September 13, 2018 (Steven O’Reilly) – It has now been over a couple weeks since the publication of Archbishop Viganó’s testimony. This testimony accused Pope Francis of lifting sanctions placed upon former-Cardinal McCarrick by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Whatever the precise nature of these penalties, Viganó’s second accusation against Pope Francis, in my opinion, is the more troubling. Viganó claims he informed Pope Francis in June 2013 of McCarrick’s history of having corrupted generations of seminarians. Thus, even if Francis had been previously ignorant of either McCarrick’s past or the penalties placed upon him by Benedict, Francis can’t claim ignorance after this date. The implication is: the Pope, ignoring Viganó’s report, knowingly and willfully availed himself of a corrupt McCarrick’s advice and counsel regarding episcopal appointments in the U.S., and likely other matters related to the care and government of the Church.
Yes, all of this assumes the truth of Viganó’s account. But, the efforts to discredit him have failed miserably; Viganó’s account is very credible. In the face of these allegations, the Pope has chosen to remain silent. For those with common sense not corrupted by the cult of personality which surrounds this Pope, this silence certainly betokens – if indeed it does not confirm – the truth of the accusations. Aside from knowledge of guilt, there is simply no credible explanation for the Pope’s silence. And, if the Pope did as Viganó’s accusation alleges, he should abdicate/resign as Viganó and many others have suggested. Roma Locuta Est agrees that the Pope should voluntarily step down if the allegations are true, but believes it is not in his nature to do so (see here).
The 2013 Conclave
Given the current controversy and calls for a papal resignation, the conclave of 2013 which gave us Francis as pope is likely to attract even more attention than it already has – which has been considerable. This past conclave is likely to be one of the most scrutinized by historians. Focus on the conclave over the last five years has already yielded various “Francis just can’t be a real pope, can he?” theories which fall into three broad categories – though there are some others:
Conclave and election of Francis invalid because Benedict is still pope
- There are those who argue Benedict XVI did not resign of his own free will, and was perhaps forced out by a plot instigated by the St. Gallen mafia. If true, they argue, Benedict’s resignation under duress would be null. While I don’t discount there was a plot of some kind, I do believe it is quite clear Benedict XVI resigned of his own free will (see Thoughts on Free Will and Hypothetical Papal Plots).
- The other Benedict-centered theory is that his resignation was invalid due to a substantial error on his part. Personally, I think it is the weakest of the “Francis can’t be pope” theories for reasons I have previously discussed (see Benedict is NOT pope and Benedict is STILL not Pope).
Conclave valid but election of Francis invalid due to violations of Universi Dominici Gregis
- The Italian journalist Antonio Socci had put forth in his book, Non e’ Francesco (“He is not Francis”), the theory a procedural violation of rules in Universi Dominici Gregis (the papal legislation established by John Paul II which governs conclaves) involving the balloting had invalidated the election which gave us Pope Francis. My understanding is Socci has since abandoned the theory.
- Then there is the theory – in its most recent elaboration by Bishop Gracida (see here) – regarding violations of Universi Dominici Gregis both in and in the lead up to the 2013 conclave. Specifically, as stated by Bishop Gracida, the “notorious violations of the prohibition on a cardinal promising his vote, e.g., commitments given and obtained by cardinals associated” with the St. Gallen mafia. I find this an interesting theory that points to some smoke, but which has yet to find the fire.
Conclave and election of Francis valid, but his acceptance of papacy was ‘invalid’
- While I find all the “Francis just can’t be a real pope” theories improbable (this one included), I must say this is the one theory which intrigues me most. It was suggested to me from within Pope Francis’ own Jesuit order – while other Jesuit efforts to defuse it have appeared clumsy and weak. This theory is unique in that while it concedes the election of Jorge Bergoglio was valid, his acceptance of it was not (see Curiouser and Curiouser: Who Dispensed Jorge Bergoglio SJ from his vows?).
While the theories above are improbable, that is not to say there is not much more we can learn about what happened both before and in the conclave. There have been suggestions that the NSA monitored the 2013 conclave as alleged by the blog The Eye-Witness in an October 2013 article (“A Compromised Conclave“). The apparent close ties between the Democratic Party and this Vatican in the years following the conclave led the Remnant Newspaper to publish an open letter [see A Vatican-Democratic Party Alliance (Catholics ask Trump Administration to Investigate)] to the Trump administration in January of 2017 asking a number of interesting questions. In the letter, the signatories ask, for example, what role US intelligence agencies might have played in both the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Francis. It is curious to note that Cardinal Bergoglio was a long shot to win, at least according to the odds makers; but he won the papacy on only the 5th ballot of the Conclave.
The questions are interesting, if for no other reason than that the Francis papacy has been a Democratic Party dream come true as it de-emphasized cultural war issues (e.g., abortion, homosexual “marriage”) and emphasized ‘social justice’ issues (e.g., immigration, the environment). The icing on the cake has been a series of US episcopal appointments (e.g., Cupich, Tobin, McElroy) who willingly follow the new Francis political and social agenda. Another indication of how close the Vatican ties to the Democratic Party have become appears in Henry Sire’s book on Pope Francis, The Dictator Pope. In it, Sire reports that reliable sources state Pope Francis gave funds to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign from Peter’s Pence (NB: I hope U.S. bishops ask the Pope if this report is true – and if it is, they should ask him to stop using the laity’s contributions for political donations. Otherwise, many Catholics will stop giving to Peter’s Pence). Sire writes:
“If indeed, money from Peter’s Pence was diverted to fund Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, at Pope Francis’s request, as has been repeatedly rumored from reliable sources, it could be the unraveling of an enormous scandal.” (The Dictator Pope, p. 193)
Sire suggests that Francis did such a thing to avert a Trump presidency in favor of “a liberal president willing to abase himself (or herself) to Latin American claims.” It is difficult to imagine the Obama Administration using any derogatory intelligence gathered during or before the Conclave to publicly embarrass a liberal like Francis – a seeming ally of so many Democratic Party issues. However, President Trump is perhaps another story. Henry Sire in his book on the Francis papacy, The Dictator Pope, writes:
“It is known that the CIA was monitoring the Conclave of 2013, and the thought that the American government might make use of its knowledge is said to be causing sleepless nights in the Curia.” (The Dictator Pope, p. 193)
If the report in the book of “sleepless nights” is to be credited, the fears in the Curia appear to be centered on what Trump might do with the information gathered back in 2013. If so, what revelations are feared in the Curia? Might the fears relate to the activities of the St. Gallen mafia – or perhaps others – to influence the election?
This brings us back to McCarrick whose role in the 2013 conclave is a curious one. Ineligible to vote in the conclave due to his advanced age, he was able to participate in the pre-conclave discussions. In a talk at Villanova University in October of 2013 (see here) McCarrick relates how he was visited by an “influential Italian gentleman” who asked McCarrick to ‘talk up Bergoglio‘. Who was this “influential Italian” and with what organizations was he affiliated? Did others affiliated with this Italian lobby other cardinals in the days before the conclave? What special interests led him to lobby McCarrick for a Bergoglio papacy? Why did this “influential Italian” think McCarrick had any special influence with other cardinals which might aid a Bergoglio candidacy?
These and other questions, I believe, will one day have answers. Who can say for sure, at the moment, why this “influential Italian” thought McCarrick had any unique influence with other cardinals. But, with such a question in mind, it is interesting to read a news report, as I did the other day, which suggested former-Cardinal McCarrick was in the habit of handing out envelopes of cash to bishops and cardinals of the Roman curia whenever he visited Rome. In a CNA article (“What Pope Francis can clarify about the Vigano testimony- and what he can’t“, September 11, 2018), Ed Condon wrote (emphasis added):
Viganò’s testimonial asserted that Sodano played a key role in defending Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ who was later revealed to be a serial sexual abuser. The archbishop speculated that “if Sodano had protected Maciel, as seems certain, there is no reason why he wouldn’t have done so for McCarrick, who according to many had the financial means to influence decisions.”
No evidence, or even firsthand knowledge is presented by Viganò for this supposition, though McCarrick’s abilities as a prolific fundraiser were well-known.
While McCarrick was able to produce sizable donations for everything from the Papal Foundation to individual projects in dioceses around the world, the financial support he offered could also be quite personal.
“When he would visit Rome, Cardinal McCarrick was well-known for handing out envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals around the curia to thank them for their work,” a curial cardinal recently told CNA. “Where these ‘honoraria’ came from or what they were for, exactly, was never clear – but many accepted them anyway.”
The world now knowing the true sort of man McCarrick is by the evil he has done, it is difficult to accept these ‘honoraria’ were awarded by McCarrick out of pure motives without any strings attached – implicitly or explicitly – or without any expectation that the favor would be eventually returned. If the reports of these gifts are accurate, then as with the tale of McCarrick’s “influential Italian,” various questions arise. Who or what was the source of the funds disbursed to the bishops and cardinals in the Curia? Did the funds come from any of the charities with which McCarrick was associated? If so, were the expenditures properly accounted for and reported? Who received the gifts and what were the dollar amounts? Were the gifts limited only to curial cardinals?
I am not a lawyer, but I do wonder if there are any legal issues involving these gifts. For example, the gifts were apparently given to officials of the Holy See, a sovereign country. Therefore, did the gifts possibly run afoul of any provision of the The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Whether the gifts meet the strict legal definition of bribes under the FCPA is up to federal officials to decide and enforce, but – looking at them as a Catholic – these gifts, at a minimum, had the potential to corrupt the individuals to whom they were given and who might be reasonably expected to one day repay McCarrick’s ‘kindness’ in some way. Presumably, some of these curial cardinal voted in the 2013 conclave. One cannot help but wonder if the alleged gifts (reported by CNA) to curial cardinals over the years improved McCarrick’s “powers of persuasion” with these same prelates as he “talked up Bergoglio” and inclined them more favorably to Bergoglio than they might otherwise have been. Who knows? But, it seems to me, aside from any interviews McCarrick faces with state attorneys over any potential abuse cases, it seems to me he should not be surprised if he were visited by officials from the IRS or FBI over some of the financial questions posed above.
The Next Conclave
I am not an infallible prognosticator. But, I do sense that there will be some interesting revelations to come forth about the last conclave in the wake of Viganó’s accusations and the McCarrick scandal. Regardless, the Viganó allegations will definitely impact the next conclave in ways that are not yet clear. That said, at this moment, I expect that the stock of the papabili mentioned in Viganó’s testimony (e.g., Cardinals Parolin, Maradiaga, Ouellet, etc) has plummeted as a result. Furthermore, more episcopal “earthquakes” are in the offing as there is no telling yet how the current round of abuse cases and seminary scandals in the U.S., and now in Germany (see here) will shake up the College of Cardinals. Yes, Pope Francis does get to fill the vacancies. However, we are not even close to seeing the worse of this crisis, either in the U.S. or elsewhere around the Catholic world. Therefore, I suspect. as is increasingly the case in the U.S., the voices of the Catholic laity around the world – seeing the breadth and depth of the homosexual infestation of the priesthood and episcopate – will rise up in indignation and demand their voices be heard. Let us pray the Pope and the bishops listen – and that the Lord gives us good bishops and cardinals for the future.
I posted an article (see The Historicity of Miracles: The case of Julian the Apostate and a lesson for our time) on Julian the Apostate back in June, before the recent revelations – and things look even more bleak now than when I wrote it. The article concluded:
“The enemies of the Church, both within and without it, wish for Hell to prevail over it, and are striving for this end – and appear to have little effective opposition. Thus, at such a time, the memory of Julian the Apostate’s failed efforts to falsify the Lord’s words in his day, might serve as a reminder to the faithful at this moment. The Lord is in control of history. He is true to his infallible words. They will not be falsified – ever. How the Lord will save the Church in our time remains to be seen. Whether by tempest, whirlwind, earthquake or by flame, or the rising up of one or more great saints, it might not be for us to yet know – but, that the Church will in the end triumph, there is no doubt. So, keep the faith, ‘always pray and never give up’ (cf Luke 18: 1) – especially in dark times, and do not worry – because it is the Lord who has promised the Church “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Victory is assured.”
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is married to Margaret O’Reilly. He lives near Atlanta with his family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).