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JP II’s biographer: Viganò told me 6 years ago he had advised Pope Francis on McCarrick

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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Famed Catholic author and Pope St. John Paul II biographer George Weigel revealed that Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Viganò informed him on three different occasions — the first time as early as 2013 — about telling Pope Francis about then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s reputation as an abuser of seminarians and priests.

Weigel addressed both Pope Francis’ recent denial that he knew anything about McCarrick’s sins and the report released last week by Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo on EWTN’s The World Over with Raymond Arroyo last Thursday.

Referring to Francis’ “rather rambling remarks,” Weigel indicated that the most charitable interpretation of the pontiff’s remarks is that he did not take Viganò’s advice to see the thick dossier on McCarrick.

“On this key point, Archbishop Viganò has told me that same account (of advising Francis on McCarrick) three different times: once shortly after it happened, twice some years after that,” Weigel said.

“I cannot believe that (Viganò) is making this up,” he continued.

Weigel declared that the thought of Viganò’s testimonies being concocted by a cabal of rich American conservatives is “absolute rubbish and poppycock,” but it is “widely believed” by people around Pope Francis and is even “being sold to other leaders of the world church.”

“I ran into this during the Synod of 2018 last October,” he said. “I ran into it at the abuse summit in February.”

“This is a lie, and it’s being used both to undercut the Church in the United States and …  it’s being used to frame the debate prior to the next conclave.”

Weigel said this must stop and that the “American bishops need to push back on this because they know it’s a lie.”

“This is the kind of rubbish that people who know they’re losing an argument engage in,” he added.

“It is absolutely unbecoming to anyone who thinks of himself as a churchman.”

‘What we have here, I’m afraid, is a lack of disciplinary follow-up’

Weigel and Arroyo began the show by discussing the massive “dump” of documents saved by McCarrick’s former secretary, Monsignor Figueiredo. The Figueiredo Report, as it is now being called, shows that sanctions did exist against McCarrick and that McCarrick’s successor as ordinary of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl, knew about them.

In last Tuesday’s disclosure, Figueiredo published a letter by McCarrick to the papal nuncio to the United States at the time, Monsignor Pietro Sambi, saying he had received a letter from Cardinal Giovanni Re with the restrictions and had shared the letter with Archbishop Wuerl. In the letter, he indicated that the sanctions involved a move and a ban on any future public appearances without Vatican permission.

Figueiredo also released email he received from McCarrick saying Wuerl had helped McCarrick with his move, gave detail of the restrictions, and revealed that he had sent his pledge of obedience to Re’s orders directly to Wuerl.    

“It certainly vindicates Archbishop Viganò’s claim that Benedict XVI, presumably having been informed of some very bad problems with then-Cardinal McCarrick, essentially told him to shut down,” Weigel said.

The author pointed out that Benedict had also removed Cardinal McCarrick as ordinary of Washington, D.C.  

“ … Remember that it was Benedict XVI who, rather quickly after his election, accepted the pro forma resignation that Cardinal McCarrick had submitted but manifestly did not expect to be accepted for at least the next several years,” Weigel said.

“What we have here, I’m afraid, is a lack of disciplinary follow-up,” he concluded.

Weigel said those who knew McCarrick well would see from that letter he was “treading water” and “playing for time.”

“He’s waiting until things calm down, and then he’s going to proceed to get right back to what he had been doing, which was inserting himself into a whole lot of things that were really not his business and, in his newly retired state, setting himself up as a kind of parallel foreign minister of the Vatican,” he explained.

Weigel allowed that some of McCarrick’s globetrotting may have been at the request of the Vatican but said he expected that most of it was “self-initiated” and that his superiors had merely “shrugged and gone along with it.”

The Figueiredo Report revealed to the world what insiders like Weigel had known for a long time: that then-Cardinal McCarrick was, in Weigel’s words, “a relentless self-promoter.”

“He was an extraordinary sycophant with superiors he thought could help him,” the author continued, “and he was quite shameless about pushing himself into matters that were of interest to him.”

Later in the interview, Weigel revealed that he had heard about the Figueiredo Report a month before it happened, and that he had “invited” his source to invite the monsignor to call him “to talk about whether this was a good idea.” Figueiredo didn’t accept the invitation, and Weigel doesn’t want to speculate on his motives.

“I do think he is genuinely upset at the kind of stonewalling that is going on about (the McCarrick cover-up), which does not serve the interests of the Church, does not serve the credibility of the hierarchy, does not serve the credibility of the Holy See,” Weigel said.

However, the author doesn’t think there is much more revelatory paperwork to be released about Newark and Washington.  

‘It does seem now quite clear that he was aware of what was going on’

The Figueiredo Report also revealed that McCarrick had discussed his sanctions with Archbishop Wuerl, who has long denied knowing anything about them. Asked what effect the Report would have on Wuerl’s credibility, Weigel said he thought it was “very sad.”

“In many respects Cardinal Wuerl was a very fine Archbishop of Washington, and he deserves credit for being that,” Weigel said.

“I cannot understand why he has taken the position he has on the McCarrick business since it first broke a year ago, and it does seem now quite clear that he was aware … of what was going on.”

However, Weigel stated that the ultimate responsibility rested with the Holy See. If the Holy See wanted McCarrick out of the limelight, “it (was) up to the Holy See to enforce that,” he said.

“And that means it’s up to the Nuncio to enforce that,” he continued. “It’s up to the Cardinal Secretary of State, who was Tarcisio Bertone at that time.

“There was a real failure of follow-through on this by people who should have understood that if you didn’t put something equivalent to an electronic lock on this man’s leg he was going to … keep doing his thing.”

Another communication in the Figueiredo Report contained an admission from then-Cardinal McCarrick to Bertone that he had shared his bed with seminarians without believing it was wrong; he denied ever having had sexual relations with anyone.

“It’s a very disturbing letter,” Weigel said, but added that, to McCarrick, it was “spin.”

The author said there had been rumors about McCarrick’s beach house behavior for years, but that nothing was done because nobody had come forward to complain.

“In those days if no one was willing to come forward and lay a serious accusation, put their own reputation on the line, you’d just hope that it was (just) a bunch of stories. But there were so many of them, that it now seems very clear ... that there were real problems here that went  unaddressed.”

Regarding McCarrick’s enthusiasm for traveling to China and helping out Cardinal Pietro Parolin with negotiations with the Chinese government, Weigel said it is “entirely possible” that McCarrick was doing things entirely on his own and that “he was simply attempting to play along with the superiors in Rome.”

Weigel again underscored that it had been up to the Holy See to enforce its own sanctions.

“Why didn’t they say to him, ‘Stop it. We don’t want you doing this?’” he asked.

The author also condemned the current deal with China, saying neither John Paul II or Benedict XVI would have signed a deal with the Communist government allowing it to choose bishops. However, he said McCarrick’s suggestions that he had anything to do with it should be taken with not just a grain of salt, but  “a salt shaker.”

Weigel also believes that McCarrick was exaggerating about his role as a papal kingmaker in his 2013 Villanova University speech and told Arroyo that other bishops had wanted to “duct-tape” McCarrick’s mouth at that point.

Was Weigel really a potential Ambassador to the Holy See?

Weigel himself had a cameo part in the Figueiredo Report, for one of the released communications was a 2017 letter from McCarrick to Pope Francis warning that there were rumors that the author might be named the new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

McCarrick warned Francis that Weigel was “very much a leader of the ultra-conservative wing of the Church” in the United States,, had been “publicly critical” of the pontiff, and “many of us bishops would have great concerns” about the author being named to the post.

“It’s all rubbish and nonsense,” Weigel told Arroyo.  

First, the Trump administration hadn’t yet been formed, so the idea that they had reached out to the Vatican to discuss a new Ambassador was “absurd.” Second, Weigel thinks McCarrick got the idea from an article in “Vatican Insider” by Chris Lamb, who had named Weigel as a “wild card” choice for the position — alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill O’Reilly.

Weigel wasn’t offered the post and wouldn’t have accepted it if he had, he said. But he thinks McCarrick used the “Vatican Insider” squib to “backstab” Weigel, possibly unhappy that the conservative pundit had already had two audiences with Pope Francis.  

“It is simply a lie that I had been publicly critical of the Pope,” Weigel added.

“That was simply malicious backstabbing.”

The author said that when he first saw the McCarrick letter about him, he burst out laughing.

Regarding future revelations, Weigel wondered if the Vatican will release the full letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the Catholic bishops of the United States about pro-abortion Catholic politicians presenting themselves for Communion. Then-Cardinal McCarrick redacted this letter, reading only parts to the other bishops.

That letter may now be in the Washington, D.C. archives, and Arroyo asked Weigel what pressure the new ordinary, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, may be under regarding the release of such documents.

Weigel praised Gregory as “very competent” and having done the Church “good service” during the clerical sex abuse crisis of 2002 while noting that the new Archbishop knows he has a “big problem of trust.”

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