Francis in the Dock by Archbishop Carlo María Viganò. By Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

Described as “an atomic bomb dropped on the Roman Curia,” a former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States accused Pope Francis of covering up some Cardinal sins.

I was just sitting on my bunk in my prison cell on Sunday night, August 26, after a tiring day on multiple fronts. I went through the day without a single message on the GTL tablet I was holding. It was unusual, the calm before the storm.

I spent a few minutes at night playing one of its solitaire games that I can never seem to win. Several minutes later I exited the game to find a surprise. In that brief ten minutes, 19 messages had come into my GTL inbox. Before the night was over, there were nine more.

The summer of Catholic scandal had just detonated its third and most explosive bomb, and several readers sent me alerts and commentary. Archbishop Carlo María Viganò (pro. “vee-ga-NO”), a former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, published an 11-page letter on two Catholic websites.

The published letter charged that Pope Francis, six months after assuming the papacy in 2013, revoked restrictions placed by Pope Benedict XVI on the ministry of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick when Pope Benedict learned of his history of sexual abuse of seminarians. Archbishop Viganò claims that he personally made Pope Francis aware that Cardinal McCarrick had been restricted to a life of prayer and penance, but simply ignored it.

The letter also claimed, among other charges, that Pope Francis ignored it as well, restoring Cardinal McCarrick to a position of power and influence as a papal advisor. Cardinal McCarrick, according to the letter, thus became instrumental in the naming of two other American prelates, Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark and Cardinal Blase Cupich in Chicago.

On the day this all exploded, it made for dismal reading long into the night. You need a scorecard to sort out the details of this three-strike story. First in the summer of Catholic scandal came revelations that Cardinal McCarrick, age 88, stands accused of groping a 16-year-old boy in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in 1971, long before he became a bishop and then a cardinal.

The claim has been presented as both credible and substantiated, but in a post, on Beyond These Stone Walls (linked below) I described this to be a matter related more to expediency than evidence. “Credible” simply means that both McCarrick and the 16-year-old lived in New York City in 1971. “Substantiated” is another matter and, absent evidence, eyewitness testimony, or an admission of the accused — and there were none of these — it defies belief. As I have pointed out, the 16-year-old is now 63.

But this bombshell has morphed into a bigger one that is far more credible and substantiated. A barrage of sordid stories has emerged about Cardinal McCarrick engaging in a decades-long pattern of homosexual predation of seminarians and younger priests. He became notorious for this, the current disclaimers of bishops notwithstanding.

These tales, and those of his now infamous beach house were familiar to many former seminarians and priests east of the Mississippi in the 1980s and 1990s. I was one of them. Meanwhile, every bishop and fellow prelate has either feigned ignorance or kept silent. In “Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the Homosexual Matrix,” I speculated upon three questions:

Who knew what and when did they know it?

What did they do once they did know it?

Why is this all coming up now?

The central point of that post was something that each of the polar camps seldom considers as this story heightens a debate about the moral prerequisites for priesthood:

“I have encountered another condition among many, but certainly not all, homosexual seminarians and priests. I found the prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder among them to be inordinately high. Perhaps it is inordinately high in the wider ‘gay community’ as well.

I believe it is this disorder, and not simply same-sex attraction, that is the real impediment to Holy Orders. It is this that must be detected and treated as an impediment for seminary candidates. Narcissistic personality disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat and modify. One of its symptoms is the objectification of others for one’s own gratification.”


In other words, there is a developmental and psychological difference between a person who experiences same-sex attraction but remains celibate, and one who becomes a predator. Behaviors such as stalking and grooming are inherently narcissistic.

But before anyone launches a Catholic witch hunt, narcissism is a pathology not at all related to sexual orientation, although I and others have cited a higher presence of narcissistic behavior among homosexual men than heterosexual men. This was supported in a subsequent article by Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, MD, on LifeSiteNews.

I did not intend to analyze Cardinal McCarrick in the above post, but if the behaviors with seminarians now attributed to him are true, then one could legitimately conclude that he became a manipulative, narcissistic predator.

Some of what Archbishop Viganò now alleges in his 11-page bombshell letter lends credibility to this. He wrote that McCarrick was privately disciplined for these behaviors by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, but the Cardinal “openly flouted the papal sanctions.”

The Second Bombshell: Pennsylvania

The news media, for the most part, looked the other way during the Cardinal McCarrick bombshell, and the reasons for that were political. I examined them in “The McCarrick Report and the Silence of the Sacrificial Lambs.” Then another bomb dropped, this time in Pennsylvania but with reverberations across the country and around the world.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro published a Grand Jury report that exposed 300 Pennsylvania priests accused of sexually abusing 1,000 victims over a period of seventy years. Nothing in this report is new, some of it is untrue, and much of it is politically motivated. I wrote about this report in detail in “Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Joseph Goebbels In ‘The Reckoning’.”

I think I speak for many conscientious Catholics when I say that we have grown tired of upwardly mobile political careerists like AG Shapiro who allude that questioning claimants or asking for evidence “re-victimizes the victims.”

Claims in the Pennsylvania report date back as far as World War II and most of the priests accused are long deceased.

Many others who are still living were denied any opportunity to defend themselves. There are serious flaws, and multiple injustices, associated with this report. (Note: In the elections of November 2022, Josh Shapiro was elected Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania.)

The news media that ignored or minimized the Cardinal McCarrick story pounced on the Pennsylvania story ignoring its many flaws, lack of due process and substantiation, and the fact that it was a grotesque abuse of the grand jury system. It served a purpose for the leftist media by momentarily moving the spotlight back onto the moral panic about child abuse and off a politically less desirable truth: that homosexual predatory behavior has been the real ground-zero of the crisis.

That crisis is manifested in a 50-year history of narcissistic homosexual inclination and behavior among a significant number of seminarians, priests, and bishops. And according to Archbishop Viganò’s published letter, it is a reality with tentacles that have reached deeply into Vatican affairs.

The hypocrisy it has borne along with it never ceases. In light of the third and biggest bombshell, the accusations brought by Archbishop Viganò, USCCB President Daniel Cardinal Dinardo had this to say:

“Archbishop Viganò’s letter raised questions that deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusations and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”

I agree. But with all due respect, Your Eminence, there are many accused U.S. priests who deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Innocent men have been tainted — imprisoned even — by false accusations, and Cardinal McCarrick is evidence that some of the apparently guilty have been left to repeat the sins of the past. The U.S. Bishops’ Dallas Charter applied only to priests while exempting bishops.

The “Atomic Bomb” and Its Fallout

Now, with the revelations of Archbishop Carlo María Viganò, it seems that some who feigned shock over Cardinal McCarrick already knew, and had known for years, about his history of luring seminarians into a homosexual Catholic subculture of predation, compromise, and secrecy.

Archbishop Viganò’s document alleges that he personally informed Pope Francis of the above in Rome shortly after the conclave of 2013. Without apparent consultation with Pope Emeritus Benedict, Pope Francis met with McCarrick, appeared to revoke the canonical sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict, and restored Cardinal McCarrick to a position of power and influence. The media coverage of this story has been amazing. A lead editorial in The Wall Street Journal (“Pope Francis in the Dock,” August 29, 2018) chided the left for downplaying the story:

“The archbishop’s charges have split the Catholic community. Some defend [Acb. Viganò’s] reputation for honesty and professionalism while others suggest he is motivated by dislike for Pope Francis. Some secular defenders who like the pope’s politics, and are stalwarts of the #MeToo movement, want to excuse the episode… But motives are irrelevant here, or at least should be. The question is whether the archbishop’s claims are true.”

In an op-ed in The New York Times (“A Catholic Civil War?” August 27, 2018) First Things senior editor Matthew Schmitz described the fallout of the bombs of the summer of 2018 and Archbishop Viganò’s letter to be evidence of our polar ideologies:

“No matter what Francis does now, the Catholic Church has been plunged into all-out civil war. On one side are the traditionalists, who insist that abuse can be prevented only by tighter adherence to church doctrine. On the other side are liberals, who demand that the church cease condemning homosexual acts and allow gay priests to step out of the closet.”

I do not at all agree with this assessment of the state of affairs in the Holy See. This is not a matter of simple polarity, but of truth. Getting at that truth is something owed to the Church. How best to do this is the next big question. Some more conservative commentators have cast a series of doubts about the integrity of Pope Francis in the light of what is presently alleged. Others on the left attack Viganò.

Those in the media, often of a more liberal mindset, have suggested that Archbishop Viganò should be treated with a degree of skepticism. John Allen, formerly Rome Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and presently president of Crux Catholic Media wrote that “The proper attitude is to take [the Viganò letter] seriously but with a large grain of salt [and] healthy skepticism.”

Mr. Allen cited as a reason for “healthy skepticism” Archbishop Viganò’s “unsubstantiated” accusations against other church leaders in the same document, and the Archbishop’s history as an emphatic critic of the pope’s liberal views on divorce and homosexuality. The Rev. Robert Imbelli, emeritus professor of theology at Boston College — in the epicenter of the 2002 abuse scandal — suggested that the pope “leaves it to journalists and their professional competence to evaluate the truth.”

I am sorry, but “journalists and their professional competence” may seem a cruel joke to anyone who has been victimized by the news media’s total lack of John Allen’s “healthy skepticism” when it comes to coverage — and the most basic truth-telling — about Catholic scandal. For the best commentary on the media’s lack of “healthy skepticism” see JoAnn Wypijewski’s courageous media comeuppance: “Spotlight Oscar Hangover: Why ‘Spotlight’ Is a Terrible Film.”

Vigano: Impeccable Integrity or Caped Crusader?

Despite some of the aspersions against his integrity and motives, any honest assessment of Archbishop Viganò’s Vatican-based career can lead to only one conclusion.

He has been a servant of the Church of the highest caliber, exhibiting moral fortitude and integrity — sometimes at great cost to himself.

In 2012, the Vatican’s most powerful powerbroker under Pope Benedict XVI, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, engineered a plot to move Acb. Viganò out of Rome. He was transferred against his will from his position as Deputy Governor of Vatican City to a post as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, a position that Viganò interpreted as “exile.”

America is not normally considered a place of exile, but it’s easy to understand why Viganò saw it that way. His reforms in the financial structure of Vatican City halted the scourge of nepotism and corruption. His department went from a 10 million Euro Debt to a 30 million Euro surplus in one year. He ended corrupt contracts and replaced them with legitimate ones. In the ordinary course, this would be a good reason to keep him around.

So his “exile” was perplexing. His letter of appeal to Pope Benedict was never answered when he was sent to Washington DC. It was from this move that Acb. Viganò was unwittingly placed in a position between the affairs of Rome and the Archdiocese of Washington where, he says, Cardinal Donald Wuerl also became keenly aware of censures placed on Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict, but chose not to enforce them. Cardinal Wuerl denies this, a position that grows weaker by the day.

This is not the last word. Without doubt, there is more to come. Until it does, I am a loyal and steadfast supporter of the pope until clear evidence loosens that knot. Nonetheless, every visible and credible source measures Archbishop Carlo María Viganò as a man of great integrity and courage. We would all be fools not to listen.
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Dr Bobus
I never said--nor implied--that I thought Fr MacRae was guilty.
Btw, not-yet-Cardinal Dulles used to come to dinner now and then where I lived in Rome. He also lectured once in our class on Ecclesiology. The last I saw him was in Kansas City.
As you probably already know, he is buried
at the Shrine of the North American martyrs in Auriesville. Unfortunately, the Jesuits no longer are there.More
I never said--nor implied--that I thought Fr MacRae was guilty.

Btw, not-yet-Cardinal Dulles used to come to dinner now and then where I lived in Rome. He also lectured once in our class on Ecclesiology. The last I saw him was in Kansas City.

As you probably already know, he is buried
at the Shrine of the North American martyrs in Auriesville. Unfortunately, the Jesuits no longer are there.
Ryan A MacDonald
Back in December 2008, before His Eminence Cardinal Avery Dulles died, he wrote to Father MacRae in prison: "Some day your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound, will be a monument to your trials." I find the evidence for that right here in this fine article. Father MacRae writes …More
Back in December 2008, before His Eminence Cardinal Avery Dulles died, he wrote to Father MacRae in prison: "Some day your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound, will be a monument to your trials." I find the evidence for that right here in this fine article. Father MacRae writes the bold truth with no political bent, and not even a hint of bitterness in his articulate voice. There is Truth here and it is very much needed.
Dr Bobus
Fr McRae is trying too hard.