the possibility of schism, since many Catholics would see this as a war of popes – some rallying behind Benedict, others behind Francis.  The very idea must be horrifying to Benedict, and rightly so.

So, if Benedict is worried about schism, then his silence seems much more comprehensible on the hypothesis that Viganò is telling the truth than it is on the hypothesis that what Viganò is saying is false. 

Now, it may be that Benedict has tried to comment in a subtle and indirect way on the controversy.  In a summary of developments since the release of Viganò’s testimony, Catholic News Agency notes that “a source close to Benedict” told reporter Edward Pentin that “as far as the former pope could remember” he had made a “private request” that McCarrick keep a “low profile,” where this differs from a “formal decree.”

If this communication was made at Benedict’s behest – and we don’t know that for sure – then this might be interpreted as the former pope’s way of finessing the difficulty of having to choose between either confirming Viganò’s testimony and thereby hurting Pope Francis, or undermining that testimony and thereby hurting Viganò.  For on the one hand, the insinuation that Benedict does not clearly remember what happened but that in any case there was no formal decree seems to help Pope Francis.  But on the other hand, the assertion that there was a private request to McCarrick that he keep a low profile confirms the gist of Viganò’s allegation.

Some of Pope Francis’s defenders are spinning Pentin’s report as if it undermined Viganò, but it does not do so.  Viganò never said there was a formal decree against McCarrick in the sense of the imposition of sanctions as the outcome the standard formal investigative process.  His whole point was that the action against McCarrick was something done privately by Pope Benedict rather than a matter of following ordinary disciplinary proceedings.  As some commentators have pointed out, this would be similar to the way Benedict dealt with the disgraced Fr. Marcial Maciel.

Some have also claimed that the fact that McCarrick carried out some public actions in the years after Benedict’s alleged imposition of sanctions undermines Viganò’s story.  Again, that is not the case.  As Rod Dreher points out, the answer to this is that “McCarrick defied the pope’s order.  One main theme of the Viganò statement is that these curial cardinals and their allies (Wuerl, McCarrick, et al.) are laws unto themselves.”   

The bottom line is that Pentin’s source confirms that Benedict did take private action against McCarrick, just as Viganò said.  So, either Pope Benedict has in this indirect and subtle way confirmed part of Viganò’s story, or (if the communication to Pentin was not made at the former pope’s behest) he has remained entirely silent on the controversy, which for the reasons I have given is more comprehensible on the supposition that Viganò is telling the truth.  Either way, Benedict’s actions support the truth of Viganò’s testimony.

3. Archbishop Viganò’s concern for his own place in history and his immortal soul

Archbishop Viganò has very conservative theological views.  Indeed, his critics insist on emphasizing this point, since they accuse him of having a grudge against a pope widely perceived to be theologically liberal.

Now, among the things any Catholic with very conservative theological views would believe is the Church’s traditional teaching that lying is always and intrinsically sinful, even when done for a good cause – and that it is always mortally sinful when the lie concerns a serious matter, such as another person’s reputation. 

Another thing that Catholics with very conservative theological views believe is that while popes are fallible when not speaking ex cathedra, they ought always to be treated with great reverence, even when they are in error.  A bad pope is not like the leader of some political faction with which one disagrees.  Rather, he is like an errant father.  He does not cease to be your father even when he does something bad, and his bad behavior gives no license for treating him with contempt.  Even though he may under certain circumstances be criticized by his subordinates, this must be done only with caution and respect, the way a son might plead with his father to reconsider some unwise policy or to cease some abusive behavior.

A third thing that is true of Catholics with conservative theological beliefs is that they tend to have a very romantic view of Church history, and a supernatural one.  They see it as an epic story of great saints who obey the divine law even at the cost of their own lives but who are always vindicated in the end; of evildoers who, however seemingly invincible, are always ultimately exposed and undone; and of the divine providence that guarantees these outcomes even when, humanly speaking, all seems lost.

They do not see Church history as fundamentally driven by grubby power politics.  They do not see the saints as cynical and clever manipulators who get the edge over their opponents by ruthless means.  No Catholic with traditional theological views looks back at the days of Pope Honorius, the Western Schism, or the Borgia popes and thinks: “If only I had been there, I would have come up with a very clever lie that would have saved the day!”  Any traditionally-minded Catholic would see this as blasphemous presumption – the doing of evil for the sake of a good end, as if God were incapable of saving his Church in any other way.

Now, suppose Archbishop Viganò were lying.  Then he would be committing what he knows to be a mortal sin, because he would be slandering no less than the Vicar of Christ.  And he would be committing new mortal sins every time he reiterates these charges, as he has done in the days since he first released his testimony.  Nor, as he would know, would sacramental confession wipe away his guilt under these circumstances, because if he were committed to a policy of persisting in this lie, he would lack the firm purpose of amendment that is a condition of being absolved.

If the archbishop were lying, he would also be guilty of contempt for the Vicar of Christ himself, and comparable to a son who humiliates his father and treats him the way he would treat a political enemy.  And the archbishop would also be putting himself at grave risk of being remembered as one of the great villains of Church history – a Judas-like figure who slandered a pope and divided the Church.  Even worse, he would be putting his immortal soul at grave risk of eternal damnation. 

Secular readers and liberal Catholics might think this all very quaint and melodramatic.  But the point is that this is the way a traditionally-minded Catholic would see things.  In particular, it is the way Archbishop Viganò must see things, given that – as his critics themselves keep insisting – he has what they consider reactionary theological opinions. 

Note that it is no good to respond by pointing out (as some have) that the archbishop once said some nice things about McCarrick at a public event, as if this were evidence that he is a liar.  Viganò is a diplomat, and the job of a diplomat is to be diplomatic.  Everybody knows that at public events, speakers will often say complimentary things about others in the room whether or not they really mean them, as a matter of politeness.  This falls under the category of what moral theologians call a “broad mental reservation” rather than a lie, because the nature of the speech act is such that the ordinary listener is well aware that in such a context the speaker might just be being polite and not intending to speak the literal truth. 

The archbishop’s testimony is not like that at all, because what he is doing in that context is precisely claiming to reveal literal truths.  If what he is saying there is not true, it would be a lie and not a mere mental reservation. 

But, again, to believe that the archbishop is lying in his testimony is to believe that he would be willing to do something that, by his own lights, would risk eternal damnation and perpetual infamy – all because he is irked about the Kim Davis affair or other relatively trivial matters.  That is simply not plausible.  The theological conservatism Viganò’s critics insist on emphasizing in fact makes it less likely that he would lie, not more likely.

4. Pope Francis’s record

As Sandro Magister, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, and others have noted, rehabilitating Cardinal McCarrick would in fact not be all that surprising given Pope Francis’s record.  For example, Cardinal Godfried Danneels notoriously tried to protect a pedophile bishop from being exposed.  As Pentin notes, Danneels also:

advised the king of Belgium to sign an abortion law in 1990… and refused to forbid pornographic, “educational” materials being used in Belgian Catholic schools.  He also once said same-sex “marriage” was a “positive development” and congratulated the Belgian government for passing same-sex “marriage” legislation, although he has sought to distinguish such a union from the Church’s understanding of marriage.

End quote.  Yet Danneels was invited by Pope Francis to appear on the balcony with him when his election was announced, and the pope appointed Danneels to a key position at the 2015 Synod on the Family.

Former Los Angeles archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony was, in 2013, disciplined by his successor for his mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases in the archdiocese.  But earlier this year, Pope Francis appointed Mahony as a special envoy – though Mahony eventually withdrew in the wake of protests from the laity. 

Then there is the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli.  As Michael Brendan Dougherty reported last year in The Week:

Inzoli… [was] 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 [Inzoli] 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, [he] 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.

End quote.  Another case: Msgr. Battista Ricca, The Telegraph reports, “had a string of homosexual affairs that forced his recall from an overseas posting.”  But, as Fr. Longenecker comments, even after the exposure of this history, Ricca “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.” 

Especially controversial was Pope Francis’s handling of the case of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up the sexual abuse of Fr. Fernando Karadima.  Fr. Raymond de Souza’s account of the affair is worth quoting at length:

Barros… was promoted from being the military bishop to the Diocese of Osorno in 2015.  Protests against this were voluble, and his installation Mass had to be cut short due to violent demonstrators in the cathedral.  Most of his priests boycotted his arrival, and the rest of the members of the Chilean episcopate kept their distance.

Pope Francis, though, was determined to make a stand for Bishop Barros’ innocence.  In 2015, in St. Peter’s Square, he accused the critics of the bishop of being politically manipulated by “leftists.”  That episode – the haranguing Pope captured on video – is played constantly in Chile as an example of the Holy Father’s protection of Bishop Barros and his disdain for the concerns of victims…

The papal nuncio had arranged to have Bishop Barros resign; instead, the Pope confirmed his appointment and insisted upon it even in the face of the Chilean bishops’ vehement protest…
[I]n the most disastrous press interview of his pontificate, Pope Francis told journalists in Chile that those who said Bishop Barros was guilty of a cover-up were guilty of “calumny.”

After that, not only did the Pope have no allies in the Chilean episcopate, but Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the papal-picked “Council of Cardinals” and head of the Papal Commission on the Sexual Abuse of Minors, took the astonishing step of publicly rebuking the Holy Father, saying that his words caused “great pain” for sexual-abuse victims.  The rebuke by Cardinal O’Malley was unprecedented, all the more shocking given that he is considered a close papal ally.

Chastened, and knowing that in a public quarrel with Cardinal O’Malley his own credibility would be shredded, Pope Francis accepted the rebuke during the news conference on the plane home, saying that the cardinal’s statement was just.

End quote.  One can only speculate about why the pope has taken such a lenient attitude toward the priests and prelates in question.  One possibility is that he takes such a policy to follow from his well-known emphasis on mercy over law and justice.  Another is that he regards the churchmen in question as theologically sympathetic allies, and is for that reason willing to overlook their actions.  Whatever the reason, a rehabilitation of McCarrick, including a canceling out of whatever penalties were imposed privately by Pope Benedict, would not be surprising given this history.

Pope Francis’s response to other criticism he has received over the last few years is also relevant to the current controversy.  He has repeatedly refused to respond even to respectful pleas from eminent churchmen and theologians to clarify his sometimes doctrinally ambiguous statements, even though a clarification would instantly defuse criticism.  For example, in response to the controversy over the implications of Amoris Laetitia, the pope could easily say: “Of course it is always wrong for a couple who are not in a valid marriage to engage in sexual relations.  In no way is Amoris meant to deny that.”  Yet he has refused to do so. 

In short, Pope Francis is not known for “straight talk” or straightforward speech.  Archbishop Viganò, by contrast, makes claims in his testimony that are extremely clear and frank.  He also tells us where to find confirming evidence.  He has thereby opened his assertions up to refutation (if they are false), rather than being vague and evasive.  Now, a priori, the credibility of someone who makes clear and testable claims is greater than that of someone who is habitually ambiguous and evasive. 

5. The response of Viganò’s critics

The New York Times reports that though Cardinals Wuerl and Tobin have denied they knew about the sanctions on McCarrick alleged by Viganò, the general tendency among those named by Viganò in his testimony has been to refuse to respond:

Following the pope’s lead, the Vatican has gone on lockdown.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, whom Archbishop Viganò also accused in the letter of covering up sexual misconduct by Cardinal McCarrick, rushed a reporter off the phone on Thursday evening.

“Look, I’m not in my office.  Good evening.  Good evening,” he said.  And he was the most talkative.

The Times reached out to every cardinal and bishop said by Archbishop Viganò to have known about the alleged sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick by Benedict.  More than a dozen of them declined or did not answer requests for comment…

A visit to the Vatican Embassy in Washington yielded no information.

End quote.  Like the pope’s silence, this is odd.  You would expect people innocent of charges of the gravity of those leveled by Viganò immediately, clearly, and vigorously to deny them.  Of course, a guilty person might also deny charges raised against him.  In his testimony, Viganò is particularly hard on Wuerl, whom he says “lies shamelessly.”  But the point isn’t that people who deny charges made against them are always innocent.  The point is that people who are innocent usually deny charges made against them.

You would also expect the pope’s most vigorous defenders loudly to be calling for the Vatican and the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington to release of all the documentation cited by Viganò, since the best way to discredit him would be to show that that documentation does not support his charges.  But the defenders mostly don’t seem terribly interested in that. 

What they do seem interested in is hammering on Viganò’s theological conservatism and his relationships to conservative Catholic media, as if this casts serious doubt on his credibility – in other words, the classic ad hominem fallacy of “poisoning the well.”  The charges are either true or false, and Viganò’s motivations for making them are irrelevant to that. 

That this attempt at “well-poisoning” is fallacious is only one problem with it.  A second problem, as I have already noted, is that Viganò’s theological conservatism in fact makes it less likely that he would be lying, not more likely.  A third problem is that the ad hominem tactic cuts both ways.  Viganò’s critics can, with no less justice, be accused of wanting to smear him because they have a theologically liberal agenda that they fear will be threatened if Pope Francis is weakened or led to resign.

As the old lawyer’s saw has it, when the facts and law are on your side, you pound those; and when they aren’t, you pound the table instead.  Viganò’s critics, who are now pounding the table so loudly while showing a strange disinterest in the facts (namely the documents Viganò has told us to look at), rather give the impression that they too believe that those facts are not on their side.

* * *

Of course, for all I have said, it is possible that new evidence might emerge that disproves Viganò’s key claims.  More plausibly, it might turn out that though Viganò is not lying, he has gotten certain details wrong, or that his evident passion has led him inadvertently to exaggerate this or that claim or to overstate his case here or there.

Still, as things stand now, it seems very unlikely that he is lying, or that the broad outlines of his testimony are false.  The best way to make progress in determining where the truth lies is for the relevant documents to be released and for the key figures named by Viganò to respond to his charges.  The pope could order the release of the documents, and respond to Viganò’s charges directly and urge the others to do the same.  The ball is in his court.

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  1. The Pentin thing about Pope Benedict XVI is actually from back in June before the vatican was on edge about the letter.
    He talks about it here

  2. I am posting your Article on my Facebook. I pretty much agree with much of it on the high points thought I am holding out for solid evidence to make a final judgement and as a matter of principle I am giving the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt till the evidence is in.
    Thought on the practical level I don't see his silence serving him and I still say the silence of Benedict is not helpful. Nor was punishing McCarrick in secret a wise policy. It should be discontinued in the future so no future partisan Pope can revoke such a punishment without drawing attention to it.

    Also as a convinced cynic these days & I don't believe Theological "Conservatism" is the shield it once was after all Marcel was a "conservative". Divine Grace alone is the only shield.

    But if I was cynical and base enough to bet on it(for the record I am NOT accepting wagers on this) I would put money on Francis being in the wrong. Seems like the sure bet.

    Also as a matter of principle I wouldn't root for one over the other being the villain. Either way somebody is offending God and that is never good.

    Cheers Dr Feser. Good article.

    1. I agree, mostly. The only thing I'd disagree about is that "Maciel was a conservative." Maciel was a FRAUD. He pretended to be a conservative. He pretended to be holy. He was just using that to trap more victims.

    2. IMHO, punishing McCarrick secretly to a life of "penance and prayer" is not really punishing him. We still have him on the payyroll. Defrocking him will punish him.

    3. Call the police and give them the evidence. This is a crime. That would demonstrate the church is real. Prayer in luxury in BS.

  3. Another reason why the testimony of Mg. Vigano is true, is that it is absolutely unthinkable - yes, absolutely onthinkable - that the pope did not know about the crimes of Cardinal McCarrick.

  4. One thing. The Dreher post you link contains the following: “Vigano can’t be believed because as Washington nuncio, he ordered a cover-up of an investigation into the alleged secret gay life of Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul.”

    Dreher: Yes, he did this. Shame on him. This makes Vigano a hypocrite, but not a liar.

    But that post is superseded by a later one, in which Vigano protests the charge and, it seems to me, thoroughly vindicates himself.

    Other than that, this is the best analytical wrap on things I've seen so far.

  5. While I agree with most of what you say here, I think that the phrase "almost certainly" in the blog title exaggerates your state of knowledge.

    1. I, on the contrary, think that all evidence points to the necessity of abandoning the limitation "almost"

  6. Thanks Dr Feser, your thesis answers the question that permeated my mind on where the truth most likely rests. Your analysis on Pope Benedict's current position in terms of his revealing or disclosing information certainly makes sense. My concern for the truth now rests in the amount of time it takes to shred documents which seems like perhaps the only plausible reason for not immediately opening the Rome and Washington files (at least) to scrutiny.

  7. Excellent analysis. I might add that another of the praeter rem anti-Vigano pro-Francis arguments is that if Vigano's leads are pursued then previous "conservative" popes might also be implicated. So what? Where is the desire for truth and justice? Even if Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors were of, say, Pius X caliber, Vigano's accusations would still be serious and credible. They must be addressed, regardless of the ramifications for "conservatives".

    1. Absolutely agree. Let the facts come out and let the chips fall where they may.

      In point of fact, SAINT Pope John Paul II must be held to be accountable in some measure, if not for direct negligence, then for indirect negligence. He had ample reason to know that the process of appointment of bishops was not sound, and yet he did nothing to reform it. He had ample reason to know that several seminaries were stinking holes of pink mafia and heterodox teachers, and his response to that was inadequate at best. As of 2002 and the US pederasty scandal, he ALSO had sufficient evidence that the bishops needed a broom swept through them not just on how diocese handled abuse of minors, but abuse of all sorts including homosexual predation by priestly superiors. And he did not accomplish it. Admittedly, the last was in his last years and maybe he did not have the energy to tackle it, but it was still a failure.

      Let the truth come out, and let the responsibility be assigned where it belongs, be he pope or not.

    2. Well the Grand jury reported charges of abuse going back to WW2. If we are consistent Pius XII is also responsible.

      Indeed a whole culture of secrecy in the Vatican is in place and clearly is older then Vatican II, St John Paul II, Benedict and Francis.

    3. I have no doubt there was abuse somewhere back to the time of the Hun invasion. Somewhere along the line the abuse tipped over from a smoldering wick that pulled in less than one percent of the priests, to a forest fire that swallows whole seminaries and gets whole bishops' conferences covering it up with active measures as well as negligence. I don't know if the larger problem went back to WWII or not, and if so, THOSE bishops have already had their judgment. We don't have to judge them again. But the current bishops, and I include Pope Emeritus Benedict, have to answer for their inaction. Much as I love Benedict, he has no immunity from being investigated and accused if he screwed up.

    4. That is wise Tony and fair.

      SAINT Pope John Paul II is dead and in Heaven forgiven any weaknesses or mistakes he made.

      There is no point in revisiting that since it has already been "litigated" figuratively speaking.

      Marcel desceved Pope St. John Paul II and JP2 was predisposed to disbelieve charges of homosexuality against Priests because of the tendency of the Communists in his own country to bring false charges against the clergy of being gay in order to fuel anti-Catholic oppression.

      What is needed in the future is a restucturing of the Church Law for even more accountability.

    5. “SAINT Pope John Paul II is dead and in Heaven forgiven any weaknesses or mistakes he made.

      There is no point in revisiting that since it has already been "litigated" figuratively speaking.”

      So that’s OK then

      “ JP2’s in his Heaven
      And all’s right with the world”.

      Pity about the damage to others (including the CC) caused by his misjudgements. The moral is, that if you’re the “right” kind of Pope, you can get away with anything; one of your successors can carry the can for your foul-ups.

      A restructuring - *perestroika* ? - of Church Law might be good, but what might be even better is the total abolition of the Papacy. Church Law is a bad joke; the higher one is in the pecking order, the more one is protected from having to answer for the evil one does. Punishments are for lesser beings: for proles like priests or laity. But Popes can get away with murder, and have.

      How is the Papacy even remotely Christian, when it perverts justice in favour of JP2, and against the victims of cardinals ? Maybe those who call it the Babylon the Great of Rev 17 are right after all.

    6. >So that’s OK then

      What does "OK" have to do with anything?

      I am echoing Tony's statement "I don't know if the larger problem went back to WWII or not, and if so, THOSE bishops have already had their judgment. We don't have to judge them again. But the current bishops, and I include Pope Emeritus Benedict, have to answer for their inaction."

      >Pity about the damage to others (including the CC) caused by his misjudgements. The moral is, that if you’re the “right” kind of Pope, you can get away with anything; one of your successors can carry the can for your foul-ups.

      St John Paul II has been Judged and Forgiven. Who are you to question the forgiveness of the Almighty? Don't you want to be forgiven your sins? Holy Writ is rather clear about the fate of those who refuse forgiveness. It's not good.

      >A restructuring - *perestroika* ? - of Church Law might be good, but what might be even better is the total abolition of the Papacy.
      >How is the Papacy even remotely Christian..

      By this degenerate Protestant reasoning we need to throw the Book of Psalms out of the Bible since most of it was written by an Adulterer and Murderer (King David). As well as the Song of Songs by another sinful wicked King.

      But the Bible is rather clear about the Papacy. The Old Testament Kings of Judah had a prime minister figure who ruled their kingdom on their behalf.

      Is 22:20-23
      On that day I will summon my servant
      Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
      I will clothe him with your robe,
      and gird him with your sash,
      and give over to him your authority.
      He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
      and to the house of Judah.
      I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder;
      when he opens, no one shall shut
      when he shuts, no one shall open.

      I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
      to be a place of honor for his family."

      The role of “master of the palace,” literally “the one over the house” (Heb. ‘asher ‘al-habayith), was the Number Two position of authority after the King (observe the dynamic in 1 Kings 18:1-5, for example). 

      Is there any place in the NT where the Son of David and Messiah King gives Keys to a Man?

      Mt 16:13-20

      And so I say to you, you are Peter,
      and upon this rock I will build my church,
      and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 
      I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 
      Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
      and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 

      The Papacy is of divine origin. Setting yourself against the will of God in order to vex bad Bishops (and maybe Popes) who set themselves against the will of God(sans those who have repented and been forgiven) will not let you escape them. Only condemn you to live with them for eternity and not in the good place.

      Your post is born of diabolic despair and has no place in this crisis. Go to confession. Unless you are a Protestant then take you anti-Catholicsm elsewhere. The Deformation was a buster. Luther let Philip of Hess marry two women at once and Calvin was a dictator worst then the most tyrannical Pope and Zwingli was an adulterer.

    7. Tony et al you seem not to realise that a lot of these things only started bubbling to the surface during Benedict's papacy and when John Paul II was already ill. The networks and cover-ups reached a crescendo in the 70's, but I don't think what was going on was known.

  8. A good post. I do think point three is a little overstated, simply because history is, alas, filled with the stories of apparent true believers who nevertheless acted very sinfully and did risk their souls, not because they didn't believe what they were doing was wrong, but because they were sinners nonetheless and were caught up in their times. So merely analyzing Vigano's beliefs is not sufficient to make it "simply not plausible," although it does make it less likely.

  9. It would be better for Francisco to take some classes with Mr. Lula da Silva, in his rhetoric that he "knew nothing."

  10. Thanks for this excellent and thought-provoking essay.

  11. Thank you for a well thought out article. I think this crisis has two main elements: homosexuality in the clergy and abject lack of credible leadership at all levels. This crisis will not be solved until we have Church leaders at every level unwilling to solve the problem step aside for those who do have the leadership drive and skills to solve this crisis, arguably the worst in Church history.

  12. The Vigano hit-piece was created and released in collusion with LieSite News. It doesn't pass the sniff-test. Ignoring it is the proper response; it doesn't merit attention.

    1. Wow. Well argued.

    2. Boy, that was easy! Why Didn't I think of that!

      Maybe if we just close our eyes, and think happy thoughts it will all go away....

    3. You can't be serious. LifeSite may have broken the news, published the document itself.....but this issue has been looked into, is still being looked into, and analyzed. You may think the messenger stinks but the message they thankfully brought to light does not.

    4. Congratulations - you just joined the ranks of the abusers. What are you covering up?

    5. I didn't trust LifeSite News regarding Pope Francis in the past because they seemed to want to pin anything on him.
      Regardless of that I find much of what they have published regarding Vigano's testimony extremely credible.

  13. Excellent and astute analysis of the situation!

    Point 1) Francis precisely wants the civil war. He wants the schism; ergo, the silence. He stated openly: "I might go down in history for having split the Church" (One Peter Five).

    Point 2) He's a "dictator Pope" and possibly an "Anti-Pope", why would he respond to the very people he considers insignificant and against his goals? It is the Motus Operandi of dictators to take no public notice of their enemies, while, all the while, making plans to silence them behind the scenes. [whitewashed sepulchers].

  14. Regarding Benedict's restrictions on McCarrick being too 'lenient' and too secret: IMO, one has to remember that both he and his predecessors very likely were surrounded and had to work with much the same 'infrastructure' even in their days. It would be in the interest (of most of these underlings) to minimize any sanctions imposed from 'above'

    1. I understand that they had problem people in high positions in the Vatican and elsewhere. So? Get rid of them. If a pope cannot say "investigate Card. McCarrick under Canon Law and follow up with any proper charges, try him before the Roman Rota, etc." to his Vatican officials, and have it carried out, he should get the bums out and replace them with people who will do the job properly. He has that authority. He should use it.

  15. We have been here before in the case of Marcel Maciel and Pope John Paul II. Multiple charges of abuse by at least 10 seminarians went through Vatican channels in 1978, 1989 and 1997 and was met by silence. It seemed half the world knew except the Vatican and Pope John Paul who praised Maciel as an "efficacious guide to youth". After Benedict XVI became Pope in 2005, he removed Maciel from active ministry. - “A life ... out of moral bounds … a wasted, twisted life.”
    I suspect that the canonization was rushed through as part of the cover-up. None of the accusers filed legal action or sought financial compensation from the Legionaries or the Catholic Church. Many of them remain loyal Catholics despite being slandered and harassed by supporters of the Legionnaires and supporters of Saint Pope John Paul II. When you consider this issue, put yourself in the place of those abused seminarians and think of Vigano.

  16. I just want to know the truth. This is a good case, and there should be documentation one way or the other to help determine what's true. Hopefully we can get some documentation.

  17. I think Pope emeritus Benedict is consciously setting an example of obedience, hence his apparent silence on this and other issues. Even when he has made comments, I think he intended to do so in an exemplary way. I think he's following the Pope's lead.
    If anything, even if he does wade into this issue, I imagine he will also do so more in a way to set an example than necessarily to be authoritative on the matter.

    This present crisis has of course been disturbing for what it says about the state of much of the clergy, though the data so far seems to indicate we are experiencing more of a fall out and the consequences of the past and the tide has been turning for a while now (see this article, for example:

    I have to confess I have been shocked to see conservative Catholic news sources nonchalantly recommending that bishops be effectively submitted to lay tribunals. I am not even sure it is possible in Catholic ecclesiology for the laity to judge and even dismiss the hierarchy this way - certainly at least not without some sort of papal granting of special authority, at least. But either way I am not sure it would be a good idea as having that kind of power could only invite its own problems and temptation to corruption, especially if it gets politicized - conservatives and liberals basically trying to engineer the bishops they might want. Independent investigation, however, should certainly be possible.

    This is a difficult issue to deal with effectively while preserving the religious liberty of the Church. There must be real moral and disciplinary reform in the Church - that is obvious. But as we clean house we need to be very mindful of the precedents we are setting and how they might be abused by parties sometimes hostile to the Church - sometimes the press and political actors/authorities. They could seize this crisis to try to try to thumb under the Church. I found it interesting, for example, that even the Pennsylvania Supreme Court took issue with the grand jury in how they handled some of their report; I further heard that the Penn. OAG apparently even further groomed it, and was astonished when that office claimed to have sent their final report to the Vatican to discuss it with them, and did this by publishing it in the local press! Sorry, but communicating through the press stinks of political jockeying rather than sincere attempt to investigate and communicate. If the Vatican proved uncooperative or dismissive, then you could turn to the press. But starting with the press makes cooperation and dialogue almost impossible I think.

    1. I think you misunderstand the proposals. The main proposals are for the bishops (especially McCarrick) to be turned over to civil authorities and charged and tried for civil crimes. And, secondly, to empanel a commission / investigatory body, consisting of BOTH clerical and lay persons, to investigate the accusations and what happened (and who knew about it). That panel would not necessarily have any authority to try a bishop under Canon Law. Once the panel issued a report on what they found, THEN a bishop like Tobin could be tried under the proper procedures of Canon Law and duly punished by the Pope and his curia.

      If people like McCarrick commit civil crimes, nothing in the laws or structure or body of the Church requires that they be free from civil penalties. Civil punishment would not, by itself, deprive a bishop of his see. The pope would have to do that separately. Which he probably would, if the crime were something like what McCarrick is accused of.

    2. That sounds reasonable enough to me.

  18. This entire scandal is used by Satan to mask the super scandal of abortion. 45 years it has been legal in the US and 60 million dead babies and murdering mothers. 30 million per YEAR in China. One and a half billion murdered and one and a half murdering mothers since WW2. And very few Catholics care. Catholic clergy very seldom "leave the 99 in the wasteland to find the lost sheep". Abortion is the true depravity which leads to further depravity. Very few care enough to do more than lip service. The babies are hated without a reason just like Jesus was. Stop your bluster and go save two from death and eternal death.

  19. "Secular readers and liberal Catholics might think this all very quaint and melodramatic. But the point is that this is the way a traditionally-minded Catholic would see things. "

    And what about Catholic who pretends to be theologically conservative while pursuing his own agenda? Maciel was quite theologically conservative. Indeed, the scandal has persisted among liberals and conservatives both before and after the council.

    1. Maciel was Vatican II to the root. Absolutely wedded to it. No daylight there.

      As for what happened before the Council, that's like saying sin existed before also. The main things to grasp are: 1. that homosexual abuse immediately climbed to an industrial scale in the wake of the revolution in the Church, dwarfing anything you might find at any time in the entire history of the Church previously (anybody who challenges this, demand that they give their source, and no, angry rhetoric by saints reacting to much lesser problems does not cut the mustard); 2. that prior to Vatican II, this kind of sin was generally - generally, not always, there were sinful men involved then too - dealt with energetically and severely. The "medicine of mercy" put a stop to all that.

    2. How then does your kind explain Williamson the holocaust denier (or are you one of those Radtrads who think that is ok?)?

      Also you Radtrad SSPX schismatics types seem to have little problem sweaping Sex abuse charges against your kind when it suits you?

      I find it desturbing Lawler & other reactionaries are only concerned that these charges "might derail" a reconciliation between the SSPX and the Church. What about the abuse? What about the victims?

      An SSPX Priest has already been sentenced to 16 years in prison. One wonders how you will pin this on Vatican II.

      Really you people are vultures like the Sedes, Atheists and anti-Catholic Protestants.

      If you ask me hypocritical Schismatics like the SSPX & their partisans deserve no mercy.

      They should resign along with Pope Francis.

    3. >Maciel was Vatican II to the root.

      No True Scotsmen fallacy cited by a Scotsmen(moi).

    4. ">Maciel was Vatican II to the root.

      No True Scotsmen fallacy cited by a Scotsmen(moi)."

      Look him up. He was a favourite of JP2. He started before V2, but he wasn't a star until JP2 gave him prominence. He entirely accepted the documents of V2 and the new liturgy. He was not a traditionalist or anything like it.

    5. I suggest you look up Kevin G. Sloniker. He was a sex abuser and a Traditionalist.

      The SSPX did nothing.....

  20. The sad reality is that it has been an open fact available to anyone who has been listening, that there are predator priests and seminaries taking advantage of other priests and seminarians. The laity has been hearing of these things for 30 years. You can bet your bottom dollar that if you heard of 2 such cases, people in high office like cardinals had heard 100 times as much. Some of it through very credible sources. It is inconceivable that NONE of these people in high office were in a position to do something about it, at least in terms of making it clear to the pope during their 5-year ad limina visit with the pope. It is not just Francis who is on the docket here: it is virtually ALL of the high-up officials in the Vatican, and at least 60% of the bishops in most of the western world who have been negligent on this issue. Maybe not all "criminally" negligent, but morally so anyway. If a bishop looks at his own past behavior and sees that he dodged speaking out, now is the perfect time to come forward and expose the villainy that he knows about and set himself right with God and his flock.

    As for Francis: I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt on his attempt to steer the Church into a "new" way of mercy and closeness to God. It is now clear that his theology is a repudiation of the theology of more than a millenium of saints and saint-popes who combined enormous charity with a fiery love of crystal clear truth. It is impossible for their theology to be right and their holiness to be saintly, and for Francis' "theology" to be right and Francis' take on holiness to be sound. One or the other has to give, and it ain't the canonized saints.

    I will take Pius X and his Pascendi Dominici Gregis over Francis and Amoris Laetitia, every time.

    1. "As for Francis: I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt on his attempt to steer the Church into a 'new' way of mercy and closeness to God."

      Yes, Tony. And of course, this started with John XXIII, who announced, weirdly and to an astonished Church, that "the spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations."

      The other key elements of Francis's nonsense were all present in John XXIII's "philosophy" (one could not call it religion) also, including his baseless optimism, his avoiding clarity in doctrine, his active promotion of bad theologians, his refusal to back up orthodox and good-willed men such as Ottaviani, etc.

      Note how even as late as 2012, ideologues like Richard McBrien still had not noticed the utter devastation this had all caused. It's marvelous.

    2. You are a fruitcake who has accused Pope Paul VI of being a secret Homosexual and you push SSPX propoganda.

      You are no better and no different then the Sedes, anti-Catholic Protestants and the Atheists who are using this crisis to attack the Faith in general.

      You are not a Catholic.

    3. I agree because i am a middle aged lay person who became familiar with McCarrick's cruel habits well over 10 years ago with a few well-worded searches on the internet. Could never look at his face in pictures or the news with out gagging and quickly changing channels. Like i said, i am nothing and i knew.

    4. @Aquinian
      baseless optimism
      Christians always have cause for optimism on account of the Resurrection and the promises of God.

    5. "Christians always have cause for optimism on account of the Resurrection and the promises of God."

      The baseless optimism to which I referred was the declaration, before the Council, that it would result in a new Pentecost, an abundant outpouring of grace, which would give the Church new life, growth, and holiness. This was not merely baseless, it was proved spectacularly false immediately, even during the Council, as the Church began to implode. 50-100,000 priests (yes, truly) abandoned their vocations in the ten years from 1965-75. It was apocalyptic.

      Separately, there is the question of the sincerity of the motives expressed by those who called the Council, introduced the innovations, and made the false predictions of growth etc. If sincere, what would they have done as the disaster unfolded? Obviously, reversed course to escape the consequences of the Modernism that was demolishing the Church. Did they do this? Not a bit of it. They ploughed on, doubled down, and persecuted those who failed to go along with the dissolution of the Church.

    6. Why are you trying to hijack this thread with your weird conspiracy theories about Paul VI (you do know the man who accused him of being a homosexual also accused Pius XII of the same thing?)?

      The SSPX has a sex abuse problem too.

      So do the Eastern Orthodox

      Even the Orthodox Jews

      Don't even get me started on the Baptists, Evangelicals, and Episcopalians.

      How did Vatican II do all this? Enough of you using this crisis to spread your agenda.

      It is getting old.

      This problem exists at the fundamental level in society. Changing the liturgy back to Latin won't change a thing.

  21. Excellent piece Edward Feser. Thank you for the clarity.

  22. You know things are bad when Ed is commenting on current events.

  23. It's a sin how low Edward Feser had to stoop this time... supporter of one who's proven very unreliable for all the lies he told, also in the central charge against Pope:

  24. I'd like, if possibile, that prof. Feser can answer those 8 question, since Viganò not answering:

    1. The answers to these 8 questions have been given over and over again, but they will never convince those who do not wish to believe one jot of Vigano's testimonial. Pitiful stuff ...

    2. We should throw you and Aquinian into Thunderdome and watch you fight it out.

      Liberal conspiracy theory vs Trad conspiracy theory.

      It would be most entertaining.

      BTW I only care about evidence.

    3. Nessuno ha mai risposto a queste domande, riformulo le principali:

      1) Perché Viganò non dimostra l'esistenza di questa direttiva che Francesco avrebbe disatteso?

      2) Perché Viganò non fece rispettare la direttiva a McCarrick nonostante fosse rappresentante pontificio?

      3) Perché Viganò ha mentito dicendo che McCarrick iniziò a frequentare il Vaticano "solo a partire dall'elezione di Francesco"? E' stato invece dimostrato che McCarrick frequentava la vita cattolica di New York e del Vaticano sotto agli occhi di Viganò e di Benedetto XVI.

      4) Perché Viganò accusa Francesco senza accusare Benedetto XVI e senza auto-accusarsi? McCarrick era assolutamente libero di fare quel che voleva quando Francesco era ancora in Argentina.

      Continuare a liquidare ciò come spazzatura non vi aiuterà.
      E' curioso che i cattolici americani che non si accorsero per decenni di tutti questi vescovi pedofili ora accusano un sacerdote argentino (il Papa).

  25. Sandro, I'd like, if possible, for your people to write a calm, clear, statement of exactly what Vigano has wrong, rather than this tabloid "lie, lie, lie" breathless and turgid effort.

    While they are at it, tell them not to burn down obvious straw men. Stick with what Vigano actually alleged. Attentive readers notice straw men immediately, and all credibility evaporates. Sorry!

    1. Le persone mentalmente cieche per natura non vedono prove.
      Nel dossier Viganò non c'è alcuna prova quindi bisogna credere a lui sulla fiducia, però in questo articolo sono elencate tutte le bugie di Viganò e tutta la sua ipocrisia.

      1) Ha accusato il Papa di aver disatteso presunte direttive che anche il suo predecessore aveva disatteso, dato che Viganò partecipava liberamente in Vaticano con Benedetto XVI.

      2) Viganò celebrava messa con McCarrick anche se sapeva che gli era vietato da presunte direttive e anche se sapeva che era un abusatore.

      3) Viganò ha celebrato pubblicamente McCarrick dicendo che "è amato da tutti noi", premiandolo come "Ambasciatore pontificio".

      4) Viganò, rappresentante del Papa, non ha mai fatto nulla per indurre McCarrick a una vita di basso profilo.

      Quindi Viganò sta accusando il Papa di comportamenti che per primo ha disatteso e per primo Benedetto XVI ha disatteso (McCarrick partecipò perfino al suo compleanno).

      Vorrei che il vostro filosofo del Pasadena City College rispondesse con calma a tutto questo.

  26. Such a well-written and well-thought out article -- I am proud to be a co-worker with you at Pasadena City College, even if in a different discipline. Words fail me. Kind regards, Dan Gallup PCC Math

  27. That's some surprisingly thin inference, from incomplete evidence - especially for a claim that you're "almost certain" of Vigano. Among the important issues you've left out:
    1. Most of Vigano's testimony applies to the papacy of Benedict, not Francis - yet it is Francis at whom you aim (just as did Vigano).
    2. Vigano is complicit in covering for McCarrick, for far longer than is Francis. I suspect God will take a dim view to "I told my boss" as a defense - and even if God did accept that, Vigano was complicit as soon as he handed McCarrick that award, smiling for the cameras … which behavior he explains as it would have been "impolite" to do otherwise. As though someone who "destroyed generations of priests" deserves polite behavior.
    3. Why did Vigano wait until it was obvious his career was well and truly over - and that the "short" papacy Francis told us he would have did not come true - before Vigano made his testimony?
    4. As even you admit, Francis has been silent against other major criticisms. This is not evidence.
    5. Benedict swore he would not intervene against Francis - and is, himself, accused. Why would he speak?
    6. You do not so much as consider the fact that the people speaking for and against Vigano line up almost exactly with their personal preferences for the type of pope we should have. What a coincidence!
    7. You fail to even consider alternative explanations. For example: Francis, prior to becoming pope, was never within a thousand miles of any sort of supervisory role over McCarrick. Even his worst critics describe McCarrick as charming. Add to this we know that the inner workings of the Vatican are, shall we say, not well run. So Francis, prior to his election, thinks McCarrick charming and intelligent, and knows nothing bad about him. After his election, no one hands Francis a report on McCarrick; he gets only the spontaneous testimony of Vigano, in a brief meeting, which he (Francis) shrugs off as hyperbole because, like other men Francis has misjudged, he likes McCarrick - and he assumes criticisms from people who've moved politically in the Vatican prior to Francis' election are still doing so when they criticize. However, as soon as a credible claim is the conclusion of an investigation of McCarrick, Francis realizes the truth of McCarrick's behavior, and publicly sacks the man (Even, we should add, before he is convicted of any crime, unlike other men Francis has misjudged). So what is Francis guilty of? Being duped -as were many others - by a gifted and intelligent speaker … which misjudgment he corrected immediately upon having actual evidence.

    And that's just ONE plausible alternative explanation. Until you dissect such alternatives, you haven't even begun a thorough exploration of the topic.

    1. I like this criticism of Feser's argument better then the ones that personally attacks Prof Feser(& repeat charges that have been answered).
      Just as I like criticisms that avoid partisanship and or weird conspiracies about Paul VI sexuality.

      Not that there might not be holes in your rebuttel. The only thing I would say to recomend it is that even Prof Feser concedes is it remotely possible Vigano is lying but he doesn't think is is likely.

      Theories about why Francis would promote McCCarick knowing his past should only come once we have established the charges.

      But if I was profain enough to bet money. I think I would go with Vigano.

      At the end of the day as Tony & Albinus said above. It doesn't matter if Pope Francis was St Pius X revividus. These charges much be taken seriously.

  28. I think you make some strong points. But your argument from Benedict's silence is a stretch.

    It seems clear to me that Benedict very deliberately chose as quiet a life as possible to avoid any interference with a new pope. I am inclined to think he would stay out of it no matter what the case is, unless Francis himself requested he say something

  29. Why is it that most everything we read about this matter as commented on by Italians requires us to suspend reason and logic and give unquestioning support to the Pope? The Pope has not earned the benefit of the doubt ... he has shown himself to be a "player" again and again.

    1. >Why is it that most everything we read about this matter as commented on by Italians requires us to suspend reason and logic and give unquestioning support to the Pope? The Pope has not earned the benefit of the doubt

      Here is what you do. Don't suspent reason and doubt. But do give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt and think of St Sir Thomas More giving the Devil Himself the benefit of law. Which he does for his own sake.

      Thus if Francis falls anytime soon from even stronger emmerging evidence then we can say we gave him every deference.

      So no conpiracy theories or fantastical flights of fancy. No alternative agendas. We should concentrate on these charges. Can they be verified beyond Vigano's word? Might someone else come forward?

      Follow the evidence no matter where it leads. If it pushes Francis off the Chair of Peter then so be it.

      If it makes him stronger then ever dina fash he will not live forever.

      It is that simple.

    2. There are different purposes of "the benefit of doubt", and they don't all apply to this situation here.

      For instance, in a court of law, a person is legally presumed innocent until proven guilty. But that presumption is to be made on the part of the judge and jury, not on the part of the police and the prosecutor, who have the definite obligation not to pursue conviction if they don't think there is good reason to convict. Once they have that good reason, it is their proper role to act on it by acting as if they think the reasons they have are good reasons for conviction. This is nothing other than acting on a belief of guilt. Even before the conviction is achieved.

      In a social setting, not a court of law, we also generally give a person a similar benefit of the doubt, but the standards of evidence are lower, because the "penalties" are lesser. Instead of a penalty that takes away what would OTHERWISE be civil rights (liberty, possession of one's money, even life), social penalties are loss of good name, the cold shoulder, etc. In the case of doubt about whether a person is truthful or unreliable, loss of ready belief in their word is even at a lower standard of proof than that of loss of a person's good name.

      When a pope issues an off the cuff statement that is blatantly heretical (say, "nobody can be consigned to hell forever"), one can give him the benefit of the doubt in a theological sense by admitting that he either (a) spoke without caution, or (b) had some unstated qualifiers in mind, or (c) made an inadvertent mistake. But these theological takes on his statement are not the same as a social response. A person can cease to consider a pope a careful thinker or careful speaker after only a couple of these kinds of gaffes, and come to the conclusion that he is a bit of a bumbler, without contradiction to charity.

      It is with respect to the pope's attempts to actually and properly TEACH the faithful that we are bound to give religious assent to his statements to the extent he intends to bind - but within the qualifications explained in detail by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1990 to theologians. The RESPECT demanded by the obligation for religious assent controls even when a theologian is convinced there is some unresolved problem with the pope's attempted teaching, but that respect does not require the theologian to be silent and not mention his problem to his superiors.

  30. The only thing more tedious then the liberal conspiracy theory that this is a conservative plot to take down Pope Francis is the radtrad sharks who are using the crisis to promote their anti-Vatican II agenda and conspiracy theories.

    The Church is divine in origin. I am convinced because no human institution could survive this level of self possessed idiocy.

  31. If Archbishop Vigano's assertions are substantially true, what can Pope Francis do to rescue his papacy? Simple--assume the high moral ground. How? By remaining silent, and construing that silence as an imitation of Jesus' own silence before His execution. If enough people buy into this defense and Francis' stature grows as a result, his strategy will have worked, at least temporarily. In any event, he would have no other choice than to keep quiet and hope this stance is sufficient to keep hidden pertinent records that might shed light on all these matters. Well that's my (very imperfect) take.

  32. Wow. There is so much partisanship and it obscures the important stuff. The McCarrick case is as close to being the root of the crisis of the scandal in the American Catholic Church as any. I think that it is very important to find out who had reason to know what about McCarrick and when. The last three Popes would be among the people whose record in that regard needs to be carefully examined. That said, I always bear in mind that we are talking about whether or not someone--say Pope Francis--had evidence in view sufficient to convince any sane, reasonable person that McCarrick was a whited sepulcher. Determining when a responsible party is culpable for not seeing through a plausible fraud like Cardinal McCarrick is always going to be a complicated matter.

    In the case of Vigano's allegations I have questions about what Vigano knew and when. It seems he admits he knew before McCarrick was Pope. That is clearly implied by his allegations. Next he says that Pope Francis lifted some sort of quiet sanctions that evidently were not enforced against McCarrick. Does he say when and how Pope Francis did this and what difference in made?

    If what Pope Benedict did regarding McCarrick, and what Pope Francis did--at least until the proof that 45 years ago Cardinal McCarrick abused a minor when a priest emerged in 2017--had essentially the same effect on McCarrick's continuing to appear to be a Cardinal in good standing with the Church in the eyes of all of us, why is Vigano so clearly going after Francis?

    If both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis failed to take action against Cardinal McCarrick when they should have, why wouldn't Francis actually be less culpable insofar as he would have been following the policy that he inherited from Benedict? I know that Vigano alleges just the opposite--that Francis lifted sanctions Benedict imposed--but as yet we have no documentary proof of either action and both must exist and eventually be produced. Yet I think I understand the Pope's initial response that the truth of the matter is in Vigano's statement should study it because to me it does logically imply that Popes failed to do what we the flock would hope they would have done with regard to McCarrick.

    In the interests of full disclosure I generally support Pope Francis. I concluded that the accusation that Bergoglio is changing, wants to change or is causing the faithful to lose faith in established Catholic doctrine about marriage is over stated after reading Amoris Laetitia and finding that it reaffirms the doctrine and advocates a certain pastoral approach that is not magisterial. I revered his predecessors as well and not more or less. I find the accusations by some against Francis that he wants to foster division in the Church rather ironic. I lament the imposition of secular political ideals by some as a lens for critiquing a Pope. I share the impatience of people with regard to Vidano's allegations and the response of the Pope and Pope emeritus, but I draw no conclusions as there could indeed be perfectly good reasons for not making the kind of statements Prof. Feser thinks any innocent Pope would make. I don't think the fact that Vidano is theologically conservative means that he is inherently more trustworthy now. I read this article respectfully because I care a lot about this. Some people want this Pope gone. I think that have allowed political partisanship often of a distinctly secular vintage to skew their Catholicism. This is only human, but if they imagine that their desire to see Vidano vindicated and Bergoglio disgraced and consequent rush to judgment is not very apparent it can only be because they lack all perspective. I am a lawyer and I learned long ago that I am asking to look foolish when I engage in the sort of speculation Prof. Feser has indulged in here. I wish everyone could take a step back and make sure that the good of the Church and not that of their faction within it was foremost in their minds when considering this intrigue.

    1. Wow. There is so much partisanship and it obscures the important stuff.

      Look, a lot of us here (and I think it is safe to include Ed in this) for a long time tried to defend Pope Francis and give him the benefit of a doubt on a lot of things. While there might have been variable receptivity to his message and actions, there was something of an attitude of trying to give some deference to Francis among many who would otherwise be considered theologically conservative. Does there appear to be something of a partisan divide here? Yeah, I'd say so. However, most of us who are now very critical of the pope to a long time to get to this position.
      This is all to say that our reaction is not some knee-jerk conservatism, but the conclusion of a long list of subtle (or not-so-subtle) messages that have been sent and actions that have been undertaken by Francis and those close to him.

      Determining when a responsible party is culpable for not seeing through a plausible fraud like Cardinal McCarrick is always going to be a complicated matter.

      Let's grant this for the sake of argument. After all, many have criticized John Paul II in particular on what seems to be his poor judgment of character. That still does not vindicate Pope Francis given that when you receive credible accusations from people who should be in the know about someone's character (in this case, McCarrick's), the response is not to brush it aside and give him a place of prominence among your closest and most influential advisers. If it is not outright dishonesty on the pope's part, it is at least a serious lack of prudence in dealing with McCarrick.

      In the case of Vigano's allegations I have questions about what Vigano knew and when. It seems he admits he knew before McCarrick was Pope. That is clearly implied by his allegations. Next he says that Pope Francis lifted some sort of quiet sanctions that evidently were not enforced against McCarrick. Does he say when and how Pope Francis did this and what difference in made?

      Not as far as I'm aware. What does it matter?

      If what Pope Benedict did regarding McCarrick, and what Pope Francis did--at least until the proof that 45 years ago Cardinal McCarrick abused a minor when a priest emerged in 2017--had essentially the same effect on McCarrick's continuing to appear to be a Cardinal in good standing with the Church in the eyes of all of us, why is Vigano so clearly going after Francis?

      Because Vigano is rather less concerned here with the effect (not to say it is completely unimportant) as he is in the fact that one pope ineffectively tried to impose consequences for McCarrick upon finding out about his actions while another made McCarrick a close adviser and an ally in spite of the credible accusations against him. Especially when the latter is preaching a zero-tolerance policy on abuse and is giving the guise of trying to weed out corruption, it is just to call him out for apparently not living up to the standard he is claiming to have in place.

      If both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis failed to take action against Cardinal McCarrick when they should have, why wouldn't Francis actually be less culpable insofar as he would have been following the policy that he inherited from Benedict? I know that Vigano alleges just the opposite--that Francis lifted sanctions Benedict imposed--but as yet we have no documentary proof of either action and both must exist and eventually be produced.

      Well he's told us where to find such documentation, and such an easily falsifiable statement lends prima facie credence to his position that cannot responsibly be dismissed out of hand.

    2. I know that Vigano alleges just the opposite--that Francis lifted sanctions Benedict imposed--but as yet we have no documentary proof of either action and both must exist and eventually be produced.

      There hasn't been a smoking gun, but there has been the "source close to Benedict" and also the report, confirmed by the Archdiocese of Washington, that at Vigano's request a meeting between McCarrick and seminarians was canceled. And we received virtually decisive evidence today that the Vatican (in particular the Secretariat of State, where Vigano was working in 2006) knew about McCarrick.

      Finally, it's hard to see that the seasoned journalists and commentators making the "Whaddya mean McCarrick was sanctioned?" reply are doing so in good faith. McCarrick visibly got a new lease on life when Francis was elected. Francis was evidently quite friendly with McCarrick. And who knows what to say in regards to the pope's "ribbing" about McCarrick's sinfulness? Do you think he always jokes with his pals about how evil they are?

      Again, there isn't a smoking gun. There's quite enough that encouraging investigation but declining to cooperate is not an adequate response.

      Yeah, there is a good chance that the truth would show that Vigano, Pope Benedict, and lots of other people should have done something about it too--or, if Vigano is telling the truth, that Pope Benedict should have done more. This is always the dilemma with whistleblowers in a corrupt organization. Everyone in a position to report could have done so earlier. That is a reason not to take every report at face value without further inquiry, nothing more.

  33. Well if any "new evidence" does emerge it will be because they have spent this last week frantically creating it. It my opinion, creativity is the greatest strength and gift of most gay men so i'm sure it will be a doozy.

  34. Holy Mother Church is seriously ill. What she needs are the prayers of her children and the cleansing light of truth.
    It's going to be painful and costly(perhaps to the breaking of the bank), but she will survive this. She most certainly will suffer the loss of a great many of her children, but she will be more holy in the end.
    The message of Our Lady of Akita warned that if we continued on the same road we were traveling that Satan would enter the Church and set priest against priest, bishop against bishop and cardinal against cardinal. Are we not seeing this now?

  35. Or...since we can be reasonably sure that Pope Benedict XVI would be obedient to the current pope, it is possible that Benedict has been forbidden to speak on these matters. Such a command would be totally in character for Pope Francis.

    1. While it is possible that Francis made such an order, it is (a) extremely unlikely that he did so without anyone else knowing about it. In which case the fact of the order would become known to everyone (eventually), and that's just about as bad. And it is also extremely unlikely that Francis not only gave such a command but also gave an additional command "and you are not to give any information about these orders either."

      It is also not clear to what extent such orders would be binding on Benedict: the pope emeritus is not a "vatican official" or part of the curia. It is even argued that he is not a cardinal any more. While he is under obedience to the Pope as any good Catholic is, the Pope's authority to tell just anyone what to do is not absolute.

  36. I agree with most of what you say but I have two points that I wonder about:

    * The argument that Francis could just release the documents if they proved him innocent:

    I suppose but it is, as you know notoriously difficult to prove a negative. What sort of documents would prove that no sanctions had been imposed? Surely if the nunciature released a stack of documents from the relevant time that said nothing about any sanctions we'd all be wondering if any papers made their way into the shredder.

    * Pope Emeritus Benedict could sort this all out.

    Maybe. He's also 91 and in poor health, a fact that I feel like people keep forgetting. He might well be fully possessed of his faculties and able to recall what he did with McCarrick but at 91 he might not be as sharp as he once was.

  37. Ayn Rand was also noticing a kind of leaning of the Catholic Church towards the Left. To me what she was saying did not make sense at the time I was reading it, but now it seems more likely. I think it would take a lot to change the direction of the CC back towards its traditional values.

  38. Clericalism, Narcissistic personalities (as a disorder), a culture of cover-up/secrets and pederasty or homosexual networks... all these things have contributed to the current problems. That isn't even to mention the Belgian or German problems.

    1. Okay Anonymous. Thank you for sharing.

  39. @Son of Ya'Kov "You are a fruitcake who has accused Pope Paul VI of being a secret Homosexual and you push SSPX propoganda."

    I'm an eye-witness to clerical sexual abuse (thank God the culprit didn't choose me!) at the age of twelve, in my Christian Brothers boarding school dormitory. In addition, I was propositioned twice by priests before I was twenty. It's a cesspit, and none of this stuff coming out in 2001-2, or now, is at all surprising to me. I formed the judgement back then that the clergy generally were utterly untrustworthy, and too many of them (one could not tell what percentage) were homosexuals. The better priests were pathetically weak, the bad ones positively dangerous. Alongside these experiences I noted the contarst between the traditional Dominican nuns who taught me in primary school, and the faithless Christian Brothers who refused to tell us the teachings of the Church in high school. I am not exaggerating, they absolutely refused, even when specifically asked, to tell us what the Church teaches. They didn't want to "impose" ideas on us, such was their utter Modernist confusion. A friend took me to the Latin mass, offered by an SSPX priest, and I never went back to the Novus Ordo, not once. I regard that as a very great grace indeed. That was thirty years ago. (The nuns were ultimately pushed out of their convent by Modernist feminist nutters - the leadership, and the majority - and ended up forming a new Dominican foundation in another state, where they still maintain tradition to this day. Good ladies.)

    With the perspective of a few decades, my convictions have not really changed. I think that the introduction of the New Mass was symptomatic of a loss of faith, and it in turn devastated the faith of many. You can call this "SSPX propaganda" forty times a day and you'll have less effect on me than that of the wake from a gnat's wings. Almost none of the boys I went to school with in the early 'eighties practiced their faith after leaving, and today virtually none of their kids is a Catholic at all. My wife and I, supported by the traditional faith, the traditional mass and sacraments, and avoiding all of the modern poison as far as possible, have raised nine practicing Catholics. People are astounded, but what we've done was NORMAL prior to 1960. It's only astounding today because of the phenomenal devastation of the new church environment, the almost-universal addiction to contraceptives preventing more than two or three children arriving, and the pathetic weakness of faith which results in the faith not being handed down.
    We take no credit; we are grateful, because God has done this as He always did, via His divinely established religion. The new religion cannot do it, precisely because it's man-made. Nor is our family remarkable amongst traditionalists. Go to St. Mary's Kansas and see scores of such families, happy, well-adjusted, normal Catholic families, unlike the poverty-stricken facsimiles which barely hold together in the Novus Ordo parishes. You say you are convinced by evidence, well go have a look at the evidence, it's spectacular.

    1. Hey buddy!

      The Priest who married me and my wife was ordained by Pope Pius XII himself and he could quote Homer in Greek and he was quite the enthusiast for Latin in the Mass.

      He was also caught in a bathroom down by the beach trying to sexually assault a mentally handicapped boy. I haven't watched my own wedding video in 20 years. It is too painful so spare me your playing the victim card to justify your foul slander of Pope Paul VI you fruitecake! My own elderly Italian relatives told me horror stories about how the Priest in their village openly had a mistress. Indeed may of them did. This was WAY before Vatican II buddy. I have encountered "Traditional Catholicism" in my time and before Feser most of these people where lunatic Geocentrists, holocaust deniers, conspircy theorists, and vicious anti-Semites like Bishop Williamson whose hatred of Jews is offensive to any follower of the Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth Son of the Jewess Miriam that it is extended to even Jewish Converts to the Catholic Faith.

      If it wasn't for that sane minority like Feser I would have written you lot off long ago as un-redeemable as the liberal. I am still tempted these days.

      Let us not forget the fact the SSPX itself has not been immunized from sex abuse.

      How did the Novus Ordo cause Kevin Gerard Sloniker who was safely inside the society to abuse people? Isn't the SSPX some super perfect safe space?

      Give me a break! You are living in a fantasy land. If we abrogated the Paul VI liturgy tomorrow the Slonikers of the world would still make a pass at you only they would do it in Latin. Vatican II is not the problem. We Catholics are the problem. We have ALWAYS been the Problem from St Paul's letters till today.

      So spare me.

  40. When I think of what might have been, had not our parents' generation of priests and parents, thrown away all that they received from the previous generation, I feel a profound sadness at all of the unhappiness, the loss of the supernatural, the total tragedy of the whole thing, as unnecessary as it was insane. Joseph Ratzinger was a prime mover in this gigantic project to re-make the Church, and is as responsible as anybody for its fruits. He just doesn't LIKE some of those fruits, and wishes that he could have his new, worldly, man-centred, religion without the (actually inevitable) devastation. So this is not "conservative vs liberal" as far as I'm concerned, it's "What think ye of Christ?" and "He who is not with Me, is against Me." It's all or nothing - you either get away from the whole stinking ball of wax, or you suffer the consequences. (Have a read about the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate if you want yet another tragic example - "evidence" it's called.) And did not the same Christ Who established the Church tell us to fly from false prophets, and instruct us to take care to discern them, looking past their disguising woollen clothing?

    Son of Ya'Kov, ask yourself what you really know about all of this, and then have a good hard think about how responsible it is to go around carrying water for these Modernists, and helping, as far as you can, to keep their victims penned in with them. And cut the crap about who's a Catholic. Heretics are not Catholics, as the Fathers tell us in season and out of season. Where is anybody calling others "heretics" today? Virtually nowehere, and it's obvious why that is. In a milieu in which "the faith" is whatever Francis says it is on his latest joy flight, there's no objective standard, no fixed content, against which to assess any claim of heresy. When faith no longer exists as a fixed standard, there can be no grasp of what the very concept of "heresy" means, so it falls away, and we're left with only one principle, obedience. Hence all of the accusations - including by you - of "schism", but nary a word about heresy. What, technically and precisely, is a structure in which there's no rule of law, only "obedience" (selectively applied)? It's a tyranny. The Church is not a tyranny. Ponder that.

    1. Every thing you just wrote is based on sentiment and emotion. Any Atheist or Protestant could have written it as an appeal to give up either Catholicism or Theism in general.

      I am a Thomist I only believe in reason over mere sentiment.

      I am not impressed and I have NEVER been impressed with "Traditionalist" polemics against Vatican II. Mostly because they are ironically themselves what they accuse Vatican II of being. Ambiguous! I can point to the false councils of "second ephesus" and or " Council of Rimini" and point out the heterodox texts. I can't get the same from any Trad on Vatican II. The closest I got was from some Sede who complained about the salvation of invincibly ignorant non-Catholics who followed the light God gave them till I cited Pius XII, St Pius X and Pius IX and Alexander VIII all teaching the same thing.

      There is a lot of complaining about Vatican II as a concept but little rational criticism of the text. If you can't show me a specific text then I don't want to hear it. If I want BS I'll talk to a politician or a Vatican Bureaucrat.

      Anyway I don't do conspiracy theories. They are for the weak minded. I am not interested in your right wing version of a Dan Brown novel or your slanders of Paul VI come with evidence or go home.

      Again going back to WWII we have these reports. Heck we can go back to the denial of sex abuse to Freud who said all his patents who told him of being abused by their fathers where nothing but fantasies.

      This denial of this sickness of sex abuse in society transends your foul attempt to use this crisis to push your own agenda over and against solving the problem.

      I agree with Cardinal Burke. The SSPX are schismatic. Ironically you have the "Liberal" Pope Francis to thank for any normalization your sect enjoys. If another conservative comes after Francis I doubt he will be so patent. But we shall see.

  41. @Son of Ya'Kov: "Every thing you just wrote is based on sentiment and emotion."

    No, much of it was testimony, which is itself evidence, and the rest was reasoned inference, based upon the principles of reason and of St. Thomas Aquinas.

    You claim to be a Thomist? How about displaying some calm, dignity, and self-respect?

    1. >You claim to be a Thomist? How about displaying some calm, dignity, and self-respect?

      You accused Pope Paul VI of being a homosexual based on charges made by a French pederast who also accused Pius XII.

      That is not dignity or respect. That is being a fruitcake.

  42. I don’t really know what the accusations against Pope Francis are about but I wish to ask this: Doesn’t the Catholic Church have institutions which sort out any such questions? The Magisterium I believe it is called. Do these institutions include American philosophers blogging? Or perhaps are these institutions inadequate which would justify an American archbishop’s choice to move the discussion into the public sphere? And in any case shouldn’t the Catholic layman have trust in the wisdom of the institutions of the Church?

    As for the danger of the Catholic Church splitting up, I must say this seems to me to be wildly or even comically overblown. First of all not all of the Catholic Church suffers from the religious conservatism or fundamentalism that characterizes Christianity in the US. And secondly I happen to have enormous respect for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for it was the only American institution that spoke publicly against the unjustified Iraq war which killed a huge number of innocent people. I read that the USCCB’s purpose is “To act collaboratively and consistently on vital issues confronting the Church and society”. After a short search I find the USCCB has only good things to say about Pope Francis, for example here. Don’t laymen in the US trust at least their own institution?

    1. I don’t really know what the accusations against Pope Francis are about

      It is easy to read Vigano's claims. Or even a summary of them. They are fairly direct. You can get informed if you want to.

      Doesn’t the Catholic Church have institutions which sort out any such questions?

      No. There are no Church organs whose job it is to investigate and pass muster on the Pope.

      The Magisterium I believe it is called.

      No. The Magisterium is the teaching office, held primarily by the bishops. It's job is to teach the truth, not to investigate, try, and punish malefactors.

      Or perhaps are these institutions inadequate which would justify an American archbishop’s choice to move the discussion into the public sphere?

      Events have proven that currently the bishops' organs are inadequate to the crisis. The fact is clear and manifest.

      And in any case shouldn’t the Catholic layman have trust in the wisdom of the institutions of the Church?

      No. The shenanigans of the bishops and cardinals and (arguably, at this moment) the Pope show that the layman should not put his trust in these men to correct the evils, no matter how they are organized into cadres and conferences and committees. Not, that is, without a very heavy dose of outside input, such as from Catholic laymen. The Catholic should put his trust first in God, who will not allow Satan to completely defeat the Church, but who does allow Satan to triumph over this or that bishop, conference, or dicatery.

      The Catholic can have confidence in the Church as a whole - including the entire historical Church (and therefore, includes the Church Triumphant which is already in heaven, and the Church suffering who have died in the state of grace but need purification before gaining heaven), but this confidence in the entire length of the Church throughout history does not require confidence in the US conference of bishops, or the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, or any other specific institution in the Church at this time.

      First of all not all of the Catholic Church suffers from the religious conservatism or fundamentalism that characterizes Christianity in the US.

      Describing the Church in the US as "conservative or fundamentalist" is so wildly inaccurate that is is hard to imagine a less valid description. In the large scale of things, the Church in America is vastly liberal, only slightly less so than that of western Europe and Canada. That "slightly" is like two inch ripples moving south on the top of a 16 foot wave moving north. If you want "conservative" for the Catholic Church, I am afraid you must search elsewhere - perhaps Africa will do. In any case, it is precisely the "liberal Church" that is creating the concern of a split or schism: if the Church's bishops kept on teaching what the Apostles taught, there would be no danger of schism. It is the bishops in the west who have abandoned the teaching of the Apostles who are driving causes of schism.

      Don’t laymen in the US trust at least their own institution?

      Have you ever heard the expression "eternal vigilance"? As long as power is entrusted to fallen men, there will be men who succumb to evil in their use of power, and who need to be brought up short by other men engaged in constant vigilance. This is part of the proper role of the laity, to engage in such vigilance precisely because, not being in the seat of power, they are not being swayed by its temptations. There is no contradiction between trust in God's promise to protect the Church from complete destruction, and vigilance against malfeasance from God's designated ministers. God uses the laity as his tool to aid the Church too.

    2. Tony, You write:

      “The Magisterium is the teaching office, held primarily by the bishops. It's job is to teach the truth, not to investigate, try, and punish malefactors.”

      I was speaking about sorting out the truth, not about trials and punishments. I mean what is happening to you?

      “Events have proven that currently the bishops' organs are inadequate to the crisis.”

      Aha, and you are the judge who has decided this.

      And in any case shouldn’t the Catholic layman have trust in the wisdom of the institutions of the Church?

      “The shenanigans of the bishops and cardinals and (arguably, at this moment) the Pope show that the layman should not put his trust in these men to correct the evils, no matter how they are organized into cadres and conferences and committees.”

      It seems you think the laymen have a better understanding than those who lead the Catholic Church.

      “Describing the Church in the US as "conservative or fundamentalist" is so wildly inaccurate that is is hard to imagine a less valid description.”

      I never said that the Catholic Church in the US is conservative or fundamentalist. You are so angry you are not even reading what the other person is saying.

      You really should think a little about the virtue of humility. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit – gently but surely. Your job is to repent, not to save the CC from Satan.

    3. You couldn't have said it better Danielos. Fully agree with you. Some people here think that the Holy Spirit guides them better than the officials of the Church. In stead of praying for the Church and its sheperds, we prefer to quibble about how awful they are.

  43. The principle allegation of Msgr. Vigano against Francis is that he having knowledge of the depravity and moral malignancy (capacity to corrupt others) of Cardinal McCarrick, failed to protect the Church, failed in his pastoral duty.
    Mr. Feser says that this allegation is credible because there is a pattern of Francis failing to act against the infestation of homosexuality in the clergy, suggesting his complicity with such an infestation.
    But this does not really add anything to the argument of Msgr. Vigano who also argues from the pattern to the point in case. In other words Msgr. Vigano has no evidence about the point in case. In other words it all comes down to a smear job.
    First fact: Francis, not Benedict, not John Paul II, is the Pontiff who takes definitive action against Vigano. So how can you argue that he took no action?
    Second fact: Msgr. Vigano takes no definitive action against McCarrick. He sends a couple of reports to his superiors in the Vatican about him, but he doesn’t communicate to his superior, Francis except when he blurts a few phrases out when he is in a tiff with Francis because he has just understood that Francis does not want politicized, ideologized Culture Warriors as bishops. Did Msgr. Vigano not keep copies of the reports that he sent to the Vatican? Why doesn’t he publish them?

  44. Now let us examine the so called evidence that Francis has failed to act against the infestation of homosexuality among the clergy. Mr. Feser says that there is a pattern of actuations of Francis which show both a dereliction of duty with respect to such a (supposed) infestation and complicity with it.

    The idea of an INFESTATION reminds me of the language that Trump uses to describe the infestation of the United States by dangerous illegal aliens. If one denies that there is such an INFESTATION (either of dangerous illegal aliens or of homosexual priests) one is accused of being a “man without a chest” (Rod Dreher using a phrase of C.S. Lewis, cited also by the so called “wonderful” homily of Father Lankheit in the cathedral of the diocese of Phoenix

    It occurs to me that those who are attacking Francis coincide quite generally with those whose ideas about immigrants coincide with Trump, or with the ideas about immigration entertained by the European Far Right.
    These people love to talk about INFESTATIONS. They love to use the broad brush. They love pogroms.

  45. 1. The end of the story about the priest Inzolli (Francis defrocked him once again) and about Barros and Chile is not told. The Pope changed his mind about these cases. 2. The story about Ricca is given as if it were from the Telegraph, whereas it is from the Francis-loathing Sandro Magister who puts trust his nebulous undisclosed sources above the judgement of Francis--based on investigation-- that the charges against Ricca were not founded. (Acceptable practice for Francis-haters, right?) 3. Francis has not only been able to condemn those he had formerly defended, but also defend the innocence of those he had formerly condemned—when evidence called for it.

    Do those attacking the Pope ever show such zeal such humility, such zeal for the truth?

    The anti-Francis mafia champions rigorism in matters of sexual ethics, but NOT in matters of bearing false witness against thy neighbor.

    I do not think personally that Vigano is LYING, but that he has allowed his rational thinking to be domintated by his passions.

  46. There does seem to have been some "sanction" (or some private request/order to lie low and refrain from appearances in public) for McCarrick from Benedict.

    These sanctions are indicative of the fact that McCarrick's case WAS investigated by Pope Benedict and that the sanctions were the result of a responsibly made evaluation of the evidence.

    But McCarrick did not heed the sanctions, and that there was no ulterior enforcement.

    There is no evidence that Pope Francis REVERSED anything; there is only an insinuation that he did.

    The fact, or supposition, that McCarrick may have advised Francis about episcopal nominations does not mean that Francis made McCarrick his "counsellor" or that he was "Kingmaker" as Vigano says.

    The most probable source of these judgements on Vigano's part is his personal resentment of the fact that Pope Francis had set him to one side on account of his obvious adherence to the "Culture Wars", which approach Francis clearly disavowed from the very beginning, and which approach Vigano had made his own.

  47. Pope Francis in various remarks cited by Vigano and elsewhere shows signs of being informed about the homosexuality of McCarrick and about his moral malfeasance—even before Msgr. Vigano blurted out a synthesis of the matter to his face.

    Would the critics of Francis prefer to have a Pope who was oblivious to the accusations and rumors which swirled against McCarrick which swirled about?

    Pope Francis showed himself to be wary both of McCarrick and of Vigano. And in both cases he is proved right!

  48. Can we blame Pope Francis if he follows the very same line as Pope Benedict with regard to McCarrick: that is He let the sleeping dog lie—for a time.

    Let us remember that the sleeping dog was already in his eighties, and that there WERE rumors about him in circulation. This made him considerably less dangerous, I should think. Let us remember that in the last years there had been NO MORE accusations of McCarrick abusing priests and seminarians

    And then Francis did act against him, when abuse of minors (many years ago) came into question. If Francis was weak, Benedict was perhaps even weaker, and weakest of all was John Paul II, who did nothing but promote McCarrick.

  49. Now let us have a look at the supposed evidence of the complicity of Francis with the so-called infestation of homosexuality in the clergy, with the so called BLOB of homosexuality and abuse of minors. (I believe that there is a grave problem of abuse and coverup in the Church; and I believe that homosexual acts and celibacy are repugnant and that priesthood and homosexual practice are repugnant. What I don't believe in is this so-called infestation, the BLOB)

    1. The end of the story about the priest Inzolli (Francis defrocked him once again) and about Barros and Chile is not told. The Pope changed his mind about these cases. 2. The story about Ricca is given as if it were from the Telegraph, whereas it is from the Francis-loathing Sandro Magister who puts trust his nebulous undisclosed sources above the judgement of Francis--based on investigation-- that the charges against Ricca were not founded. (Acceptable practice for Francis-haters, right?) 3. Francis has not only been able to condemn those he had formerly defended, but also defend the innocence of those he had formerly condemned—when evidence called for it.

    Do those attacking the Pope ever show such zeal for the truth and such humility?

  50. The anti-Francis mafia champions rigorism in matters of sexual ethics, but NOT in matters of bearing false witness against thy neighbor.

    I do not think personally that Vigano is LYING, but that he has allowed his rational thinking to be domintated by his passions.

  51. Pope Francis has been doggedly fighting against clericalism, avarice, pharisaical rigorism (with its subset manichean homophobic rigorism). God bless him for that.

    Pope Francis has defended Thomistic moral theology in Amoris Laetitia (cfr. Walter Kasper, cfr. Cardinal Schönborn, who are greater Thomists than thee, Edward Feser).

    Thomistic ethics is rooted above all in Evangelical ethics, which is anti-pharisaical and thus anti-rigorist.

    Rigorists are always at the same time laxists, because their morality is essentially about exterior things, about man’s law rather than God’s law: rigorists regarding others and laxists regarding themselves.

  52. There is MUCH more direct evidence of Vigano's having been involved in the coverup of (Culture War) bishop Nienstedt than there is of Pope Francis being involved in coverup.

    Bishop Nienstedt asked his auxiliary bishops to investigate claims about his purported homosexual misbehavior.

    Both bishops understood that Vigano had asked them in a meeting to quash/restrict/bring to a hasty conclusion the investigation against Msgr. Nienstedt. They wrote a communication to him about it. His response, which he continues to make was that THEY MISUNDERSTOOD HIM, the dunderheads. And he asked that the communication, please, be destroyed.

    Vigano tells us that he demanded that Nienstedt BE CONSULTED before investigating a lead suggesting Bishop Nienstedt had a gay relationship with a member of the Swiss Guard while he was working in Rome. (Besides 11 "compelling afidavits" against Nienstedt there were many other leads which the restricted investigation would no longer have time and permission to look into. The law firm refused to work under these new restrictions; apparently the investigation was not supposed to be a real investigation, but the auxiliaries were just supposed to help their bishop get out of the pinch.

    Vigano tells us that he told "the Greene Espel lawyers [Green Espel being the firm helping the auxiliary bishops to investigate the charges of misbehavior against Bishop Nienstedt] that it appeared to me appropriate that Archbishop Nienstedt be heard before taking this step – audiatur et altera pars – which they had not yet done. The bishops accepted my suggestion."

    What a noble sense of fairness! Audiatur et altera pars! Too bad Vigano could not exercize this sense of fairness with Pope Francis.

    (Too bad someone like Sandro Magister couldn't exercize this same sense of fairness with Msgr. Ricca, also accused of having a homosexual relation with a member of the Swiss Guard.)

    With Francis Msgr. Vigano is absolutely unfair, engages in big time smearing and accusations without any evidence, demanding that the documentation that he could not be bothered to gather come flying out of the Vatican, because he is really upset with the Pope. (Taking advantage of the fact that no chicken-livered American bishop wants to appear at this momeent in time as an abetter of coverups by defending the Pope.)

  53. Who is sincerely working for an authentic reform of the Church Msgr. Vigano or Pope Francis? I believe and offer my opinion to Mr. Feser and all of his ilk that it is the Holy Father. The homophobic rhetoric of Msgr. Vigano does not indicate any authentic zeal for Christian morality. The homophobes addressing the abuse crisis are incapable of offering the Church any genuine pastoral guidence. They are all bark and no bite. Their moral vision is merely epidermal and carnal. They offer only a spirituality of hate.

    Pope Francis is a human being who may have his weaknesses, but since the beginning of his pontificate he has defended an authentically evangelical approach to the office of Peter. I find that his figure is increasingly Christlike before the ruthless attacks of his enemies, who seek to destroy both his credibility and his legacy.

  54. Cark Kuss

    You are the opposite extremist to clowns like Aquinian(who thinks Paul VI is a secret homosexual based on charges brought by a French Pederast who also accused Pius XII of being gay).

    You are motivated by politics. Feser supports "Trump" (or some equally right wing, not that it matter) blah blah blah.....

    Just as your counter part is motivated by Church politics & an idolatrous love of one particular liturgical rite.

    Feser has been fair. Even if I might have quibbled with a minor point or two he has been fair. Your posts are merely emotive not substansive.

    Give it a rest. There is a genuine crisis in the Church going all the way to the top. It must be deal with soberly by faithful Catholics and the last thing we need is extremist factions in the church wasting time gumming up the works seeking advantage.

    1. Vigano really does not present evidence regarding his central accusations, he smears, he shows his own subjective disaffection with Francis having a clear relation with factors that are clearly discernible in his biography. I point this out and I am charged with merely emoting and having no arguments.

    2. It seems that both Pope Benedict and Francis came to the conclusion that McCarrick (post 2009-2010) is not the incarnation of all evil and highly dangerous.

      It has now appeared that he abused minors at an early stage in his career (something that came out only this year.) He did apparently invite seminarians into his bed. It is interesting how Viganò describes his reaction to the accusations regarding seminarians like it was no big deal. I find that abnormal and disgusting, make no mistake.

      Could it be that a repressed memory of abuse creates a mechanism by which one excuses such homosexual behavior? This makes McCarrick pathetic, but being pathetic is somewhat different from being a present and imminent danger to others, as a pederast is.

      A person who has at one point in his life abused a minor sexually should not be simply called a practicing pederast for the rest of his life. That of course does not mean that a careful judgement (involving experts) doesn't have to be made about his case.

      I assume that Pope Benedict made such a careful judgement. I assume that Pope Francis was in agreement with that judgement.

      I see no evidence that Pope Francis lifted sanctions. I am sure that neither Benedict nor Francis was happy with the globetrotting of McCarrick in recent years, and that they, and all those who had heard the rumors about McCarrick saw this with disgust.

      Benedict told him to cool it/imposed sanctions. Should he have defrocked him? In hindsight? These are difficult questions.

    3. You affirm that I belong to some extremist faction because I defend Francis and the reform that he represents, but I also defend Benedict and John Paul II, both of whom represented a certain reform, though each one of these may have made mistakes.

      I have nothing against these mistakes being brought to light.

      Feser and Vigano clearly belong to an extremist faction which has sadly become rather widespread in the U.S.: those who are willing to attack Francis by any means available, to paint him as the spider at the center of the "homosexualist" web, whereas what Francis has done steadily and consciously since the beginning of his pontificate is attack 1. Clericalism 2. Moral rigorism 3. The Culture Wars approach to poltics, an approach vitiated by Manichean thinking, integralism and theocracy (cfr. the essay of Fr. Spadaro.

      (Feser in his fanatic commitment to the Death Penalty shows his sympathy with the integralist conception of the Church-State relation, a conception which the Church has rejected especially since the Second Vatican Council, and in fact already before the Council.)

    4. The Franciscan reform has been opposed by people who align themselves with Trump, or with the European far right. I am just noting the fact. The Franciscan reform is ecclesiological and spiritual, not political. It just happens to be opposed by people for political (i.e. worldly) reasons.
      In the battle for his reform, which Francis has waged boldly, Francis has had to make do with the allies who were available to him. And there you will have imperfect men. One has to do with what one has.
      I am not saying, by the way that McCarrick is merely an imperfect man, but one should ask the people who knew him (or thought they knew him) if he was a monster. People such as Cardinal O’Farell and Cardinal Wuerl. They were shocked by the revelations. They did not and do not think of him as a monster. Life is strange, isn’t it?

    5. It looks like Cardinal Wuerl is going to retire now. The anti-Francis faction is going to paint him as an evil person, something he was not. Just ask those who know him. They are going to paint him as a "homosexualist" and as someone guilty of coverup of abuse.

      Oh sure he appears often enough in the Pennsylvania findings. He was I suppose a cog in the machine of coverup. That was what the Pennsylvania findings affirm that there was a SYSTEM of coverup, with the strong suggestion that this system was CHURCHWIDE. This means that the Churchwide system must be reformed.

      But the anti-Francis faction is not interested in reform. They want scapegoats. They want blood. They want to wash their hands, so that they don't have to consider their own errors.

      You can see this in the fact that they are presently objecting to the interest that Pope Francis has been showing, ESPECIALLY IN RECENT MONTHS, in the victims of abuse. They say that this distracts from the GREAT PURGE OF HOMOSEXUAL CLERGY which they propose. A purge mind you, nothing pastoral, nothing that really has to do with conversion, charity or genuine care for the sheep.

    6. But the anti-Francis faction is not interested in reform. They want scapegoats. They want blood. They want to wash their hands, so that they don't have to consider their own errors.

      They say that this distracts from the GREAT PURGE OF HOMOSEXUAL CLERGY which they propose.

      Carl Kuss, you are not seeing the truth clearly, and one suspects that your apparent animus against the outspoken advocates of traditional, standard, orthodox Catholicism is at fault: It is precisely as part of the needed reform that Catholics are calling for a purge of the homosexualist clergy. A NECESSARY part of the reform: for behold, it is the lack of response by the hierarchy to the abuses going on that is a critical element of the crisis: you can't feasibly claim "we are fixing it" without being seen to go after the abusers.

      But note carefully: while it is patently true that the crisis resides in and among the homosexual clergy and their enablers, the orthodox, believing Catholics are NOT calling for a purge of every single priest who suffers from same-sex attraction. If a priest has the disordered inclinations, but (a) has never acted on them in sin with another male, or even (b) has given in to temptation once or twice in the distant past, repented, and turned away from that lifestyle without ever once trying to twist the channels of power to protect him, nobody is trying to discover his distant past and purge him from the clergy. It is true that his SSA problem should have disqualified him from the seminary, and in any well-run system it would disqualify him, but not with any animus against him personally. It is improper and uncharitable to put him into a situation so ripe with temptation to him, neither he nor his superiors should want that for him, and EVEN ASIDE from the fact that a homosexual priest is not going to be as capable of making manifest the "nuptial meaning of the Church" as the bride of Christ, it is just a bad idea all around. But all that aside, if he was ordained a priest, and has lived for 2 or 3 decades as a priest without damaging the Church by grave sins of unchastity with other men (or unintentionally but effectively undermining the Church's teachings on the disorder of homosexuality) he can go on performing his ministry as best he can. He is not the problem. The problem is all the homosexual priests who give the lie to chaste marriage by their behavior, and by their deformed preaching, and (especially) by their corrupting the seats of power in the Church through their covering for each other and demanding the same from bishops. Such priests publicly damage the Church, and should be purged. This includes a significant number of bishops and even cardinals.

    7. I would rather put it this way: The People of God have a right to clerics who are faithful to their commitment to celibacy, as part of their commitment to serving the Church. This centers the thing in the People of God, i.e. the Church and not in a clericalist apparatus that "runs a system" and realizes purges (a term which is redolent of Stalinism).

      It is like the case of matrimony. A woman has the RIGHT to her husband's fidelity. She can raise hell about it because it is her right to raise hell.

      Still you wouldn't say that women have the right to purge unfaithful husbands, would you?
      What would be wrong with such a purge? Think about it.

      Raising hell is more open-ended. It allows the possibility of repentence and reconciliation. That can be the fruit of raising hell.
      (Suppose that there was someone like McCarrick who repented of his sins. I am not saying that McCarrick repented of his sins, but I am saying that different cases are possible, that there are many possible scenarios in this game.)

      But a purge by definition does away with all the fine distinctions that a genuinely pastoral approach presupposes.

      (And I know that by talking about a genuinely pastoral approach I have got the anti-Francis faction grinding their teeth and fuming at me. They will screech “Why that sounds like Amoris Laetitia”! And you are right it does sound like Amoris Laetitia. But a genuinely pastoral approach MEANS an approach full of zeal for the Kingdom of God, just as purges mean Stalinism, bloodlust and in this specific case homophobia.)

      Yes I know that homosexual acts are gravely sinful, that they constitute a sin that cries out for vengeance. But sin is a highly spiritual and personal matter. A Police state is NOT the answer to sin. A police state is not an adequate means to realize that hatred of sin which corresponds to an authentic love of God.

  55. I am surrounded by nutters on the far left and far right.

  56. Ben, Jesus was not a "Rabbi." He was opposed to the Jewish establishment.

    1. Radtrads, Atheists and Protestants and now we can add Marconites. Oh my!

      Where are the Lions and tigers and bears when you need them?

  57. I think Archbishop Vigano is telling the truth. But I don't think it matters. Either way, Pope Francis now knows what 'Uncle Ted' is accused of, but he isn't swinging from a gibbet in St. Peter's Square, is he? Until I can watch that on LiveLeak, I'm with Archbishop Vigano: Pope Francis must resign. I am,


    "Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomor′rah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground."

    1. Beware of clergy and churchmen who work for the Vatican ll Church. They are controlled opposition.

  58. Totally agree with Carl Kuss. If you read Vigano's documents he makes all kinds of unsubstantiated claims not to mention keeping Pope JPII's secretary out entirely while talking of McCarrick's appointment. Everything in his document is a "He said" "She said" "I knew it meant" without any proof of letters.

  59. I remain in considerable doubt that Pope Benedict's effectively private chastisement of McCarrick that Vigano claims makes sense, and was not itself a clear failure to take action. And that failure would be on the pope's part, not (primarily) that of Wuerl or McCarrick.

    Secondly, I remain unconvinced by Vigano's "explanation" of why he made nice comments about McCarrick at the event designed to praise McCarrick: why was he even there to begin with? He should have absented himself - even if he didn't have the balls to do so publicly and vociferously (as in "hell, no, I would never attend an event like that"), he could always "arrange" to have other commitments and merely refer to them - "I am so sorry, I have other commitments". It is silly in the extreme, I am afraid, to simply pass over his choosing to be there in the first place as if it were not a signal failure in its own right.

    I also don't think I get why Vigano thinks now is the right time to have acted. Yeah, McCarrick's sins have now come out. So? He knew of the problems long before, and he could have acted a long time ago.

    Although I don't think Vigano is per se lying, I suspect there is more to the story than we understand so far. I don't know what.

    1. Tony,

      Isn't it obvious? This is politics. Pope Francis is a liberal. Archbishop Vigano is a conservative. We - and I consider myself a conservative - lost the conclave and now we're fighting back. Archbishop Vigano's testimony is, I hope, part of a greater conspiracy that will pressure Pope Francis to resign. Then, we can elect a proper conservative.

      Call this struggle, and the teams, whatever you'd like, but that's what this is. And while we mustn't lie, politics isn't about getting to the truth, it's about winning. And I hope we win, for a little longer. Because when we've really lost, it's going to be miserable. Imagine, imagine trying to fight the good defeat with even the Holy Father against us? No thanks. We're not Protestants; we need worldly signs of Christ's promises. I am,


    2. @Tony

      Your doubts about Vigano are interesting since you will criticize the Holy Father's theology at the drop of a hat(which I am not complaining about mind you even if I disagree on some secondary points and agree on others).

      What is called for is a dispassionate look into the matter devoid of politics.

      I said it before and I will say it again. If Francis was as conservative as Pius XII but pulled this nonsense a case can be made that he should go.

      OTOH even if he is as liberal as Charles Coran that would not give Vigano license to torpedo his Papacy just so we can elect a more "conservative" Pope next time.

      Right is right and wrong is wrong and we need to investigate this with facts not ideology.

      Keep up the good work man.

    3. Tony: I suspect there is more to the story than we understand so far. I don't know what.

      That may be the most sensible comment on the whole matter that I have read. (Arguably the only sensible comment.)

  60. Philip Lawler a strong critic of Pope Francis makes the case AGAINST Pope Francis resigning even if he is guilty.

    1. I disagree with Lawler here, even though I usually think he is spot-on. If the Pope resigns in the midst of public outcry, he should make it 100% clear that his resignation is not on account of the public outcry, but on account of no longer being able to carry out the office of pope, no longer able to be an effective "servant of the servants of God". This would be true because of his untenable position as the person charged with cleaning up the corruption, including the corruption that brought him to power.

      Even so, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that public outcry could be a factor that brings him to REALIZE that he cannot fulfill the duties of the office. Here's how: with public outcry, more and more bishops, and even more and more cardinals, would have the courage (or, in many cases, the "courage") to stand up to Francis and say "no". No to ongoing corruption, no to carrying out his requests that are pernicious, no to cooperating with business as usual, ultimately even no to EVERYTHING that they can possibly convince themselves they are not strictly obliged to obey from Francis. No to Peter's Pence, for example. Call up and say "you know that 5th year ad limina visit...I can't make it now. Nor next month. How about in 3 years..." Anything and everything that could possibly be delayed or ignored: this is the non-compliance that could bring Francis to his knees, if anything other than DIRECT grace can do so. And the more there is a public outcry, and public support for cardinals doing non-compliance, the more cardinals will feel able to employ it without damaging the Church irreparably.

      So, it could happen. And without being destructive of the papacy. In the ultimate analysis, leaving a failed and corrupt person in place because his leaving is disruptive is not enough of a good reason. The papacy will survive, just as the Church will. If getting him to realize he needs to leave is what it takes, well, that's the way the ball bounces. Let the truth reign.

    2. Agreed. The idea that a resignation must be invalid in the mere presence of pressure is absurd. If it's a free decision, then it's a free decision regardless of the circumstances. There is a substantial difference between freely resigning under pressure and being forced to resign.

  61. Vigano is controlled opposition. He plays both sides. He works and is part of the mainstream church.

  62. Why does Vigano play games with Catholics? He should have created change or he should have left the mainstream Church, long ago. What is his real reason for speaking out,why now? He seems only to give false hope.