The Parish Church, Viganò, and Nathan Doe

A parish = part of the earth. A part of the earth, with a church.

A parish church = a building with a baptismal font, a confessional, a pulpit, an altar, a tabernacle, an ambry for the holy oils, and a priest. The building, and everything in it, lifts the mind to heaven.

church_drawingThe overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians receive and live the faith in a parish church. Someday, we will emerge from the coronavirus crisis, and the parish churches of the world will function normally again.

The most fundamental task of a bishop, and most sublime: provide the parishes of his diocese with priests.

The more invisibly the bishop does this task, the better. Because the goal clearly is: That everyone who enters the parish church does so with the safe and true assumption that they will find a priest there they can trust. A priest who honestly represents the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ.

I think we all know that, a generation ago, a tidal wave began to wash away that trust, here in the USA. It started to wash across the land in Louisiana, thanks to the work of the journalist Jason Berry.

Catholics had to face the fact: you might not find a priest you can trust in your local parish church. You might find a criminal sexual abuser, fleeing justice. Because Catholic bishops do not know how to deal with criminal sexual abuse.

McCarrick NBC screen shotThe tidal wave crashed down over me in the summer of 2018, when I learned that I received Holy Orders from a criminal fleeing justice. I received Holy Orders from the very man who convinced America, in 2002, that the bishops had finally figured the thing out. Turns out he did that con-job on us as a criminal fleeing justice himself.

As you know, Bishop Barry Knestout threw your unworthy servant into the ecclesiastical gulag for the ‘crime’ of pointing out this evident fact.

My friend Bob Hoatson runs “Road to Recovery,” a non-profit that helps victims of sexual abuse. Last week, Bob mailed the same package to both Bishop Knestout and myself, a copy of Carmine Galasso’s book Crosses.

Bob mailed me a copy because of our friendship. He mailed Bishop Knestout a copy because the bishop serves on the Bishops-Conference Committee for Child and Youth Protection.

Crosses is an incredibly painful book to read. Also enormously illuminating. Catholic sex-abuse survivors tell their stories, in the first person. Galasso captures their world with haunting photos. The late A.W. Richard Sipe, expert in clerical sexual abuse, wrote of Crosses, “This book is a triumph of making sexual abuse by religion understandable.”

Now, speaking of trusting bishops…

Two weeks ago, a retired titular Archbishop,* Carlo Maria Viganò, wrote to the priests and laypeople of the Archdiocese of Washington. advising them to distrust their sitting archbishop, Wilton Gregory.

Why should they distrust him? Archbishop Viganò’s letter does not explain. Rather, Viganò simply takes for granted a certain interpretation of a number of unclear facts.

The White House apparently organized a visit by President Trump to the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, and invited Archbishop Gregory. Gregory, it seems, begged off.

Then, the night before the visit, White House security forces used some violent tactics to remove peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square, the lovely park just north of the White House.

Archbishop Gregory chose to condemn those tactics, in the form of a statement about the president’s visit to the JPII Shrine, which occurred the following day.

Crosses Galasso HoatsonDoesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Criticizing one thing by expressing bafflement about another. On the other hand: the police did, in fact, forcibly remove peaceful protesters from a place where they had lawfully assembled, without proper warning.

Let me simply note the following:

I wrote to Archbishop Gregory myself in April, 2019, while he was still Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia. I gave him some unsolicited advice. I recommended that he insist on full public disclosure about the McCarrick cover-up, before agreeing to take office in Washington.

I pointed out to Archbishop Gregory that, had Donald Wuerl done this–insisted on honesty about McCarrick–then the cover-up would have ended fourteen years ago.

We would have a much-larger reservoir of trust and good will in our Church, had either Wuerl or Gregory insisted on full disclosure of McCarrick’s crimes, prior to taking office as McCarrick’s successors.

What do we have instead? Well…

…Remember “Nathan Doe,” abused by Theodore McCarrick? Nathan moved me to tears with his loving solidarity last October. He told a reporter:

“McCarrick was charming. He was self-effacing. He was completely disarming. And he ran that game on everyone. He ran it on his colleagues, donors and on young boys. Everyone around this guy is just a different shade of victim.”

Nathan reported last fall that Vatican investigators had spoken with him. Nathan expressed his confidence that a healing ‘McCarrick Report’ would see the light of day.

Nathan kindly wrote to us again ten days ago, to offer an update. He remains hopeful. In spite of everything, Nathan trusts Pope Francis. He trusts the pope to give us a painful but soul-cleansing McCarrick Report.

After all, the pope has a most-important, most-sublime task, too. To provide bishops we can trust to give us parish priests people can trust.

I, for one, wonder why the duty of encouraging trust in the hierarchy falls to this particular anonymous sex-abuse victim. Nathan’s public hopefulness about full disclosure only makes the long, dull silence of the miters all the creepier.

…Nathan insists that earnest Vatican investigators have collected a huge amount of information. Presumably facts about McCarrick’s abuses of minors and young men, during the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

Tornielli Giorno GiudizioGetting all those facts on the table someday will certainly help to clear away the tidal-wave waters of American-Catholic disillusionment. Thank you, Nathan, and all the victims who have spoken to these investigators.

But certain facts already sit squarely on the table. In August of 2018, Archbishop Viganò revealed a great deal of theretofore-secret information. Anonymous Vatican sources confirmed a large chunk of that information, in Andrea Tornielli & Gianni Valente’s book Il Giorno del Giudizio, which I summarized for you, dear reader, in December 2018.

Let’s call the consensus of Viganò and Tornielli/Valente the “common ground” facts. (That’s what judges call the facts acknowledged by both sides in a court of law.) The common ground facts include: The pope, the heads of the Roman Congregations, and Donald Wuerl all knew something about McCarrick’s crimes. In 2005.

I pointed out those “common ground” facts in my letter to Archbishop Gregory last year. Archbishop Gregory never answered me.

…A few days after writing to the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Viganò then wrote to President Trump.

In this letter, Viganò paints two pictures. The first: a contest between good and evil in politics. I certainly cannot agree with the archbishop’s analysis there. He sees the protests over George Floyd’s death as purely theatrical, the result of behind-the-scenes manipulation. I don’t see that. To the contrary, I fear disastrous riots–all 100% sincere–if the prosecutors in Minnesota do not obtain guilty verdicts for the officers who killed George Floyd.

But Archbishop Viganò’s second picture touches our theme here: There’s a “deep Church”–a corrupt, hidden bureaucracy, hostile to the cause of Christ. This “deep Church” wages a vicious battle against the “good shepherds.”

Viganò provides no facts to substantiate this assertion. Which makes it sound more like Donatism than like orthodox Catholicism.

The truth–the ugly, detailed, tedious facts: they will help to purify our Church. On the other hand, broadside condemnations, unsupported by evidence, do more harm than good.

What I see is this:

The “corruption” causing such widespread disillusionment among Catholics involves, above all, unexamined self-righteousness.

I think we, the victims of the deception, could pretty easily forgive all the conspirators in the 21st-century part of the McCarrick cover-up, the “Washington phase.” If only those conspirators had the humility to acknowledge their culpable cowardice in failing to bring the malefactor to justice.

(Indeed, the “great” Viganò seems to have a hard time facing the fact that he himself was, for years, one of the conspirators in the 21st-century phase of the McCarrick cover-up.)

We could pretty easily forgive, if only there was some ‘fessing up. But the obdurate self-righteousness of the conspirators has stalled the whole process. And made the situation ten times worse than it ever had to be. (With a well-meaning parish priest in southwest Virginia languishing in an outrageous ecclesiastical gulag, with his people suffering needlessly.)

Instead of lining up on two teams, let’s remind ourselves:

Why do we enter a parish church in the first place? In order to take our rightful place on the “true Church” team?

Speaking for myself, that’s not my reason. I walk into the parish church because: I fear winding up on the other team, in the end. I fear I’m on the other team right now. I need every bit of divine mercy to help me. And we find that mercy in the ministry of priests.

I violated Bishop Knestout’s “no trespass” order against me on Saturday. I entered St. Francis of Assisi parish church in Rocky Mount. (I had violated it the preceding Sunday, too, at St. Joseph’s in Martinsville, for the same reason.)

To go to confession.

* Higher-ranking officials of the Holy See of Rome generally become archbishops of places that no longer have Catholic populations, or of dioceses that have gotten absorbed by other dioceses during the course of history. A “titular” archbishop, therefore, has great responsibility in assisting the pope, but does not actually govern an archdiocese.

Vatican Spills the McCarrick Beans, Part II

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Anyone watching the work of the American bishops meeting in Baltimore three weeks ago knows that they voted on this:

Be it resolved that the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops encourage the Holy See to release all the documentation that can be released consistent with the canon and civil law regarding the misconduct of Archbishop McCarrick.

The bishops voted that resolution down.

Meanwhile, laughter in Rome. Why? Because Rome had already released all the info. By talking secretly to two journalists. The book was published November 6.

“Don’t these silly Americans understand how we do things here?” the Roman cardinali thought to themselves. (Among the Roman cardinali, I include Donald Wuerl, certainly one of Tornielli & Valente’s anonymous sources.)

Meanwhile, we Americans wonder: Really? Talking off the record to a sympathetic journalist counts as “accountability?”

Anyway, click Part One of my summary of the book, if you haven’t read it already. We continue now with:

Facts about Theodore McCarrick revealed by the unwitting accountability team of Vigano-Tornielli-Valente…

In December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI knew that McCarrick had abused seminarians.

McCarrick turned 75 in July, 2005, still healthy and energetic. I remember it as if it were yesterday; all us Washington priests had to attend a 75th birthday party held in a fancy new dining hall at Georgetown University.

Even though canon law requires the resignation of all bishops at 75, sitting Cardinal Archbishops generally serve at least two extra years, if not four or five.

But McCarrick did not. Having concluded that McCarrick posed a grave danger to the good name of Holy Mother Church, Pope Benedict rushed the replacement process, hastily naming Donald Wuerl as McCarrick’s successor. Well before McCarrick turned 76.

crozier wuerl

Meanwhile: two things…

1. Everyone knew that Pope Benedict was embarrassing Theodore McCarrick. But we all thought it had to do with a fast one that McCarrick had pulled on then-Card. Ratzinger in 2004. Ratzinger had explained that priests could and should withhold Holy Communion from politicians who voted in favor of abortion. McCarrick did not communicate that instruction to his brother American bishops.

We priests in the trenches thought McCarrick got relieved early because of that. Little did we know…

2. The second settlement of an abuse claim against McCarrick ran its course during 2006. Rome got the word.

Vigano wrote about “sanctions” against McCarrick. Vigano supposed that the sanctions began in 2009, after Dr. Richard Sipe published selections from the McCarrick abuse-claim settlement documents.

But the ‘sanctions’ actually began in December of 2006.

Vigano wrote that Pope Francis “lifted” them in 2013.

He did not. Because they had never been enforced at all.

The history recounted in this book–of nuncios and cardinals trying to enforce Pope Benedict XVI’s order that Theodore McCarrick live a retired life of prayer and penance–it reads like the slapstick farce that it was. McCarrick outmaneuvered them all.

Tornielli and Valente document it, in excruciating detail. They propose to contradict Vigano, insisting that Vigano painted an inaccurate picture of a McCarrick effectively punished by Benedict XVI, then liberated by Francis.

But: I don’t remember Vigano insisting that Benedict’s sanctions were effective. As Tornielli and Valente point out, Vigano himself proved utterly inadequate to the task of enforcing them.

Tornielli and Valente try to cast doubt on Vigano’s utterly crucial assertion that he told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s abuses in June of 2013. But Card. Ouellet, prefect of Bishops, has already acknowledged that Vigano probably did tell the pope about McCarrick. (Oullet preposterously claimed that we could hardly expect the pope to focus on such information).

And even if Vigano never told Pope Franis anything about McCarrick, Tornielli and Valente effectively inform us that they all knew anyway–all the Cardinals around the pope. Pope Francis didn’t need Vigano to tell him that McCarrick was a ticking time bomb of scandal that could explode and destroy them all. The pope already knew. He just did not appear to care.

McCarrick sofa

The picture from this hit-piece book against Vigano is manifestly not: Vigano wrong. The picture that emerges is: The people who run our church really, really do not know what they are doing.

I will likely have more to tell you about what I have read, dear reader, but let me close now with:

My Analysis

In 1994, Bishop Hughes of Metuchen, NJ, could have insisted on a church trial of his predecessor, even though that predecessor was his ecclesiastical superior. Trials are ugly, but they do attain the kind of certitude that we can have in this life, about an accused man’s guilt or innocence.

It would have taken a great deal of courage for Hughes to denounce the Archbishop of his province. But the alternative was: Slip into the shadow world of the mafiosi

In 1999, Cardinal O’Connor could have insisted on a trial of Theodore McCarrick, for violations of the Sixth Commandment with his own seminarians. But he did not. O’Connor wasn’t hung up about guilt or innocence, either; he only cared about whether or not McCarrick got promoted.

(Even the good guys among the mafiosi are still mafiosi, my friends. O’Connor was convinced that McCarrick had preyed on defenseless young men. But still O’Connor never suggested that McCarrick had no business remaining in the throne in Newark–and had no business saying Mass at all.)

John Paul II could have, and should have, conducted a trial. But he preferred to think the best about the charming snake-oil salesman.

Benedict XVI absolutely had to conduct a trial. But he did not do so. He assumed McCarrick was guilty. Meanwhile, McCarrick regarded Benedict’s attempts to closet him in a monastery as a “persecution.” Because McCarrick denies to this day that he did anything wrong.

There’s no getting around this: Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of covering up for Theodore McCarrick. The pope worried about scandal. He did not appear to understand that McCarrick’s victims needed justice. Nor did he understand that more victims would surely come forward.

But we can well imagine that Benedict is suffering his punishment right now. He himself made the choice that leaves him in the impossibly painful position that he now occupies. He knows everything about all this. He knows he made a terrible mistake, out of weakness of will.

And he can say nothing. He has information that could help resolve the problem–The Problem, that he knows has released termites into the very foundations of the Church. But he cannot say anything. Because of the choice that he himself made, to live as the “contemplative ex-pope.”

Pope Francis inherited a nightmare situation in which one of his Cardinals (an unusually prominent one) stood accused of grave abuses. But his guilt had never been proved; it had never even been put on trial, by anyone.

Pope Francis absolutely, positively had to conduct a trial, to establish McCarrick’s guilt definitively and remove him from the clerical state.

Instead, Pope Francis blew the whole thing off completely.

Until a man came forward accusing McCarrick of abusing him while he was still a minor. And this apocalypse we have lived through, and continue to live through, began.

The Chief Mafiosi Speak About McCarrick (Off the Record, of Course)–Part I

Il Giorno del Giudizio (The Day of Judgment) by Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente

Dear reader, your unworthy servant reads the Italian. So I can inform you of what this book says. They published it in Italy a month ago, and it says a lot:

Tornielli Giorno Giudizio

Two Vatican journalists, intent on making Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano look bad, obtained access to some very knowledgeable churchmen. The churchmen talked.

First: Thedore-McCarrick-related facts, heretofore unknown to the public, which we learn in the first four chapters of this book

1. The Vatican began to look for a replacement for James Card. Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, in early 1999.

John Card. O’Connor, then-Archbishop of New York, had heard about McCarrick abusing seminarians. He wrote to Rome, warning Pope John Paul II that choosing the incumbent of Newark for Washington would lead to a colossal scandal: “The American clergy will become divided, and the reputation of the hierarchy will suffer, with mud on the Church.”

(Yes: prophetic.)

Tornielli and Valente include the reason why O’Connor knew. The priest who eventually received a settlement payment in 2004 had complained to Bishop Edward Hughes, McCarrick’s successor in the diocese of Metuchen, NJ, about McCarrick’s abuse. He complained about it in 1994.

In his August testimony, Archbishop Vigano painted a picture of an enfeebled John Paul II who wasn’t really in the decision-making loop in AD 2000. Tornielli and Valente successfully undermine that picture. I myself had the privilege of meeting the pope in the year 2000; he was somewhat enfeebled. Out-of-it? No way.

Cardinal O’Connor’s letter led to a yearlong delay in choosing a successor for Washington. During that year, Cardinal O’Connor died. Meanwhile, McCarrick wrote Rome, denying the accusations against him.

John Paul II believed the man who had spoken Polish to him, and to Bill Clinton, in Newark in 1995.

john paul ii theodore mccarrick newark 1995
Pope St. John Paul II and Theodore McCarrick, Newark, 1995

[Would like to pause here for one moment, dear, attentive reader.

Discussion of McCarrick’s career tends to focus on his ‘promotion’ to Washington in 2000. But this obscures an important fact: sitting in the episcopal throne of the Archdiocese of Newark, while less prestigious, actually involves shepherding a lot more people. And Newark, unlike Washington, has multiple suffragan sees. Washington barely qualifies as an archdiocese; it has only one very-small suffragan see.

What if McCarrick had not become the Archbishop of Washington? He would not have ascended to the College of Cardinals. But his depredations would still have wounded the faith of thousands upon thousands of Catholics. And hundreds of priests.

Archbishop Vigano, and Tornielli and Valente, have given us a lot of information about events in Rome and Washington since 1999. But we can’t forget: the story of Theodore McCarrick is fundamentally the story of a New-York priest who became a bishop and archbishop in New Jersey. And apparently did quite a few terrible things. Which got covered-up, even before his name appeared on anyone’s list of candidates for Archbishop of Washington in 1999.

McCarrick’s abuses would demand a serious reckoning–of who knew what, and when–even if the ball had bounced a different way for Washington in the year 2000.

Anyway, back to the facts revealed in the book…]

2. In the process of trying to make Vigano look dishonest, Tornielli and Valente make him look fundamentally honest. Their sources corroborate all of these assertions:

On the day after the Vatican announced the pope’s choice for Washington, a former seminary professor in Newark wrote to the Holy See, at the insistence of the then-nuncio to the US, Gabriel Montalvo. The professor re-iterated O’Connor’s charges against McCarrick. (O’Connor’s prior letter explains why Montalvo already knew something about it.)

Tornielli and Valente have a lovely paragraph outlining their presumption (which I believe accurate) that McCarrick ceased his depredations upon arriving in Washington:

The diocese doesn’t have a beach house to which he could invite seminarians. And seeing how close he was to the marble halls of the federal institutions, to the Congress and the President of the USA, McCarrick knew that, with so many eyes focused on him, he had to be much more careful.

In December 2005, the sitting Bishop of Metuchen, NJ, Paul Bootkoski, reported to the Apostolic See this fact: his diocese had secretly settled claims of abuse against McCarrick made the previous year.

(In the meantime, McCarrick had participated in the Sistine-chapel conclave held after the death of JP II.)

At this point, the authors’ sources tell them: Bootkoski, Montalvo (the nuncio), and the officials of the Roman dicasteries all acknowledge the fundamental fact. This problem now sits squarely on the desk of the new pope, Benedict XVI. Only the Holy Father can judge and sentence a Cardinal of the Roman Church…

[Much more to come over the next few days, my dear ones. Click here for PART TWO.]

Believing Viganò about McCarrick

McCarrick sofa

Journalist Daniel Politi has proposed that Archbishop Viganò intentionally released his testimony yesterday, on the day when Pope Francis spoke about sex-abuse in Ireland, in order to embarrass the pope. It was “timed to cause maximum damage to the pontiff.” Others have expressed a similar opinion: malice governed Viganò’s choice of release date.

But a published interview with Archbishop Viganò contradicts that interpretation. Italian journalist Aldo Valli spoke with Viganò: Ha deciso per domenica 26 agosto perché il papa, di ritorno da Dublino, avrà modo di replicare rispondendo alle domande dei giornalisti in aereo. He decided to publish on August 26 because the pope, at the press conference on the plane returning from Dublin, would have the opportunity to respond.

The Archdiocese of Washington released a statement today, responding to Archbishop Viganò’s testimony. Viganò had called Donald Cardinal Wuerl a shameless liar. Cardinal Wuerl knew, Viganò insists, that Pope Benedict XVI had imposed a sentence upon then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2009 or 2010. McCarrick was not to live a public life, but rather retire to prayer and penance.

The Archdiocese of Washington states:

Cardinal Wuerl has categorically denied that any of this information was communicated to him. Archbishop Viganò at no time provided Cardinal Wuerl any information about an alleged document from Pope Benedict XVI with directives of any sort from Rome regarding Archbishop McCarrick. [emphasis mine]

Thing is, you can read and re-read Viganò’s dossier, and never find any reference to any document regarding the sentence imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict. Viganò alleges no document. Viganò’s account of the imposition of the sentence involves only spoken conversations. Cardinal Wuerl has categorically denied something that Archbishop Viganò never alleged in the first place.

Archbishop Viganò recounts how an Indictment Memorandum was sent by his predecessor as U.S. Nuncio, Pietro Sambi, to the Vatican in June of 2006. It included the testimony of a former priest of the diocese of Metuchen, NJ (who also ministered in Charlotte, NC). The former priest indicted McCarrick for immoral sexual acts with himself and other priests and seminarians.

Viganò’s account here has a mysterious little hole. He recalls that Sambi’s memo to the Vatican warned that the former priest might go public with his information if the Holy See did not act swiftly. According to Viganò’s account, the Holy See did not act swiftly. Pope Benedict did not punish McCarrick until 2009 or 2010. Viganò refers to this as an “incredible delay.” So what about the former-priest going public as he threatened?

The hole can be filled with a quick internet search. Earlier this summer journalist Matt Abbott wrote about how he tried to make a public stink about McCarrick in 2006, and one former-seminarian agreed to go on the record at the time.

In 2008, the late Richard Sipe published his “Open Letter to Benedict XVI,” to which Archbishop Viganò refers in his account. Sipe claimed to have documents proving McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians. Then in 2010, Sipe published quotations from these documents–the 2006 confidential settlement between the diocese of Metuchen and a McCarrick victim–in an essay called “The Cardinal McCarrick Syndrome.”

In other words, Viganò’s narrative checks out here. There is a record of the information being made public after the threat.

Viganò makes broadside attacks against many churchmen in the latter part of his testimony, with no evidence offered to support his attacks. His dossier would certainly be more credible if he had left those indictments out.

But none of that touches the central question: Is his narrative about the Holy See’s dealings with Cardinal McCarrick true?

The most-prevalent criticism of Viganò’s veracity runs along these lines:

Viganò claims that Benedict XVI imposed a penalty on McCarrick, namely that he retire from public life and pray and do penance. But McCarrick did not retire from public life. Therefore, Viganò’s story about the Holy See’s dealings with McCarrick is not true.

The conclusion does not follow from the premises. The fact is: penalties imposed by ecclesiastical authority have only one coercive mechanism: conscience. It is actually 100% believable that McCarrick flouted Pope Benedict’s discipline. And since only the most-senior prelates would have known about the penalty, no churchmen could, or would, do anything to hinder McCarrick’s flouting of it.

At a transtion of bishops, the outgoing bishop would customarily hold the bishop’s crozier until the moment comes for the Nuncio to hand it to the new bishop. There is a story about Pietro Sambi trying to keep McCarrick from holding the crozier at the installation of Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, in the summer of 2006. This would have been before Pope Benedict imposed a punishment, but after Sambi first learned of McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians–as we now know, thanks to Archbishop Viganò.

McCarrick held the crozier anyway. Sambi apparently did not choose to wrestle with another clergyman in the sacristy. The same choice would have faced any other churchman who knew about McCarrick’s penalty and saw him flouting it.

When the National Catholic Register published Viganò’s dossier, the accompanying article included a remarkable statement: The Register has independently confirmed that the allegations against McCarrick were certainly known to Benedict, and the Pope Emeritus remembers instructing Cardinal Bertone to impose measures but cannot recall their exact nature.

The reporter is Edward Pentin. Someone other than Viganò told him that Pope Benedict remembers the affair and confirms what Viganò has written.

My impression is that Archbishop Viganò has a fairly obvious agenda, and he belongs to a faction that has distrusted Pope Francis since 2013.

My mom will swear that right before I had to go back to the church to hear confessions, on the afternoon of March 13, 2013 (Eastern Daylight time), when we sat watching tv in my living room, with the new pope waving at the crowd from the loggia of St. Peter’s, I said: “He is not up to this. This man has no joy. He is not up to this.”

So I guess I belong to that faction, too.

But I cannot see how any fair-minded reader could regard Viganò’s testimony as fundamentally suspect. It is enormously illuminating. He has given us a gift.

Pope Francis told the journalists on the papal plane to investigate Viganò’s claims themselves. One of them had just done that, by asking the pope to confirm or deny Viganò’s account of the conversation Viganò says the two of them had in June of 2013.

So the Pope urged those journalists to do something. And simultaneously refused to help them do it.

Viganò insisted in his dossier that a former nunciature official would confirm Viganò’s account of a stormy meeting between Sambi and McCarrick–presumably the meeting at which Sambi told McCarrick that Pope Benedict had ordered him to retire from public life and beg God’s forgiveness in private. The official has confirmed Viganò’s account, as Viganò said he would.

But this does not really prove anything. Neither Viganò, nor this official, even claim to know for sure what Sambi and McCarrick were discussing when they apparently yelled at each other. We just know the fact that they yelled.

Will Pope Benedict speak? Will he confirm that Pentin correctly referred to him as a corroborating source for Viganò’s account? (Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re could speak, also, or Cardinal Tarsiso Bertone–and make the same confirmation.)

In ‘Church World,’ in the Catholic Media Shadow House, everyone seems to think of such a thing as some kind of almost-unthinkable taboo. In the real world where the rest of us live, it would seem to be the one obvious, necessary thing that has to happen next.

Or, even better: Let us hear from McCarrick himself. I know the man pretty well. And I can guarantee that if he had a microphone in front of him and a good-looking reporter asked him to comment on Viganò’s dossier, the ex-Cardinal would damn himself and a lot of other people (who apparently deserve to be damned) within three minutes.