A rightwing former Vatican official has written a great big J'accuse letter claiming Pope Francis knew the former Archbishop of Washington DC had been accused of sexual abuse of seminarians and young priests, but nonetheless tried to rehabilitate him. That's pretty awful if true, and likely to result in yet more ugliness and political power plays in the Vatican. Of course, as with anything in the Holy Mother Church Yr Wonkette left after high school, it's a far more complicated matter than the accusation, because it's Vatican politics, and that gets ugly and twisted fast, too. And to think it's the Eastern Orthodoxers that get called Byzantine.

Here are the basics, according to the letter published Saturday by former Papal Nuncio to the US Carlo Maria Viganò (a nuncio is like an ambassador, but all Churchy): Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict, knew that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been accused of having "shared his bed with seminarians," as Viganò puts it so quaintly, for years. They were all adults, but like any sexual harassment, an archbishop summoning students to his beach house is hardly a consensual relationship. Last summer, when allegations surfaced that McCarrick had also abused two minors, Francis accepted his resignation as a Cardinal and suspended him from pastoral duties while his case is investigated by the Church (the statute of limitations on McCarrick's alleged abuse of minors has passed, so no criminal charges).

Viganò accused the Vatican of covering up for McCarrick's abuse of adult seminarians for too long, and says Benedict (he's a big fan of Benedict) justly stripped him of clerical authority, sentencing him to a life of "penance and prayer" in 2009 or 2010, but then Francis tried to rehabilitate him by allowing him to lecture and go to conferences. Viganò also hints this was a reward for McCarrick's help in getting Francis elected pope. The letter doesn't suggest Francis had any knowledge of the allegations involving minors.

Viganò says he told Francis in 2013, a few months after Francis became pope,

Holy Father, I don't know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.

He also claims Francis said nothing in reply. Now, if all that's true, it's serious badness, obviously, especially combined with all the continued allegations about US and other bishops covering up the abuse of children.

But this is also where the Vatican politics and American culture war politics come into it: Viganò is a screaming rightwing shit-stirrer who'd like nothing more than to see Francis replaced with a pope who'll crack down on women and gays and abortion, and stop all that pussified stuff about helping the poor and downtrodden. Viganò comes off like Ted Cruz, only whiny in ecclesiastical Latin. He's the guy who arranged for that surprise meeting between Francis and Kim Davis, the fundie county clerk who refused to let gays get married. Francis shitcanned him as nuncio after that, and Viganò has long had an axe to grind -- so it makes sense that he's "regretfully" calling on Francis to resign the papacy.

Francis didn't respond in any detail to the charges as he was flying back from Ireland yesterday, although he did say, "This is a part of the statement on McCarrick. Study it, and then I'll speak." He also said the letter "speaks for itself," and implied what it says is also not terribly good about Viganò:

"I read the statement this morning and, sincerely, I must say this to you and anyone interested: Read that statement attentively and make your own judgment," Francis told reporters, according to the Catholic News Service.

We did read it, and the descriptions of it as an anti-gay "manifesto" are, if anything, not doing it justice. It's a rant, in the sort of florid super-conservative Catholic style my late mother would have appreciated, like this stuff:

To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ, which is terribly disfigured by so many abominable crimes, and if we truly want to free the Church from the fetid swamp into which she has fallen, we must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths we have kept hidden.

To be clear, Viganò isn't just talking about the secrets of child abuse here -- yeah, let's get all that into the daylight and fire a lot of bishops and priests. But throughout the letter, Viganò also conflates the existence and tolerance of homosexuality with those crimes against children. He frets about "homosexual networks present in the Church" and insists they "must be eradicated," and honestly, the letter is more than an exposé -- it's a festival of bitchy backbiting against all the terrible liberals in the church who must be brought down. So yes, Viganò's claims should be investigated, but also, the source has to be considered. Guy is truly on the Vatican rag here.

Tl:dr version: Catholic Church remains terrible institution, but could do some good under Francis; if he's replaced by another Ratzinger, burn the Holy Motherfucker down.

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[Vox / America / WaPo / Testimony by Carlo Maria Viganò]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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