US bishops continue to respond to Viganò testimony

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano Credit   CNA Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. | CNA

Since Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler first responded Saturday to the former US nuncio's testimony which alleged sex abuse cover-up by the pope and several other prelates, several other US prelates have joined him with statements and planned Masses of reparation.

In the testimony, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Benedict XVI had "imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis" and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Viganò claimed that this was ignored by Francis, who pulled McCarrick back into public ministry and allowed him to become a "kingmaker for appointments in the Curia and the United States."

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said Aug. 29 that the former nuncio "served his mission with selfless dedication" and that he knew him to fulfill his Petrine mission "at great personal sacrifice and with absolutely no consideration given to furthering his 'career' – all of which speaks to his integrity and sincere love of the Church."

"Moreover, while having no privileged information about the Archbishop McCarrick situation, from information I do have about a very few of the other statements Archbishop Viganò makes, I can confirm that they are true. His statements, therefore, must be taken seriously. To dismiss them lightly would continue a culture of denial and obfuscation."

Bishop Emeritus Edward Slattery of Tulsa said that in the response to the sex abuse crisis of 2002, the US bishops failed "because we put our trust in policies rather than in calling the faithful - laity, clergy and hierarchy - to a more profound relationship with Christ. It is deep conversion alone to Jesus that affords broken men and women the possibility of living chaste lives in a nurturing community where there is respect and dignity for all."

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said Aug. 28 that Archbishop Viganò's testimony "merits, indeed it demands deeper examination and verification of each of its claims."

He said that while he lacks "personal knowledge or experience" of its details, "I have the deepest respect for Archbishop Viganó and his personal integrity. His claims, yet to be investigated or substantiated, confirm the urgency of a thorough investigation of Archbishop McCarrick's advancement through the ecclesiastical ranks given his history of alleged abuse, involving seminarians and young people."

The Oklahoma City archbishop said this moment "calls for a renewed commitment to vigilance, transparency and accountability from our shepherds and indeed for the whole Church. Only prayer, penance and deeper conversion will guide us through this dark period."

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois stated Archbishop Viganò "has revealed a set of facts and circumstances that are deeply troubling as they relate to the awareness, actions, and inactions at the very highest levels of the Church."

He noted that Pope Francis responded to the former nuncio's testimony by saying, "Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this."

"Frankly, but with all due respect, that response is not adequate," Bishop Paprocki wrote.

"Given the gravity of the content and implications of the former Nuncio's statement, it is important for all the facts of this situation to be fully reviewed, vetted, and carefully considered."

"Toward that end," the Bishop of Springfield stated, "Pope Francis, Vatican officials and the current Apostolic Nuncio should make public the pertinent files indicating who knew what and when about Archbishop (formerly Cardinal) McCarrick and provide the accountability that the Holy Father has promised."

He also noted his concurrence with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston's call for "a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement."

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford also referred to the statement of the president of the US bishops' conference, saying, "we all share" a "profound concern" over Archbishop McCarrick's advancement and that "the truth has to be told. Once again I ask God to bring the truth to light and to bring healing and help to all victims of sexual abuse."

He said history demonstrates "the tremendous storms, both from within and from without, that have threatened to overwhelm the Church."

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"In modern times perhaps we have been lulled into complacency about the power of evil."

Archbishop Blair quoted St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians: "our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and flood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

The Connecticut archbishop said St. Augustine preached about "the scandal of bad shepherds," warning against both "leaving the Church because of the scandal provoked by wicked shepherds … and putting one's trust in good shepherds instead of Christ."

"Please pray for strong faith in Christ and his promise," Archbishop Blair stated. "And please pray for your bishops and priests … I join you in this prayer and I pledge to do my part as a Bishop to unmask whatever has led to our present anguish."

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison stated Aug. 27 that he too was in solidarity with Cardinal DiNardo's statement.

He went on to "confess my disappointment that in his remarks on the return flight from Dublin to Rome, the Holy Father chose a course of 'no comment'."

Bishop Morlino stated that he is "deeply convinced of [Archbishop Viganò's] honesty, loyalty to and love for the Church, and impeccable integrity." He added that the former nuncio had "more than fulfilled" the criteria for credible allegations, "and an investigation, according to proper canonical procedures, is certainly in order."

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Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu shared the statement of Cardinal DiNardo, saying, "I pray that the investigation he calls for will go forward with all honesty to reveal the truth, so that we can all be healed of this terrible cancer that has infected the life of our Church."

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said the concerns raised by the former nuncio "are serious and call for an honest, transparent response."

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver wrote Aug. 30 that he supports an independent investigation of the former nuncio's allegations, calling him "a man of deep faith and integrity." He urged people to pray "for a deep faith" in Christ which "grows and deepens each day."

Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange in California, along with his two auxiliaries, noted Aug. 29 that, another former nunciature official having confirmed the truth of Archbishop Viganò's testimony, "I would add that I see Archbishop Viganò as a man of integrity, having known him for many years."

Bishop Vann said it is necessary that Pope Francis "ensure that a competent investigation be undertaken swiftly. The truth of each accusation having been established, just penalties should be imposed upon those found guilty with the goal of repairing scandal and restoring justice."

"We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days," he stated. "Please join with me in praying for all victims of abuse, especially those harmed by members of the clergy; and pray with and for Pope Francis during this difficult time as he always asks us to do. May justice be served."

Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita said that though he cannot personally speak to the former nuncio's allegations, "I join with others in expressing my hope and expectation that a full, independent and transparent investigation be conducted in this matter so as to bring forth the truth. The allegations of such a respected bishop in the Church and one charged with such great responsibility as the papal nuncio to the United States demands such an investigation."

Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas, together with many of his priests, wrote to Pope Francis Aug. 29 asking that, as had been previously suggested, there be held an extraordinary synod on the life and ministry of clerics, in light of clerical sex abuse and its cover-up.

Bishop James Wall of Gallup said Aug. 31 that Archbishop Viganò's testimony "leaves many questions unanswered, and I believe the claims within should be properly investigated in order to shed light on what appears to be much darkness."

He asked the people of the Diocese of Gallup to read the testimony, to "pray for the healing of all survivors of sexual abuse," and to pray for Pope Francis, asking "the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom, guidance, prudence, and the courage to lead the Church through these very dark times."

The same day, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said that "we must be on guard not to give in to the temptation to blame."

He said, "there have been many who, it seems to me, have been using these tragedies to further an agenda." Archbishop Wester suggested that Archbishop Viganò "needs to show greater care in helping us to discern God's will in these tragic times. I am disturbed by this, and other attempts to promote a certain agenda."

The New Mexico archbishop suggested that "the issue that the Catholic  Church has been dealing with ... is that of the sexual abuse of children and young people." He said he fears a loss of momentum in assisting abuse victims "when the discussion turns to ecclesial politics and the typical flash points between conservatives and liberals. This is not the way of the Gospel, and we do harm to the Body of Christ by our politics and polarization."

Archbishop Wester said he is "deeply saddened by those who attack Pope Francis," whom he said "has shown himself to be a man of integrity, compassion and love. In the short five years of his pontificate, he has demonstrated again and again his truthfulness and his love for the vulnerable, even in the midst of strong and painful criticism. He has led the Catholic Church with a clear vision that is formed by the Gospel and grounded in our sacred tradition. He has not wavered in his dedication to the poor and marginalized as he seeks to gather everyone into the Kingdom of God. He has also demonstrated that he is open to learning and to discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit at work in the Catholic faithful and evident in the 'signs of the times'. I have every confidence in him."

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston wrote to Archbishop Christophe Pierre saying, "something must be done now."

"It is imperative that the Holy See take a leadership role in investigating the rise of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, despite the reported knowledge of his prior sexual misconduct and monetary settlements during his earlier diocesan assignments. It is absolutely necessary for all of us to know how and why this happened. Action must occur immediately and publicly."

The South Carolina bishop also said he strongly supports "an investigation by the Holy See along with a national lay commission with its own authority to seek the truth about the statements made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano ...  it is necessary that the Holy Father respond to the allegations made by the Archbishop. Please encourage the Holy Father to address these allegations directly. This is in everyone's best interest; lack of knowledge and uncertainty
contribute to the confusion so much a part of our people's lives today. Our Church is called to be a beacon of light in the darkness. I ask that you be an ambassador of truth."

Bishop Guglielmone added that the national review board should be allowed "to serve as an independent entity that will review allegations made against bishops. This work must be entrusted to the laity."

Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City wrote Sept. 6 that the McCarrick scandal, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and the testimony of Archbishop Viganò "have given us much to think about and to pray about."

He said he had read carefully the testimony, and supported Cardinal DiNardo's statement that an examination of its claims needs to be made.

"I believe Archbishop Viganó and, at the same time, we need more information," Bishop Nickless stated.

"In the matter of transparency in disciplining bishops, no one is above the law; and no bishop, regardless of diocese or rank or standing, may hope to evade the full and exacting moral law of our Lord Jesus Christ and the canonical laws of the church in the exercise of our duties," he said. "Therefore, let the harsh light of truth come, with its healing and freeing power."

"Moreover, while renewing my respect for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, I join the greater part of my brother bishops in supplicating the Holy Father to make a clearer and fuller answer to the Testimony. My unshakeable loyalty to the Chair of St. Peter prompts me to beg its current occupant, Pope Francis, to undertake the necessary examination for the truth and to lead us courageously. This examination must happen for the church to heal and move forward, and it undoubtedly will happen, if not with our cooperation, then in spite of any attempts to avoid it. We bishops must be open to the truth and accept justice for our misconduct, if any be found."

Bishop Nickless concluded by asking the people of his diocese "to make special efforts to pray, fast, and not give up hope in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Statements from several other bishops, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Cardinal DiNardo, and Bishop Strickland, have been previously covered by CNA.

A number of bishops in the US have also announced Masses of reparation or healing in the wake of the sex abuse crisis.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said a Mass "for the healing of those who have been the victims of sexual abuse by clergy and also by bishops who have attempted to cover up the abuse."

In his homily, Archbishop Aymond said that "it is time for us to repent. And I promise, as a bishop and your local bishop, your shepherd, I promise not only to pray but to fast. Some things can be driven out only by prayer and fasting."

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has announced that Archbishop Robert Carlson will say a Mass of Reparation Sept. 7 at his cathedral.

Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland will observe a day of prayer and repentance Sept. 14, during which he will say Mass. He said anger over mishandled cases of sexual abuse of minors is justified, and that "I can think of nothing worse than this incomprehensible abuse and any attempt to cover it up. As your bishop, I am doing penance for the failure of some bishops to act appropriately to protect young people and who have failed in reflecting the holiness and integrity demanded by the Gospel."

And in Connecticut, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport will lead a Holy Hour with a rosary, followed by a Mass of Reparation and Purification, Sept. 15. He has asked all the priests in his diocese to attend the Mass.

"During this time of trial, we must come together as a family of faith and beg the Lord for forgiveness and to offer reparation for the sins committed by priests, bishops and any member of the Church, especially the depraved sins against children and the vulnerable," Bishop Caggiano wrote to his priests.

"It is also a time to ask God to heal those who have been wounded by sin, to turn our hearts away from anything that is evil and to renew our commitment to holiness."

He invited all the faithful "to join me and accompany one another during this time of sadness and anger, and to strengthen one another in our Catholic faith," and expressed hope that this will be a "first tangible step towards renewing confidence and trust in the Church for many of our faithful."

Bishop Caggiano also instructed his priests to say the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of each Mass, before the recessional hymn, beginning Sept. 15.

"Christ has conquered sin and death, but we are still in the midst of a spiritual battle. For that reason, I would like the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel recited," Bishop Caggiano wrote to his priests.

"I believe that the Church is facing a moment of crisis that demands honesty and repentance from the bishops and decisive action to ensure that these failures will never happen again."

Editor's note: This article has been continuously updated as new reactions emerge.

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