The reaction on the Internet to Cardinal Ouellet's letter denouncing Archbishop Vigano has been a true study in human psychology.
The members of group I call Those More Catholic Than the Pope ("TMCTP") are celebrating because they see Ouellet's letter, despite its condemnatory tone, as vindication of Vigano's claim that Pope Francis lifted canonical sanctions placed upon Theodore McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI.
It needs to be noted the core creed of TMCTP is that Pope Francis is a heretic bent on destroying the Church. TMCTP's believe their responsibility as faithful Catholics is to take out Pope Francis in any way they can.
A shining example of the TMCTP reaction to Cardinal Ouellet's letter is from none other than Michael Voris, a star member of this group. The headline on his website is, "CARDINAL OUELLET LETTER CONFIRMS SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON MCCARRICK."
Church Militant breathlessly reported as follows:
The Vatican's prefect for the Congregation for Bishops has confirmed that, in response to Theodore McCarrick's serial sexual predation of young men and boys, Pope Benedict XVI imposed punitive measures against the former Washington, D.C. cardinal — and that Pope Francis lifted them.
The following are the facts as seen by Michael Voris and Church Militant:
Intended as a defense of the Pope, Ouellet's letter is noteworthy for what it revealed about the Pope's handling of McCarrick.
Though asserting the measures were improperly termed "sanctions," as Viganò described them, Cdl. Ouellet corroborated the former papal nuncio's assertion that McCarrick was under penalty — banned from traveling and making public appearances — by order of Pope Benedict. He also conceded Pope Francis "invalidated them."CM does not provide any quotes from the letter supporting this claim. So I guess we just have to take their word for it.
Then there is the Tablet from England with the headline, "Cardinal Ouellet refutes central Viganò Claim." The Tablet completely contradicts Church's Militant' reporting. And the Tablet gives us a lot more information and background:
On 26 August Archbishop Viganò said he told the Pope back in June 2013 that the former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington DC, Theodore McCarrick had sexually “corrupted” seminarians and had been placed under sanctions by Benedict XVI. The archbishop, who was papal ambassador to the United States from 2011-2016, alleged Francis ignored this information and rehabilitated the octogenarian ex-cardinal McCarrick who was consulted as an informal adviser on who to choose to run major dioceses in the United States.Note that Cardinal Ouellet made it plain in his letter that there are no written Church records regarding official sanctions or even official "measures" taken against McCarrick.
In a 27 September follow-up, Archbishop Viganò put pressure on Cardinal Ouellet saying the cardinal held the “key documents incriminating McCarrick” and appealing to him directly: “Your Eminence, I urge you to bear witness to the truth,"
The cardinal has taken him up on the offer. The 74-year-old prelate from Quebec says there are no records in his department's archives of formal sanctions being placed on Archbishop McCarrick, 88, who retired in 2006, while the US prelate has not exerted influence over any of the Pope’s appointments.
“I have never heard Pope Francis refer to this so-called great adviser of his pontificate in relation to [bishop] nominations in America, even though he does not hide the trust he gives some prelates,” the cardinal, who meets the Pope each week to discuss bishop appointments, explains in his letter written in French.
Cardinal Ouellet also pulls no punches in his letter. He accuses Archbishop Viganò of using the sexual abuse scandal to inflict an “unmerited blow” on the Pope, and that his testimony “cannot come from the spirit of God.” Ouellet even asks how the archbishop can still say Francis’ name when saying Mass.
Also note that Cardinal Ouellet also said that despite his constant contact with Pope Francis, he never once heard the Holy Father refer to McCarrick as a "great advisor" in regard to appointing bishops, contrary to Vigano's accusation.
Then the Tablet gets to the meat of Vigano's accusation and, unlike Church Militant, uses actual quotes from Cardinal Ouellet's letter:
On the substantive accusations, the cardinal writes how “it is false to present the measures taken against him [McCarrick] as ‘sanctions’ decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and annulled by Pope Francis,” given that a review of the congregation’s arrives show “there are no documents in this regard signed by either Pope.” Neither, the cardinal adds, is there a note from his predecessor at the congregation issuing formal restrictions on McCarrick.
“The reason for this is that, unlike today, there was not enough evidence of his alleged guilt at the time,” Cardinal Ouellet writes.
There was, however, a private “exhortation” for McCarrick “to live a discreet life of prayer and penance for his own good and for that of the Church,” and that in 2011, Ouellet’s congregation had briefed Archbishop Vigano that the former Archbishop of Washington had to “obey certain conditions and restrictions because of rumours about his behaviour in the past.” McCarrick had been strongly urged not to travel or appear in public.That is certainly a whole lot more information and backup to the Tablet headline. This also explains why Church Militant did not give us any quotes from Ouellet's letter in regard to the matter of sanctions. It would obviously disprove their assertion.
Contrary to Church Militant's misrepresentation of Ouellet's letter, the Cardinal did not say that Vigano "improperly" referred to the measures taken against McCarrick as "sanctions." Ouellet said that labeling these measures as sanctions was blatantly "false".
Hey Church Militant, here is a news flash. There is a big difference between "mislabeling" and "lying". In order to have official sanctions, or even official "measures", we need written documentation signed by the Holy Father. According to Cardinal Ouellet, there is no such documentation.
Pentin first told us, in support of Vigano's claims, that Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that "measures" were taken against McCarrick, but the Emeritus Pope could not remember what those "measures" were.
Pope Benedict then said through his secretary that he never confirmed Vigano's accusations to anyone. Pentin revised his reporting, stating that his inside source said Benedict had made a "private request" that McCarrick keep a "low profile." This actually seems to comport with Cardinal Ouellet's letter.
At the time, I wrote that Pentin's reporting completely disproved Vigano's assertion that there were sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict and lifted by Pope Francis. Cardinal Ouellet states this as well in his letter.
Church Militant also made another completely outrageous and false claim that Ouellet's letter confirms that Pope Francis "invalidated" the "measures." Of course this claim is absurd since the Cardinal's letter states there were never any official sanctions or "measures" to "invalidate" in the first place.
However, as confirmed by Ouellet, there was a private exhortation made to McCarrick to remain in prayer and out of public. The problem seems to be that no one enforced this at any time.
Certainly Archbishop Vigano, in his role as U.S. Nuncio, never enforced it. Vigano actually appeared in public on more than one occasion with McCarrick, including concelebrating Mass. This is in spite of the fact that McCarrick was supposedly precluded from public celebration of the Mass.
And we know that McCarrick went to the Vatican several times in this period. He is even pictured on the last day of Pope Benedict's papacy receiving a warm greeting from the Holy Father.
So if no one during Benedict's papacy enforced the private "exhortation", and there was nothing in writing, how was Pope Francis suppose to know of this?
Vigano claims that he told the Holy Father of these sanctions. The following is Cardinal Ouellet's response to this claim:
You say that you informed Pope Francis on 23 June 2013 on the McCarrick case during the audience he granted to you, along with the many other papal representatives whom he then met for the first time on that day. I imagine the enormous quantity of verbal and written information that he would have gathered on that occasion about many persons and situations. I strongly doubt that McCarrick was of interest to him to the point that you believed him to be, since at the moment he was an 82-year-old Archbishop Emeritus who had been without an appointment for seven years. In addition, the written brief prepared for you by the Congregation for Bishops at the beginning of your service in 2011, said nothing about McCarrick other than what I told you in person about his situation as an emeritus Bishop who was supposed to obey certain conditions and restrictions due to the rumors surrounding his past behavior.On June 23, 2013, Pope Francis was meeting with all of his nuncios from around the world. As Cardinal Ouellet writes, it must have been exhausting for him, with a tremendous amount of "verbal and written information" to digest for these meetings. As Cardinal Ouellet says, McCarrick was a retired prelate who had not held any position for seven years. With everything else he had to deal with, Pope Francis would not have given McCarrick much thought at all.
However, as Cardinal Ouellet admits, and as I agree, the McCarrick situation was grossly mishandled for years. McCarrick should have never been promoted as he was. The Church is at fault for not giving more heed to the stories told about him.
And certainly the private measures imposed upon McCarrick by Pope Benedict should have been enforced. I for one would like to know why no one, not even Archbishop Vigano, enforced these measures. If that had been done, we would not be talking about this right now.
But as Cardinal Ouellet writes, the blame for all of this cannot be placed on Pope Francis:
Francis had nothing to do with the promotion of McCarrick to New York, Metuchen, Newark or Washington. He divested him from the dignity of Cardinal when a credible accusation of the abuse of a minor became evident. I have never heard Pope Francis allude to this self-styled advisor during his pontificate regarding nominations in America, though he does not hide the trust that he has in some of the Bishops. I presume that they are not preferred by you or by those friends who support your interpretation of the facts. I therefore consider it to be aberrant that you should profit by the horrible scandal of the sexual abuse of minors in the United States to inflict such an unprecedented and unmerited blow on the moral authority of your Superior, the Supreme Pontiff.The Church here on earth is run by imperfect and sinful men. And certainly Pope Francis is not a perfect man. He himself admits he is a sinner. As I have previously written, this is how Our Lord purposely designed the Church.
Our Lord does not want us to look at our priests and bishops as our saviors. They are as sinful as we are. And because of the power inherent in their positions, they can actually be even more prone to sin. This is not new. This has been true since the foundation of the Church at the time of Christ.
But that doesn't change the fact that the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and that Jesus Christ is in charge. He does not need our help in steering the barque of Peter. In fact, the more we try to take over, the more likely we will capsize. The actions of Archbishop Vigano and those who support him, even lying for him as Church Militant does, are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
The filth in the Church is being more and more exposed, as it must be. The Church is in the midst of a great purging, and we need to let the Holy Spirit act. We need to admit that we don't have all the answers, and that it is not our job to sit in judgment of others. It is most especially not our job to sit in judgment of the Holy Father.
Remember, "we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age." (Eph. 6:12). This is way beyond our ability to fight and win. We need to approach this war on our knees and looking to Jesus Christ to fight this battle for us. That is the only way we can be sure we are on the right side.