It is no small thing to call the pope a liar. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has done just that, in straightforward language. “What the Pope said about not knowing anything [about Theodore McCarrick’s misconduct] is a lie,” he told LifeSite News.
On the other hand, it is no small thing to claim that an archbishop, a veteran member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, had lied about the pope as part of a political conspiracy to undermine his authority. Such charges have been leveled against Viganò by the pope’s most stalwart public defenders and perhaps—depending on how one interprets some unusually convoluted papal utterances—by the pontiff himself.
Someone is not being forthright here. The unedifying charges and countercharges have aggravated a scandal that already plagues Catholicism, and the faithful have waited far too long for a restoration of confidence that Church leaders are telling the truth.
The conflict between Francis and Viganò became a public matter last summer, when the former papal envoy in Washington reported that the pope had been informed of, and decided to rescind, disciplinary restrictions placed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. Viganò’s testimony was vigorously contested by the pope’s allies, who said that McCarrick’s ministry had not been restricted, and/or that Francis had not been informed of the restrictions. Francis himself had refused public comment on the matter, until this week.
Now, in an interview with the Mexican Televisa network, he has said that “about McCarrick I knew nothing, obviously—nothing, nothing.” But he paired that sweeping denial with another, contradictory statement: “I don’t remember if [Viganò] told me about this.” If he does not remember, how could he say with confidence that he knew nothing?
The available evidence (including some new documentation released this week) confirms that Benedict did instruct McCarrick to retire from public ministry, that the restrictions were conveyed in writing, and that several key Vatican officials were aware of them. It is equally clear that McCarrick flouted the papal directive with impunity. But it is still not clear—at least it is not proven—that Francis was aware of the restrictions and deliberately lifted them.
Read more at First Things