Viganò Told: “Keep Your Mouth Shut”

By Silencing Viganò, Catholic Media Silence Abuse Victims

Some faithful Catholics are voicing disagreement with the Editor of Crisis Magazine, Eric Sammons, after he scolded Archbishop Viganò to “keep your mouth shut” following Viganò’s assertion that he has personal knowledge of reports that Pope Francis sexually abused seminarians.

As a sex abuse victims’ advocate who is aware of the serious effects of clerical sexual predation that has led countless victims to have their psychosexual development damaged; become drug addicts and/or alcoholics; and even commit suicide, I disagree with critics of Viganò’s transparency about abuse reports against Pope Francis. Allow me to explain why.

In 2002, I was informed by a Jesuit priest that Navy Chaplain, Father John “Matt” Lee, was cohabitating with an enlisted sailor, conduct that was being covered up by his Catholic supervisory chaplain whom I was led to believe was also a homosexual. After I reported Lee to then-Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, O’Brien buried my report and revoked my ecclesiastical endorsement because of my reports about the clerical sexual abuse problem in the Military Archdiocese. Five years after I wrote to O’Brien about Lee’s “live-in boyfriend,” Lee was arrested and charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, aggravated assault, sodomy, and failure to inform sex partners that he was HIV positive. Today, Lee is serving a 30-year sentence in the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution.

Should I have gone public about the allegations I received about Lee that were being covered up by O’Brien like Viganò has gone public about the allegations he received about Francis?  While I never saw Lee having sex with a sailor in Hawaii and Viganò never witnessed Francis engaging in sexual relations with novices, we both received information from sources whom we deemed very credible. Looking back on how many sailors in Hawaii; Midshipmen in Annapolis; and Marines in Quantico went on to be abused after I reported to O’Brien what I had learned, I regret that I had not at the time publicly exposed him for covering up my May 6, 2002 report.  After I felt morally compelled to bring O’Brien’s abuse cover-ups to the media in order to prevent others from being victimized, investigative reporters were able to uncover additional cases where O’Brien reportedly covered up or even engaged in homosexual misconduct, including attending gay orgies and having a homosexual “affair” with a seminarian while he was rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York.  Like in the case of O’Brien where additional misconduct may never have come to light unless I publicly exposed him, so too is Viganò opening a path for other potential abuse victims of Francis to be heard and seek accountability as a result of his latest testimony.

Just as I never would have reported Lee to O’Brien had I doubted the credibiIity of the source of the information I received, so too do I believe that Viganò never would have brought the allegations against Francis to light had he questioned the trustworthiness of his source.   By condemning Viganò for making the allegations public, particularly when Pope Francis has not denied them, Vigano’s critics are ignoring an opportunity to call for an independent investigation to ascertain if Francis truly did engage in homosexual behavior in Argentina.

Had Viganò’s detractors performed due diligence before publicly shutting down Viganò’s report, they would have discovered that Viganò is in fact not the first to accuse Francis of abusing seminarians.  Just as a case is strengthened when additional witnesses can substantiate the allegation, so too is Viganò’s claim already corroborated by a separate report that Francis abused a Jesuit novice in Córdoba. In 2015, on the occasion of Francis’ visit to the United States, an Argentine Jesuit disclosed at dinner with two priests in Chicago that he had knowledge of allegations describing how Francis sodomized a novice positioned on a chair. Investigators who later contacted the Jesuit and the others present at that dinner confirmed the graphic details of the abuse allegation.

Francis has also faced scrutiny for his close relationships with renowned homosexual Argentinian churchmen like Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, convicted predator Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, and convicted serial abuser Father Julio César Grassi; as well as with gay clerics like Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio who attended a drug-fueled orgy inside the Vatican, and Monsignor Battista Ricca who is known for having had a live-in boyfriend and frequenting gay hangouts. An investigation could reveal whether any of these clerics were likewise groomed by or had sex with then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio and today are “passing the tradition on.” By advising Viganò to “keep your mouth shut,” some journalists in the Catholic media world may prefer not to know the answer.

Spectators who shame whistleblowers into silence betray the fact that all Catholics have a moral duty to speak up when they have knowledge of sexual abuse lest they commit a grave sin of omission.  To deny this fact would encourage Catholics to be no better than Kansas City, Missouri Bishop Robert Finn or Philadelphia Monsignor William Lynn who were found guilty and in some cases sentenced to jail time for criminal omission by shielding predator priests; or Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl who was slammed by a stinging Pennsylvania grand jury report for his abuse cover-ups.  The vast majority of victims abused by priests lament that they were never warned of their predators’ histories or that others had not come forward sooner so that their own abuse could have been avoided.  Just like in the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick where scores of seminarians, priests, and minors were abused because bishops who received reports kept their mouths shut, it may never be known how many millions of victims were harmed because fellow Catholics and Church leaders kept silent in the face of clear and present danger.

Pundits who challenge Viganò to either broadcast his evidence online or keep silent hide how the lives of real people are at stake whenever sex abuse cases are brought forward.  In these cases, evidence nearly always involves deeply personal information and disturbing details where the identities of victims and witnesses are laid bare. Owing to the fact that evidence turned over into the wrong hands has led to the suspected murder of whistleblowers like Buffalo Father Joseph Moreno and Baltimore Sister Cathy Cesnik; threats to the safety of informants; or retaliation against priests and seminarians who testified against clerical predators, the only appropriate forum for evidence to be shared is an impartial investigation where all parties are guaranteed protection and due process.  If Vigano’s critics truly wish for Francis to be convicted or acquitted by evidence, why do they not offer to finance witness protection for the seminarians, priests, and bishops who may provide the damning evidence they demand Viganò produce?

Abuse experts also observe that the criticisms levied against Viganò point to a deeper attitude in the Church where victims are ordered to keep their mouths shut and made to watch their clerical abusers score promotions and live comfortable lives.  Journalists who make this possible owing to their roles as “managers” rather than “reporters” of news on clergy sex scandals prove that they in fact do not wish to receive evidence implicating their clerical benefactors.  Bishops’ endorsed outlets like Catholic News Agency (CNA) who have earned a reputation for spreading pro-predator propaganda show that even when they are presented with incontrovertible evidence, they will still bury the sins of accused predators.  In the wake of Cardinal Robert McElroy’s elevation to the College of Cardinals in 2022, a CNA article, “Cardinal Robert McElroy: Newest (and youngest) American ‘red hat’ a kindred spirit of Pope Francis” celebrated McElroy’s promotion and steered clear of mentioning how McElroy covered up Rachel Mastrogiacomo’s reports of satanic ritual abuse by convicted San Diego Father Jacob Bertrand.  When Mastrogiacomo discovered that her abuse was never reported in CNA’s article, she posted a respectful Facebook comment volunteering to speak on record with CNA and to provide all the police reports, court documents, and other corroborating evidence pertaining to her case.  CNA immediately deleted her comments and warned her that she “violated their community standards” by offering to come forward with her abuse allegations.  The way CNA treated Mastrogiacomo led her to observe, “Catholics in the pews have little to no idea how corrupt ‘Catholic’ media is … Catholic establishment media outlets have consistently told me through their actions that it would better that I just disappear.”

When multiple seminarians filed affidavits in an ongoing lawsuit against the North American College (NAC) corroborating allegations of sexual predation on the part of former vice-rector, Father Adam Park, and homosexual misconduct on the part of former rector, Father Peter Harman, CNA deceived readers by burying the plunge in enrollment that followed the scandalous revelations. While CNA falsely claimed that the number of seminarians and graduate priests at the Rome seminary was “more than 200,” evidence shows that enrollment has actually dropped to less than 90 seminarians.  Despite being presented with evidence from the NAC’s social media pages showing that CNA’s statistics are artificially inflated by a margin greater than 55%, CNA refuses to correct its reporting in an effort to hide homosexual predation problems responsible for a hemorrhage in vocations. In a scathing letter, CNA was confronted for its lies when an attorney wrote, “Repeating an inaccuracy may make it more believable, but it does not make it true. As the infamous Joseph Goebbels stated: ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it’.”

In a separate case, a former seminarian who reported being sexually harassed by Washington, DC seminary rector Father Carter Griffin and an older seminarian presented evidence of the alleged predation to National Catholic Register and a host of other Catholic media outlets. When these outlets failed to report on alleged abuses at his seminary, the seminarian was led to conclude, “It was of interest to no one.” The seminarian’s family added, “With few exceptions, the Catholic laity have made it abundantly clear that they are happy with the Church the way it is, or, at the very least, the state of the Church is not disturbing enough to them to work to effectively end clergy related sexual abuse.  Unless and until this changes, the abuse will continue.”

Disagreeing with Sammons’ criticism of Viganò, a concerned Catholic commented on LifeSiteNews’ website, “What kind of Catholic talks like this – let alone to probably the bravest Christian Shepherd we are blessed to have with us now?  Archbishop Viganò puts his life on the line every time he opens the mouth you want him to keep shut, whereas you, purporting to mediate, dissemble.” Catholics who wish to stand with victims instead of abusers should take action by contributing to fundraisers like the Save Our Seminarians Fund which support victims whom complicit Catholic media have left voiceless.

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a sexual abuse victims’ advocate, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. A former Navy (O6) Captain/Chaplain, seminary instructor, and diocesan respect life director, Gomulka was ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and later made a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by St. John Paul II.  Follow Gene Gomulka on YouTube or email him at msgr.investigations@gmail.com.

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