Viganò, Francis and the War on Truth Tellers

The Vatican is drawing outrage from Catholics amid news that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò is the target of an extrajudicial criminal Church trial for charges of having “broken communion” with Pope Francis some two weeks after Viganò went public with first-hand knowledge of reports that Francis sexually abused seminarians.  While Viganò is being prosecuted for “schism,” Francis has yet to face calls from a single bishop to address the grave abuse allegations he has yet to deny.  The trial of Viganò is the trial faced by every abuse victim and whistleblower in the Church: truth-tellers are convicted and smeared because they spoke up, while predators flout the law and escape accountability.

As one of the first “canceled priests” who was ousted because I reported sex abuse cover-ups by Church leaders, I could not help but recall how I myself met Viganò’s fate twenty years ago. In May 2002, I reported Father John “Matt” Lee to Archbishop Edwin O’Brien for preying on young sailors. I also informed O’Brien that a sailor I recommended to study for the priesthood left the seminary after officials failed to discipline gay seminarians who were continuously harassing him. Like the overwhelming number of bishops today who cover up abuse with impunity, O’Brien failed to investigate the allegations involving Lee and the homosexual-infested seminary. When I later confronted O’Brien for lying to the John Jay Study about the number of sexual abuse cases in the Archdiocese for the Military Services (he reported two when in fact there were over five hundred between 1950 and 2002), he revoked my ecclesiastical endorsement to serve as a chaplain in the armed services without just cause.  It was in 2007, five years after I reported Lee to O’Brien, that Lee was arrested for conduct unbecoming an officer, aggravated assault, sodomy, and failure to inform sex partners that he was HIV positive.  Lee is currently serving a 30-year sentence in Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution.  Predictably, O’Brien lied by misleading the media to believe that he had no idea that Lee was a sexual predator as I informed him in my report dated May 6, 2002.

Just as I warned O’Brien of Lee’s predatory conduct five years before Lee’s arrest, so too did Archbishop Viganò warn Pope Francis in May 2013 of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sex abuse record.  McCarrick, who had been “put out to pasture” during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, was reported by The Washington Post to be “back in the mix” under Francis and “busier than ever.” Instead of acting on Viganò’s concerns, Francis granted McCarrick free reign to travel around the world, including to China where he helped to sell out the Chinese Catholic Church to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Just as O’Brien could have spared many victims had he acted on my reports five years before Lee was arrested in 2007, so too could Francis have averted scandal had he disciplined McCarrick five years before the revelations exploded in the media in 2018.

Like O’Brien who lied about the number of abuse cases involving military and VA chaplains, Francis lied when he penned On Heaven and Earth and wrote, “It [sex abuse] never happened in my diocese.”  When it became clear that Francis did in fact have a record of covering for predators like McCarrick, Viganò released his famous 2018 “Testimony” revealing what he reported to Francis about McCarrick and calling upon Francis to resign by writing, “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.” The so-called “McCarrick Report” that was published in November 2020 was a typical Vatican whitewash that covered up incriminating evidence against Francis including the 2016 report the late Richard Sipe had then-Bishop Robert McElroy legally served documenting how McCarrick abused not one, but 12 seminarians and young priests.  For his role in covering up for both McCarrick and Francis, McElroy was rewarded by being made a cardinal in August 2022.

In my work as a sex abuse victims’ advocate, I find that most victims report their abusers to the Church because they are deceived by prelates’ empty pledges of “transparency.” These victims come to regret ever having approached the Church with their complaints after experiencing how bishops gaslit them, ignored or whitewashed their reports, and kept credibly accused predators in ministry. In a similar way, I believe that both Viganò and I trusted our superiors (Francis and O’Brien, respectively) to act on our complaints against homosexual predators because we were not aware that they themselves were homosexuals accused of abusing their power over seminarians.

It was only years after I reported Lee to O’Brien for homosexual predation that I learned of allegations that O’Brien himself participated in gay orgies and was sexually involved with seminarians when he was the rector of St. Joseph Seminary (Dunwoodie) in Yonkers, NY.  I also learned in time that O’Brien was reported by a homosexual for attempting to recruit him at a Courage conference to study for the priesthood and serve as a military chaplain despite having previously told a National Catholic Register reporter that gays should not be ordained. Had I known that O’Brien was a homosexual, I never would have wasted my time asking him to investigate a seminary infested with homosexuals or act upon Lee’s homosexual predation.

Just as I was unaware of O’Brien’s reported sexual past, Viganò was also likely unaware in May 2013 that Francis was a homosexual when he asked Francis to discipline McCarrick, a fellow homosexual.  Francis’ shielding of gay priests would come to light some two months later when he responded, “Who am I to judge?” when asked not about “the sexual orientation of priests” – as incorrectly reported by the Associated Press and other news agencies – but about his sexually promiscuous gay friend, Monsignor Battista Ricca.  Francis’ gay leanings were again spotlighted when it was revealed that he knew about and failed to discipline prelates and priests who took part in a June 2017 drug-fueled homosexual orgy inside Vatican City.   Later that year, Francis brought his friend, Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, to work in the Vatican after he had been accused of “aggravated continuous sexual abuse” of two seminarians in his diocese.  Actions such as Pope Francis sending a handwritten note to a homosexual seminarian which urged him, “Go ahead with your vocation,” led Viganò’s to realize that “Bergoglio’s goal is to normalize sodomy and all sexual perversion (both among the laity and among the clergy) [and] destroy the priesthood itself.”

Now knowing both O’Brien’s and Francis’ reported history of homosexual misconduct, I have come to believe that my reporting of Lee to O’Brien in 2002, as well as Viganò’s reporting of McCarrick to Francis in 2013, was no different than had someone appealed to Adolf Hitler that the SS (Schutzstaffel) took one’s family off to a concentration camp.

Interestingly, the Vatican is pursuing an “extrajudicial” criminal process against Viganò, which means that Church officials have predetermined the “evidence” to be “sufficiently clear” and not warranting a “full canonical trial” even before Viganò was informed via email that a penal process was initiated against him.  While any party in a secular trial has a right to discovery (a process where evidence and witnesses are produced to support or defend against allegations), it appears assured that any kind of damning discovery Viganò might produce to the Vatican in his defense (e.g. the testimony of informants who have already gone on record corroborating the abuse allegations Viganò reported against Francis) will fall upon deaf ears.  Just as one could not have expected Bill Clinton’s defense attorney to convict his own client of having sex with a White House intern, so too should we not expect the members of the Francis-empaneled Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to convict their own boss (Francis) by acquitting Viganò.

Catholics need to see how the same reprisals are taking place when bishops like Joseph Strickland, as well as good, holy, straight priests and seminarians object to sexual predation and homosexual misconduct on the part of bishops, priests, and seminarians in the Church.

Just as I could care less if the pope were to laicize me while failing to laicize 150 bishops credibly accused of abuse, I am sure Viganò feels the same way about what Francis may do to him. Reminiscent of the mockery of a trial of Sir Thomas More instigated by King Henry VIII, I believe Viganò, Strickland, I, and other canceled clerics and seminarians can honestly say on our deathbeds, “I die the Church’s most loyal servant, but God’s first.”

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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