To cut to the chase: Cardinal Ouellet’s open letter (full text here) has confirmed there were restrictions on then-Cardinal McCarrick. This has been a major point of contention in the press, but it is really a secondary or an ancillary consideration. I’ve been saying from the start — I called it on August 27th, in the Catholic Herald — that the “sanctions” of which Archbishop Viganò wrote in his original J’Accuse! were in essence a sort of ecclesiastical double-secret probation. Nevertheless, there, you have it.
Cardinal Ouellet has expressed incredulity regarding Viganò’s recollection of the conversation, that constitutes the core of his accusation against Pope Francis: that Viganò informed Pope Francis of McCarrick’s character, behavior, and proclivities, in a private exchange on June 23rd, 2013, on the sidelines of an audience with Apostolic Nuncios.
Archbishop Viganò’s direct report of his own speech has always been rather incredible on its face: he protested too clear a recollection of his precise words, given — as that report was — at more than five years’ remove. Viganò was also irresponsible in his more fanciful interpolations and colorful surmises of Pope Francis’s motives and state of mind. A rehearsal of the substance and the facts would have sufficed, and been more effective.
Nevertheless, Cardinal Ouellet offers nothing in the way of substantial refutation. Insofar as its probative value is concerned, Ouellet’s opinion of the matter is irrelevant. An expression of incredulity is simply insufficient, especially when coupled with so anemic a qualification as that, which Ouellet’s defense of the Pope in this regard does offer. “I very much doubt that McCarrick interested [Pope Francis] to the point that you would have us believe,” Ouellet writes — and here it does bear mention that Viganò claims it was Pope Francis, who raised the issue of McCarrick with him during the course of their colloquy. “[McCarrick] was an 82-year-old Archbishop emeritus, who had been seven years without an assignment,” Ouellet went on to offer.
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