Viganò criticizes Pope Francis' handling of abuse allegations

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano Credit Edward Pentin National Catholic Register CNA Archbishop Carlo Vigano. | Edward Pentin/National Catholic Register

Recently published remarks from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano take aim at two situations described by the former nuncio as "allegations of offenses against minors during Pope Francis' tenure."

In fact, in both cases described by Vigano, the alleged sexual abuse and initial accusations to Church authorities occured before Pope Francis became pope in March 2013.

Vigano's remarks were published July 3 by the LifeSiteNews website, and were apparently previously unpublished excerpts from an email interview with Vigano published June 10 by the Washington Post. When that interview was published, an editor's note indicated that selected passages were removed from the 40-question interview because Viganò's claims contained "unverified allegations."

Both cases mentioned by Vigano have been previously reported in the media.

In the first allegation, Kamil Jarzembowski, then a former student at the Vatican's minor seminary, accused an older seminarian, Gabriele Martinelli, in 2012 of sexually molesting his roommate over a period of five years. That allegation was reported by the Associated Press in 2018, and by Italian journalists in 2017. The initial handling of the case by the Vatican was severely criticized - Jarzembowski was dismissed from the seminary while the alleged abuser was ordained a priest in 2017.

Vigano's comments noted previous investigations into the matter.

"The case was immediately covered up by the then-bishop of Como, Diego Coletti, together with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Vicar General of Pope Francis for Vatican City.  In addition, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, then president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who was consulted by Don Stabellini, strongly admonished him to stop the investigation," Viganò wrote.

The former nuncio did not mention that the Church has since launched a new canonical investigation into the allegations. That investigation was triggered when the alleged victim came forward to make a complaint himself, according to a July 2018 AP report.

Vigano lamented that Jarzembowski's allegation was not mentioned during a February summit on the clerical sexual abuse of minor. "The summit was therefore terribly disappointing, for it is hypocrisy to condemn abuses against minors and claim to sympathize with the victims while refusing to face up to the facts honestly."

Following the Vatican's Feb. 21-24 summit on the sexual abuse of minors, Pope Francis issued child protection laws for Vatican City State and the Roman Curia, including the obligation to report abuse.

On March 29, Jarzembowski, the former seminarian cited in Viganò's interview responses, commented on the new child protection laws, telling AP that "I see this as something positive."

The other allegation raised by Vigano concerns Vatican Substitute Secretary of State Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra.

Peña Parra, who as sustituto in the Secretariat of State is in charge of much of the day-to-day oversight of curial work, was among the bishops mentioned in Viganò's Aug. 2018 "testimony" regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. In that document, Viganò claimed that, during his time overseeing personnel for Vatican diplomatic offices, he had received "worrisome information" about Parra, who at that time worked in the Vatican diplomatic corps.

Originally from Venezuela, Peña Parra served in the Vatican's diplomatic service for 25 years in Kenya, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Honduras, Mexico, Pakistan, Mozambique, and the UN before he was elevated to the curial position of "substitute," or deputy head of the Vatican Secretariat of State Oct. 15.

Before that appointment, Vigano charged, Pope Francis ignored "a terrifying dossier sent to him by a group of faithful from Maracaibo," accusing the archbishop of malfeasance.

Vigano added that in 2000 Venezuelan journalist Gastón Guisandes López accused Peña Parra of abusing abusing two minor seminarians in Maracaibo on September 24, 1990, three years before he entered the Vatican's diplomatic service.

"The case was reported to the police by the parents of the two young men and was dealt with by the then-rector of the major seminary, Rev. Enrique Pérez, and by the then spiritual director, Rev. Emilio Melchor. Rev. Pérez, when questioned by the Secretariat of State, confirmed in writing the episode of September 24, 1990.  I have seen these documents with my own eyes," Viganò said.

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Vigano accused Peña Parra of being "allegedly involved … in the death of two people," who died in August 1992 because of an electric discharge. "It is not clear whether or not the deaths were accidental," Viganò added.

"These two accusations were reported to the Secretariat of State in 2002 by the then apostolic nuncio in Venezuela, Archbishop André Dupuy," he wrote.

Vigano charged that Parra's elevation to a senior Vatican role is a reflection upon Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Pope Francis.

"Particularly egregious is the behavior of Cardinal Parolin who, as Secretary of State, did not oppose the recent appointment of Peña Parra as Substitute, making him his closest collaborator."

"If Cardinal Parolin's responsibilities are grave, even more so are those of Pope Francis for having chosen for an extremely important position in the Church a man accused of such serious crimes, without first insisting on an open and thorough investigation," Vigano added.

The Italian newsweekly L'Espresso reported Oct. 12 that Peña Parra had been dismissed from a seminary where he studied because he was thought by seminary administrators to have a homosexual orientation.

On Oct. 18, L'Espresso added to its report, noting that Peña Parra had a longtime close relationship with Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, the coordinator of the pope's C9 Council of Cardinals. Viganò had also noted their friendship.

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The magazine also claimed that Peña Parra had developed a friendship with Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, former auxiliary bishop of Maradiaga's Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, who was removed from office following allegations of sexual misconduct involving seminarians and other adult men.

In the same October report, L'Espresso reported that the Vatican has declined to respond to its questions about Peña Parra.

Vigano said that Pope Francis has done "close to nothing to punish those who have committed abuse," though he did not make mention of the May promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, the pope's new procedural norms regarding abuse or cover-up.

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